22-year-old Troy Nation came up a little differently than most. Instead of playing baseball and soccer from kindergarten to senior year for the local schools, Nation bounced from wrestling mat to wrestling mat, state to state, even finding himself in Okinawa, Japan.
The life of a military child can take its toll, and Nation had his good and his bad. For every new environment and friend circle he knew wouldn’t be the last, there were always upsides and new region-specific experiences.
“Living in Okinawa was awesome,” Nation said. “We literally lived on a beach. I could put on my SCUBA gear, go out into my backyard and jump into the ocean and see sea turtles and sharks and any kind of colorful fish you could imagine.”
In addition to SCUBA excursions, Nation found himself being able to thrive in his hobby of MMA. He continued his MMA training that started around four years old in one of the meccas of the sport, and enjoyed more convenient PPV times.
He ended up back in Florida for high school, and while he may have left behind memories, beach properties and some of the most pure martial arts training under the sun, he ran into hard times that turned into life-changing revelations in his new home.
“I went through a lot of different life circumstances,” Nation explained. “Competing in a sport where you’re controlling your weight for a significant amount of time caused some problems and I ended up getting anorexia and bulimia. Developing both of those in my sophomore year of high school I went through some rough stuff and I had always grown up thinking, ‘I was Christian’ but didn’t practice that faith and lived how I wanted to, but transitioning out of that year with how rough it was, I realized how much of a simple person I am and that I needed a savior.”
Leading up to Nation devoting his life to a more thorough dedication to Christianity his world had become comfortably settled around wrestling, fighting and training.
It’s not to say that the Christian world restricts enjoyment of MMA, but it’s definitely a community that is slower to appreciating the sport once referred to as “human cockfighting.”
“I became a Christian between my junior year and senior year in high school,” Nation said. “It’s just something that I’ve grown up loving. When I became a Christian, I still love MMA. I think it’s awesome and it’s just one of those things where despite the fact that there aren’t many Christians that fight in MMA, I think that there’s a place for it.”
Outside of the dark times, Nation is thankful for everything in his life and finds that even though his church may not celebrate his favorite sport the way they would if it were baseball, he’s lucky enough to have the friends he has made in wrestling and even a handful of church friends he can enjoy pay-per-view after pay-per-view with. They aren’t always easy to come by, though.
“The Lord’s actually blessed me with a really cool church group, so I have a couple guys that really do enjoy that UFC that aren’t involved in wrestling,” Nation said. “For the most part, it tends to follow the pattern that generally the guys who aren’t Christians are easier to watch fights with.”
Thankful for his faith in Christianity, Nation has had many things to look to Christ for helping guide him through. Whether it’s bitter losses, life in general or missed opportunities, Nation has been able to find light in the fact that the future he thought he would pursue when he was living in Japan is all but ruled out.
“I definitely would love to be able to fight, but I think that’s an opportunity door that the Lord hasn’t opened for me to pursue, at least at this time,” Nation explained. “I don’t think it would be wise of me health wise, but if I was able to, it’d definitely be something I’d liked to have pursued.”
Nation explains that there’s still pain in losing, there’s still pain in coming up short, but losses and missed opportunities don’t define him. He wasn’t born to be “the guy who lost a match” or “the guy who can’t fight.” He was born to be himself, and everything else that comes with it is just that; everything that comes with it.
“A lot of it comes back to where I find my identity,” Nation said. “It’s easier for me to talk about sometimes and harder when I lose or don’t get where I want to go or get injured. I’m a human and I struggle with getting upset or being bitter that maybe I lost on a bad call or something didn’t go my way that I thought should have. I try to find my worth not in how well I perform but in who the Lord says I am in Christ. Regardless of how long I’m able to compete, what matters most is eternity.”
Nation has eyes on med school post-NCAA career but, for now, it’s one last season of combat sports. One last season of wrestling to make the most of.
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