There’s an old saying, “Who dares wins.” It doesn’t come up in conversation too often these days because few want to be the who, risking it all in a less than ideal situation to chase an outcome that isn’t guaranteed or expected.
And who remembers the ones who lose or come up short anyway, especially in a culture that celebrates victories and victories alone?
Last October, Don Shainis dared. On short notice, the New Englander took a fight with Top 15-ranked featherweight contender Sodiq Yusuff. The fight went as expected, Shainis getting submitted 30 seconds in.
How To Watch UFC 284: Makhachev vs Volkanovski In Your Country
But he dared, and he won, because this weekend he’ll be fighting in Perth, Australia, against newcomer Jack Jenkins after a full training camp and with an opponent who matches him in experience. As for the Yusuff fight, there was glory in the effort and the willingness to take it. That shouldn’t be forgotten.
“The way I looked at it was, I'm taking the ultimate risk right now,” Shainis said. “Yeah. I'm not properly prepared. But I don't have any other option. This is probably the only opportunity I'm ever going to get. F**k it.”
Either through the conventional route or Dana White’s Contender Series, Easton, Massachusetts’ was likely to get a call at some point. The 32-year-old got through some ups and downs to reel off five straight wins (four by knockout) leading up to the call to face Yusuff, and Shainis was sharp, having fought four times last year. But all that work led to a shoulder injury, and Shainis was only two days back into training (and let’s say a little over the featherweight limit) after recovering when the phone rang.
He took the fight.
“Now my performance was absolute dog s**t, but I said I'd show up, I said I'd make weight, and it didn't matter who was in front of me,” Shainis said. “I know that you got a zombie version of me, but I'm just excited to go out there with a full camp and with proper training and the proper nutrition and to go out there feeling good rather than being a lethargic, fat version of me.”
UFC 284 Fight By Fight Preview
And he gets to do it in Australia, where he doesn’t just get to fight, but to give a priceless gift to his father, who will be in his corner at UFC 284. The difficulty for any parents to accept their child’s career as a prizefighter isn’t lost on Shainis, but with him all-in on this, mom and dad have followed suit.
“It went from my dad hopes I never do this again to I'm fighting in the biggest organization and he's flying out across the world,” Shainis said. “I think my parents are pretty happy - maybe not happy (Laughs), but I think they're proud of the fact that I just didn't follow the path of everyone else and did the whole college thing, found a job and doing that. I believed in myself, and I took a risk, and we'll see if it pays off or not.”
It already has, because he can always go to college or get a “regular” job. What Shainis did is take the road less traveled, and in doing so, is living an uncommon life. And before he’s done here, he plans on making a mark in his sport, no matter what it takes. And it all starts in Perth.
MORE UFC 284: Co-Main Preview | Volkanovski = Greatness | Michael Chandler Breaks Down Main Event | Jack Della Maddalena's Résumé | Islam Makhachev's Big Year
“I don't know how many more years I'm going to be able to compete,” he said. “Hopefully I got 10 more years in me; you see Glover (Teixeira) was still competing at 43, and hopefully I'm one of those guys. But you never know. You don't know when enough is enough. And it's probably going to be someone telling me, ‘Hey man, your body ain't holding up anymore.’ And I understand that, but at some point, I think this is going to be a pivotal talking point in the beginning of potentially my life changing.”
Don Shainis has 15 minutes to change his life, to take that dare again. You know what, I think he’s up for it.
“It's scary,” he admits. “Risk is scary. One of my coaches said this, and this really stuck with me. He said, ‘Everything you choose in life is hard. The difference is, you get to choose your hard.’ And I don't know why, when he said that it just hit my soul. I'm like, s**t, man, you're right. And then he was going and making examples like, ‘Hey, getting up early and going to train is hard. Getting up when you're an alcoholic and hungover is hard. Being a junkie is hard. Being broke is hard. Being rich is hard, everything in life is hard. But you get to choose your hard.’ Damn, I felt that. But it stuck.”
UFC 284: Makhachev vs Volkanovski took place live from RAC Arena in Perth, Western Australia on February 11, 2023. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive all the action on UFC Fight Pass!