The title explains it all. Please share your stories below and please don't demean anyone else's reasons for loving Martial Arts and MMA.
My story is convoluted. It began with my dad, he fought professionally during the late Eighties and early Nineties in Pancrase-style fights in North and South America, as well as in Britain and Ireland. Following several nasty injuries, broken shoulder (twice), snapped ankle, and a variety of other issues, my dad was forced to stop competing in 'real' fights. He turned to professional wrestling and dabbled in it for my early childhood years. I was the reason why his kids were never allowed to attend a match of his again because I spat in a little girls face (I was three and didn't realize the pro wrestling was fake. And no, it's not real to me anymore dammit). Later on, after being rear ended by an eighteen wheeler while driving his Daihatsu and having a second shoulder surgery overall, my dad was forced to stop competing period, turning to other avenues of work.
While my dad had a huge part in my eventual love of mixed martial arts, what really influenced me was...Dragonball Z. I was reminded of this rather recently (like ten minutes ago), when I was watching some old videos from Revenge of Cooler. Pretty much the strength that the protagonist(s) like Goku and Trunks had in their cause and belief in themselves thanks to their martial prowess helped me maintain some kind of sanity in a childhood wracked with racial hatred and self esteem issues that have led to other troubles today. I don't know if it's odd or not to everyone else, but that anime show put in an innate love of martial arts and fighting, and good versus evil.