Darren Till entered the UFC with a 13-0 record; only two fighters managed even to go the distance. He went 5-0-1 in the big show; the draw was Fight of the Night.
But then welterweight champion Tyron Woodley choked him out in Round 2, and in his comeback fight, Jorge Masvidal knocked him out, also in Round 2.
Till then moved up 15 pounds to middleweight, to face former interim title challenger Kelvin Gastelum.
"I was really scared of fighting, especially fighting Gastelum, because of the guy he is and the guys he's beaten," said Till. "It was on the biggest stage possible. It couldn't have gotten any bigger. There were a lot of emotions at the time. I'm fine with ... admitting I was scared. I think we all get scared. It doesn't make me any less of a man to admit that."
Till overcame the fear and Kelvin Gastelum winning via Split Decision.
"I felt like I'd conquered my own personal mountain inside my head—something I think a lot of people are too scared to do, something people don't have the chance to do," he said. "I've conquered the big scary mountain that I was afraid of, and after that, it was about building myself back up.
"It was a big weight off my mind. I can conquer anything. I can come back from 10 losses. I can come back from defeat in life. It made me a lot stronger, that fight. That fight taught me a lot about myself."
"I believe we all do have demons and mountains to climb, mostly inside our own heads. Every single individual, whether they say it or not, is trying to conquer something inside their head and trying to overcome something, whether it be fear or whatever. They're all on their own path, their own journey."
"I think mental stuff is 90 percent of it overall. A lot of fighting, especially on the big stage, comes down to mental. Some people just can't get in the right state of mind. Some people flourish from it. It just depends. It's a tough thing to understand, the mind."
Now Till reports he's in a good place.
"I'm content and I'm in a happy place, and I've trained really hard," he said. "I've put in the work and the rounds, and I'm going to go in there and fight happy. I can't wait. Time's ticking. I count every minute down."
A happy Darren Till fights former Middleweight champion Robert Whittaker in the main event of Saturday night's UFC on ESPN 14 on Fight Island.