The Diaries of a Rebel Ivy League PhD Student Preparing for his First Muay Thai Bout
This piece is the second entry in a six part mini series detailing the journey of Paul Muniz, an Ivy League PhD student preparing for his first Muay Thai bout. Paul will make his amateur debut at Friday Night Fights on February 28th, 2014 at the Broad Street Ballroom in New York City.
Part 2: Cortisol Spikes, Sleepless Nights, And Kentucky Fried Rice Cakes
I’m fighting in exactly two weeks.
This realization just hit me hard. Somewhere out there, my opponent is training to knock me out in front of my closest friends and family members, who will be among hundreds of other spectators. I don’t like this notion. It terrifies me. I’m training hard to make sure that he doesn’t achieve his goals, but today, right now, the sacrifices that I am making are weighing on me.
Coach Jaffer asked me to join him for a six day trip down to Louisville, KY to train under Eric Haycraft at the Real Fighter’s Gym. Coach Haycraft was Jaffer’s cornerman when he won his world title last year and Jaffer has been planning to make this trip since the day he won the belt. Given that this week is Cornell’s February break, I was able to make this trip and I am currently on day three of training. Team Haycraft has been extremely welcoming to us and I am learning tons. This is a golden opportunity to gain a leg up on my competition.
This opportunity comes at a price, though. Today is Valentine’s day and Coach Jaffer and I are away from our respective girlfriends, both of whom are pretty damn awesome. In some ways, it feels to me like I am disrespecting the girl who has been my rock throughout the first ten weeks of my fight camp. Even though she understands why I’m doing this, it still kind of sucks.
Spending this week with Coach Jaffer provides me with a double edged sword with two of the sharpest blades imaginable. Coach holds a Master’s degree in nutrition and he has taken complete control over my nutritional programming for the week. To be fair, he is phenomenal at what he does and my weight is on point. But I am already down 25 pounds in ten weeks and I still have another ten to go. We have decided to try to minimize dehydration for weigh-ins on the day before the event, so the goal is to legitimately lose an additional ten pounds in two weeks. Possible? Yes. But damnit, I just want a cheeseburger and fries.
I have a pretty nasty sugar addiction, and I think my body might be going through a little bit of sugar withdrawal from the weight cut. When combined with the cortisol spikes that happen from the natural anxieties associated with prepping for a fight, this isn’t a good combination. I have to constantly be on top of my mood, as I catch myself falling in and out of depressive states.
This really sucks.
There is one bright spot in my diet, though: I’ve fallen in love with rice cakes and peanut butter, which I can have periodically throughout the day.
Training down here has been hard, and its even harder with a restricted diet and some of the other complications that we have had to deal with. On day one, we flew out of New Jersey at 3am on only two hours of sleep. By the time we got to the hotel and settled in, it was time to train. It was a sparring day, and Coach Haycraft threw us right in the mix. Sleep deprivation, dehydration from travel, and getting punched in the face was not a fun combination.
We have caught up on sleep since then, but training is relentless nonetheless. This might just be the hardest that I’ve ever worked in the gym, but I want this win. We have been averaging about 25 rounds of hard work each day, but I figure I’ll sweat now so that I don’t have to bleed later. This level of dedication is inspiring when it is romanticized in movies, but the reality is that it is physically and emotionally taxing and loaded with sacrifices that I didn’t realize I’d have to make.