Too fat for hockey and lacrosse, too driven for a 9-5, Canadian boxer, Cody Crowley was left with nothing but a ridiculous pipe dream that has led him to Dana White not once, but twice.
Growing up in Peterborough, Ontario, there were two routes an athlete could go, hockey or lacrosse.
Born with skates on his feet, Cody Crowley always found himself in the background on the ice. When he started to get bigger and bigger, even the clout of being a hockey player wasn’t enough to stop the bullying and harassment. In an attempt to curtail the weight gain, Crowley was put into kickboxing.
“As soon as I started boxing kickboxing, I got this work ethic and it made me stand out in hockey because every year for tryouts, I would be the only person in shape,” Crowley said. “So that's the only thing that kind of made me good at it.”
Once the weight was lost, hockey was going well and swimming was no longer embarrassing, Crowley had realized that the extra work he was putting in was now becoming an issue. While he was constantly in shape, everybody around him was simply going through the motions. Playing was one thing, but the competitor in Crowley was no longer satisfied with simply being there.
“The thing I realized was that the more effort I put into it, the greater results I see,” Crowley said. “I was putting in all the effort into it, but I wouldn't see those same results because my teammates would be putting in that effort. They wouldn't go the extra mile. I started opening up my eyes to boxing. Whatever I put into this; I could get out of it. I don't have the most skills. No, I don't have any natural abilities, but if I completely bust my ass, it is going to show in some way, shape or form.”
Beginning to transition from hockey to martial arts, Crowley was catching on at a slug’s pace. If being the fat kid in hockey was embarrassing, Crowley’s kickboxing was downright humiliating.
“Actually, nobody knows this yet,” Crowley said. “But I lost my very first fight to a female when I was 15 years old. Because under 16 it's coed. I went up against this crazy black belt girl who was doing the kickboxing tournament. My very first fight I lost to a female fighter. Now, that doesn't make somebody quit something I don't know what will.”
The “why bother?” voice some may have heard never came.
Crowley’s new motivation was that not only would he be better than anybody in front of him, he was going to do it without any natural talent. Hard work was going to take him to The Show.
Echoing every athlete to ever speak, Crowley was in his own words, “putting in the work” to be the best. But what did that mean exactly? Sweating the most? Going to the gym every day? Eating healthy?
All that and more.
Crowley was not only living as a complete loner, he was in and out of school, putting in every free second, even some seconds that were already accounted for, and forgoing future building in order to chase the impossible.
“I would wake up at five. In the morning,” Crowley said. “My grandma would drive me to the fitness gym. I'll be there from 6 to 7. She dropped me off at school. Be at school all day, I would actually call my mom and she would sign me out of school, Take me to another gym. Say I was sick. Drop me back off at school. Say I’m feeling better. She would pick me up at 3:30 after school and drive me an hour and a half to Toronto to go get training. I would be there training for three hours, come home at 10 p.m. At night and do that again for years on years. Absolutely obsessed.”
Fighting all around became the lifestyle. While kickboxing morphed into boxing, the love of fighting all around led him to the fight capital of the world.
At 16, Crowley’s parents surprised him with a trip to the fight capital of the world, Las Vegas, Nevada for his birthday. Just in time for the World MMA Awards, the amateur boxer was in the place he’d always dreamed of surrounded by the group of people he aimed to one day make into fans. Including the most powerful man in the fight business.
“I snuck into the MMA Awards,” Crowley said. “We didn't have no tickets or anything like that. I don't know if you could buy tickets, but we snuck down onto the floor. That's when I had this crazy idea in my head. I'm going to pitch an idea to Dana White. Everyone loved Ultimate Fighter at this time, right? So I was like, there's a whole new audience that he could be capturing for the boxing world and I want to pitch him that on amateur Ultimate Fighter show for boxers under 18 years old.”
The exchange went as one would imagine it would with Dana responding simply.
“Talk to me in 10 years.”
Two years later, Crowley had begun to let down every teacher and guidance counselor in high school. He had no backup plan, nothing but a longing for the bright lights.
At this point, Crowley had now been on TSN for boxing, won nationals, fought on ESPN. It was all coming together but staying in Peterborough wasn’t going to be an option if he was to become the man he guaranteed himself he would become. At 18 years old he booked a one-way ticket to Las Vegas and set out to become a professional fighter.
Life was going just as he had planned it for the entirety of the plane ride but when he landed in Las Vegas, it all fell apart.
“I lasted about six months of get my face beaten to the point where I was just have a mental breakdowns,” Crowley said. “Crying, everything like that. I eventually called my mom and said, ‘I’ve got to come home.’ I've given up. I had that voice in my head telling me I wasn’t good enough. And when I look in the mirror, all beat up, that's putting what that little voice is saying into reality. I'm clearly not good enough, right? I had a moment of weakness where I went home.”
No job, no school, no plan B, no references. Crowley went all in and folded in record speed.
The same people he shushed when they were trying to get through to him, the teammates he left behind, the friends he never made were all waiting to greet him with an “I told ya so.” Going all in seemed great in movies but was playing with fire in the real world. Crowley found that out the hard way.
Boxing took a back seat. Regular gym visits became sparse and partying began to take the place of devotion to a lifelong goal. If leaving Vegas a broken man was rock bottom, Crowley’s next batch of decisions was a few extra slams into the bed.
“Anywhere I went out was I was asked, “why are you here? Aren't you supposed to be this big fighter?’” Crowley recalled. “A lot of people over saying it in a joking matter, making fun of me, mocking me, you know? And next thing you know, I'm 210 pounds, blown up, fat, and doing drugs.”
Crowley wasn’t enjoying partying the way Tyson Fury was when he stepped away from boxing. It was to fill the void of having nothing left. For the next two years Crowley’s life would consist of forgetting the past and procrastinating the future.
School was still nothing of interest. Jobs were of no interest. Crowley found himself simply existing.
One night at a bar while Crowley was living his Tom Waits-esque life, he met a girl who he could enjoy the time he used to just kill. While the two were clearly falling for one another she had “enjoyed” Crowley’s lifestyle for long enough.
“She started realizing the way every day seemed to go,” Crowley said. “One day she just kind of said, ‘you know, I wake up, I go to work, I come home and you're still on the couch. What you doing with your life? You have a job? Are you going to school? Anything like that?’ And, you know, she just said to me, ‘if you want to give one last go with this. I'll do whatever you need to do. We'll move away. We'll do whatever we need to do.’”
The two began saving up for the suicide mission that led Crowley down the road to nowhere one more time. The two began working and saving everything they could for the one-way tickets to Las Vegas. The six-month window in Canada was just enough time to formulate the perfect ten-year plan.
At 21 years old the plan was rigid and simple. Nothing but boxing. Funerals back home? Not going. Weddings? Not going. Birthdays? Not going. If things fall apart, not going. Las Vegas would be their homes for the next ten years under any and all circumstances. At the end, a world title.
“Nothing is going to take me off this mission,” Crowley said. “I became this completely obsessed, overly driven human being again. And does any of that tested? Oh yeah. I've had I've had a friend commit suicide. I haven't gone home for the funeral. I've had my very close sister have a baby, my nephew. I didn’t come for him. I’ve sacrificed a lot to be here.”
But “here” means nothing without the title he promised himself.
It turned out even just being “here” was a task in itself. Revisiting the manager he used in his first Las Vegas stint, Crowley was directed to coach Ibn Cason. After the first session, Ibn sent back a simple message.
“If you have a dime in that kid, pull it out now.”
Now relentless to the point of irritating, Crowley was becoming a staple in the gym that all but locked him out.
“I basically took initiative myself,” Crowley said. “I said, ‘alright, well, I'm coming. I'm coming to training today. Coach, can I come?’ And he said ok. Next day went by. Next day went by. Next thing you know, it's a month later, and he's like, ‘this kid just won't take no for an answer.’ Most of the time when I’d show up he’d tell me, ‘to go hit the bag while I’m working with all my star athletes.’”
You can only be the guy who shows up 30 before open, stays 3-4 hours and get beat down for so long before you begin to earn your keep and that’s exactly what Crowley did. Before long when the demand for a forward pressing south paw who takes damage was in hot demand, Cody Crowley began to circulate.
The now, Top Rank signed boxer is not only getting fights but was on everybody’s radar and caught his biggest break yet when he was brought on to spar with Floyd Mayweather and went blow for blow for 38 minutes and never broke.
While the fights began coming, things were looking up but there was one more issue. The numbers weren’t adding up. To get on cards, Crowley was staring down the barrel of buying seats. When Crowley got on a card by selling $17,000 in tickets on his own it occurred to him that the fast track to the most success is his own promotion.
If selling out back home where you’ve now made a mega star out of yourself was what it took to fight anyway, why would you not want to bask in all the benefits as well?
Cody Crowley Boxing was born.
Now with his fifth event back in his hometown coming up, Crowley almost couldn’t be any bigger. The 26-year old is 5 years into his 10-year plan with a fight promotion of his own, Canadian admiration and an undefeated record.
Now with his first FIGHT PASS event less than a week away, he is, as promised, back. Ten years later.
Catch Homecoming V: Crowley vs Hussein Saturday, October 19, 2019 at 6 p.m. PT ONLY on UFC FIGHT PASS!