Xavi’s taught me many things over the last 3 years of training together. What inspires me the most is his commitment to his craft as a Muay Thai fighter and coach. I’ve watched an entire community grow around him and benefit from his quiet but fierce inner strength and wisdom. He’s taught me that our mind requires training just like our bodies in order to realize our true potential. Learning how to breathe, stand tall and remain calm during a sparring session has translated into a calm approach and desire to see things more clearly in my work life.
For me, these little mental wins from training build up over time and have translated to an inner strength that helps me overcome my daily hurdles with more ease. If you need a little inspiration, we encourage you to read his interview in this week’s super inspiring Worth the Fight spotlight...
MATT DOYLE FOR YORK ATHLETICS: What does the world fight mean to you?
XAVI RAMOS: It means everything. My life. Everything I do. I wake up, eat, sleep and breathe it. I go to sleep watching [fighting] videos, I wake up watching fight videos. It's everything.
MATT: Do you think that the word fight can also relate to the non-physical side of things?
XAVI: Absolutely. When I say fight is my life, I don't just mean physically fighting. I mean mentally fighting. Getting up early, before the sun goes up to go for a run, just because you want to go for a run. To earn your sunrise, as we say. Get up before the sun gets up. If you're up before the sun is up, you're probably up before your opponent. The opponent doesn't have to be a person. It could be your life. It could be mental stress. It could be your partner is on your back and you're upset from the night before. It could be just a co-worker, anything, whatever it is. Learning how to deal with it in the right way, day to day, with whatever that may be. But everybody's different.
MATT: Could you elaborate on: "You gotta earn your sunrise."
XAVI: If you get up early before the sun is up, there's nothing for you to do before the sun is up except something that you want to do for yourself, to benefit yourself. So if you can get up before the sun is up and work on yourself then you've earned the sunrise; meaning now you've earned the right to go about the rest of your day.
MATT: What is your most important fight?
XAVI: My most important fight is for my kids. I did this so they don't have to do what I had to do. My oldest is in college. My second youngest is about to graduate from high school. My youngest is in middle school and none of them have to fight, none of them. One is into art, one plays the piano. So they get to live a much nicer life than I lived. That's what's important to me.
MATT: Tell us a little bit about your early life and how you decided to go the fight route.
XAVI: My early life I was a typical gang banger kid from the hood. Nothing new there. Raised in it, my mom, my grandfather, it's a family thing. I was a little different mentally than the rest of my family. I kind of could see the end result of everything and I knew that was not where I wanted to end up in my life. I didn't want to be 60 years old still hanging out on the corner drinking every day. Doing drugs every day. When I was 8 yrs old, my Uncle separated me from that life and showed me martial arts and had me doing jiu-jitsu and showed me the UFC and all that.
I continued with that, but I still gang banged and all that. And then once I had my daughter, my last daughter, I was like: “I've got to change my life.” And then I was a pro wrestler until I hit my head on the floor and got paralyzed for a couple of minutes and I couldn't move. I couldn't do anything so I was like, “I need to do something different with my life. This isn't going well.” So, I decided to go into fighting. I figured it would be a lot easier and instead of fighting in the streets and getting locked up I could go make some money and change my life. So that's what I chose to do.
MATT: What gives you the mindset, what gives you the strength to make that decision? So many others have said something similar, but they don't necessarily have the balls to make that move and follow through. So what is it about you, what is it about your mindset that makes you different?
XAVI: It's not even a mindset. I have failed so many times. I have anxiety problems. I don't like public speaking. I have so many issues. I’m just willing to fail. That's all you have to be willing to do, just be willing to fail. That's it. It's a simple fact. When I've fought, I did well for a little bit. But then I got fat, like lazy fighters. Then I learned that I had to stop doing that. So that's all I do, I'm just willing to fail. I'm okay with failing. If you're okay with failing, that's when you'll succeed. If you're afraid to fail then you're never going to get off the starting block.
MATT: Do you remember a time when you failed early on?
XAVI: A million times. I remember my first day in the gym, 30 seconds in, I was like I don't want to, why am I jumping rope, I never want to do this ever again in my life. My first day, ever. Like oh, I'm going to be a professional fighter, and 30 seconds in I'm like: “I want to get the hell out of here.” You have to have something inside you that you have to be okay with to go to the dark side, inside of yourself. Everybody wants to go to the dark side in other people. They want to blame this or blame that. You have to look inside yourself for the dark side and that's what is going to bring you to the light.
And what I mean by that is torturing yourself physically so that mentally you're able to relax and see the bigger picture, which is the secret of Muay Thai. Other martial arts, they teach your mind by using structure, by taking your time and slowing your breathing. With Muay Thai, chaos is what brings you to peace. You find peace within the chaos, you handle life better. That's what life is, life is chaos. And you gotta find the magical puzzle and the piece to get you where you need to go. And that's what this is.
MATT: You mentioned your willingness to fail. You said, “F it, I'm going to be a pro fighter.” You went for it and 30 seconds in you were like: "Ah I don't f-ing have this, man.” Why do you keep going? Why do you keep fighting in that situation?
XAVI: Because I've been a loser before. In the sense of, I've felt depression, I've been over 250 pounds at my biggest. I weigh 160 now. I fought at 140. I fought as low as 135. Also, when you have kids, you have to learn that it's no longer about yourself. You have to live your life not by telling them what to do but by showing them what to do. I knew if I could change myself and become a better person, that would teach my kids to do the exact same thing.
MATT: Who helps you fight?
XAVI: My coaches, Stephen Strotmeyer, and my teammates. That's it. You just gotta get up into it yourself. Nobody's going to get you up. If you hit that alarm, that snooze button, it's on you. That's what is beautiful about fighting. I played baseball and other team sports, but you can't blame anybody but yourself in this one. It's just you. And that's the beauty of this, which is what I feel it gives people, is that it's just you. You can say whatever. You can do whatever. When you play baseball, you play basketball, oh this person missed this play, this person messed this up -- there's none of that. It's just you in there. And it's the same when you train. You can say whatever, but when you're doing 50 burpees and 50 kicks each side, it doesn't feel good. But unless you want to do it and you are willing to do it, then it's just not going to happen.
MATT: Why is your fight worth it?
XAVI: I do it for everybody else. I don't do it for myself. I do it for my kids, my students, my fighters, the family members that I have in my gym. It's like a community, it's really not like most fight gyms. Most fight gyms are full of testosterone and all that, and in my gym, you'll find a grandmother training alongside a national champion. That's why I do it.
MATT: How do you set that tone in your gym? How do you go about setting that environment?
XAVI: At the end of the day it's simple. We all have our own fights to deal with and just because this person's at a much higher level physically than this person, doesn't mean that they're not mentally compatible, in the sense of being able to work hard alongside each other. So what you do is you use your physically gifted people to motivate your less physically gifted people but in turn, they motivate your more physically gifted people because they're like, "look at this person, they can't even do this, but they're still trying and you know what, I'm going to try harder.” So you kind of feed off each other, and that's what I mean by the community aspect.
MATT: Fighting -- the physical fight, the mental fight, just life, in general, can be difficult. Why do you keep going?
XAVI: Cause I know no other way. It's that simple. That and if I stop how can I ask them to work hard. You gotta lead by example, not by words.
MATT: You mentioned all the hard work that goes into fighting, what role does hard work play in your day-to-day?
XAVI: It's everything. If I don't work hard, I'm not happy. I have anxiety issues, and it's something that a lot of people don't talk about but every time I work hard my anxiety is gone. For people who are like me, if you work hard, you'll actually be able to deal with the anxiety a lot easier without medication.
MATT: What role does having a positive outlook play?
XAVI: That's everything. You can do a million miles, a hundred burpees in a row, be in the best shape, but if you tell yourself you suck, you suck. If you tell yourself you're great, you might not be that good but you'll be that much better. I'd rather take someone with some confidence and very little physical skill than the opposite. You can fix physicality, you can't fix mental attitude. A positive attitude is everything, especially in a fight.
MATT: The first fighter we interviewed, Elvin, had mentioned what a great mentor and coach you are for him. Tell us a little bit about what you see in Elvin. How he goes about his business?
XAVI: Elvin is actually my number one student. He's my hardest worker. We have a different relationship. I went to high school with his older brother who was killed in the streets and so we have a bit of a different relationship than most fighting coaches. Basically, he came to me out of shape, out of everything, really lost like most of my fighters are and all you have to do is give them a chance. Just believe in them for one second and that's all I did and he did the rest by himself.
Elvin is at the gym day in, day out. I basically have to tell him to take days off. If it was up to him, he'd be training all the time. He works hard, he's mentally gifted. He's been a competitor for a long time. He wrestled and played football in college, so he has a competitor's mindset which helps. But at the end of the day, what drives him it that he wants to be special. He doesn't just want to be a fighter, he wants to be one of the best fighters that ever lived and that's what we're working towards.
MATT: What does it mean to you, as not just his mentor and coach, but you said as somebody that was friends with his brother, what does it mean to you to see how far he's come?
XAVI: For me, I'm just happy that they're happy. I'm just happy that the person that I found a little while ago, they're happy when they go home. I don't care about the belts, I don't care about the accolades. All glitz and glam, that comes and goes. It's the memories and the relationships that you share with people and that you build and that you go for. So, for me, all I care about is that he's going home smiling. That's my victory, that's my world title.
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