One of my favorite documentaries is The Smashing Machine (2002), the story of ill-fated MMA fighter Mark Kerr. The narrative traces Kerr’s career in Japan’s PRIDE Fighting Championship, where he has mixed success. Outside the ring, he struggles with an abusive co-dependent relationship, and an addiction to opiates.

Why did Kerr turn to different methods of coping with his situation? I think it comes down to fear, anxiety and pressure. The fight game exerted too much force on him, and he was bound to break apart. The opiates helped take the edge off, to numb him, and allowed him to function.

He was never really at his best when he was using drugs. They decreased his sensation of pain, but suffering can be a barometer for calibration, optimization. We know what needs to be fixed when we are in pain. Changes have to be made, and they can’t be ignored.

What is Kerr’s legacy today? The documentary tracks his self-destruction. He lost many more fights than he won after 2000, fell from relevance, and eventually faded from the MMA scene.

At one point, Kerr was selling luxury cars in Arizona. Maybe he’s better off away from the sport.

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