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Karim Zidan | May 26, 2016

Pudzianowski: Fighting the Shadow of the World’s Strongest Man


Fighting the Shadow of the World’s Strongest Man

By Karim Zidan

The Lockheed C-130 Hercules is a magnificent aircraft.

The four-engine military transport carrier was first introduced in the 1950s and it remains in service in the United States and a host of other countries around the world. It can hold up to 92 passengers and reach a maximum speed of 592km/h.

In September 2008, one particular variant of the plane, bullet-grey and button-nosed, stood on a runway in Charleston, West Virginia. It stood a menacing 38 feet high and weighed nearly 76,000 pounds empty. It was surrounded by an astonished crowd, gathered to watch one of the two final feats of strength in the 2008 World’s Strongest Man competition.

A yellow rope, one end attached to the front of the plane and the other to a harness, trailed impotently on the ground. The harness wrapped around a mustard yellow t-shirt, which in turn clothed the muscle-bound figure of then four-time world’s strongest man Mariusz Pudzianowski of Poland.

Pudzianowski competes for the 2002 World's Strongest Man tittle

The man looked as though he was chiseled out of stone: stoic, immovable, superhuman. His hands were tightly clenched in a determined stance — one that gave him the poise of a ravaged bulldog sizing up its competition. His neck was thicker than most men’s thighs and his protruding chest was the personification of mountainous terrain. His yellow shirt was tucked into a pair of black shorts. He wore running shoes and white socks.

At a glance, one of the socks appeared longer than the other. A more observant onlooker could see that Pudzianowski’s calf was taped up to stabilize an injury sustained during one of the earlier events. It was a worrisome sight, considering that he was gearing up to pull a plane. Pudzianowski, however, looked purposeful and single-minded, as though the injury was the furthest thought from his mind. All he could think about was the Hercules attached to his back and the 37.66 seconds he had to last to beat fireman Phil Psifter’s time.

Only the thinnest of margins separated these very large men, as Psifter had taken the lead over from Derek Poundstone by just one second. Pudzianowski stared down the path ahead: a runway marked by two candy cane-colored lane markings that extended just over 82 feet. The finish line lay adjacent. It blazed yellow to match his shirt. Mariusz kept it in his line of vision. It would be the only thing he would stare at for the next minute.

He heard his name being announced to the marveling American audience. He raised his hands triumphantly in the air as a sign of recognition. They applauded his show of confidence.

It was time.

"I was prepared for everything. I’d say 95 percent of the obstacles in the tournaments were perfectly covered during my training. There was nothing that could have surprised me," Mariusz said, remembering his time in the competition.

The whistle sounded. Mariusz ducked, heaved, and grunted. He began to take slow, dinosaur-like steps forward. His face resembled an overripe tomato and the rope he pulled looked as though it would tear through his arm.

But the plane moved.

It moved faster than anyone had seen before. Accompanied by Mariusz’s bellows and growls, the plane rolled forward inch by inch, each more painful than the one before. Across Mariusz’s arms, veins protruded, muscles contorted wildly, and tattoos looked as though they would burst off of his skin. Yet he kept going. Only five meters to go and every millisecond counted.

Then he stumbled.

Pudzianowski fell awkwardly on the injured leg. He cemented himself with his hand, and then carried on as though nothing had happened. He growled fiercely and grimaced as he neared the finish. He stepped over the yellow line, listened for the whistle, and collapsed on the ground. He waited for the results.

36.67 seconds. He did it.  He won.

As Pudzianowski lay on his back listening to the announcement, he gave a jubilant kick with his legs — reminiscent of an oversized two-month-old with outstretched limbs — hollered joyously and rose to salute the crowd with a look of undeniable relief. Less than a second separated him from second place. It did not matter. He had set up a battle with Derek Poundstone at the iconic final WSM challenge: the Atlas Stones.

Pudzianowski was one challenge away from becoming a five-time champion. A spot in the Guinness Book of World Records awaited him, as did hundreds of thousands of Polish nationals back home. He would go on to claim the title, the glory, and the record.

The victory was bittersweet. Mariusz’s win was by a small margin — a mistake on Poundstone’s part — instead of the vast gaps from years past. He knew his time as a strongman was coming to an end. He may have one more tournament in him but it would not be easy. He needed to set his sights on something new — something … different.

"I needed another challenge. I had accomplished everything in the strongman world. I just wanted to face something new."

So Pudzianowski put on a pair of 4oz gloves and took up mixed martial arts.

London CallingThursday, October 29, 2015

Mariusz arrived in London on a predictably rainy Thursday afternoon. Dull clouds circled the English capital, a warning of the wet conditions awaiting visitors. On this particular weekend, many of the visitors would be Polish. They would come in throngs to see Pudzianowski in action. After all, this would be only his second fight outside of his native Poland.

As of October 29, 2015, Pudzianowski had compiled an 8-3 record in MMA. Over six years, he had revolutionized the sport in Poland and hoisted his employing promotion, Konfrontacja Sztuk Walki (translated: Martial Arts Confrontation and more commonly known as KSW), to unheralded success. Every Polish fighter owed their livelihood to Pudzianowski’s decision to put down the Atlas Stones and put on MMA gloves.

Konfrontacja Sztuk Walki (KSW)

The transition to MMA was, however, significantly more turbulent than his strongman tenure. While his success in strength challenges was inevitable, Pudzianowski soon realized that, three decades into his life, he had to start over from the beginning. His sheer presence, determination and 56cm biceps were not enough to overcome experienced foes with lifelong practice in the various components of mixed martial arts.

Nevertheless, much has changed over Mariusz’s eight-year relationship with MMA. He’s no longer naïve about his natural inclination for the sport and has worked remarkably hard to develop his skills. Over time, he’s regained that familiar feeling, that sensation when your name is announced in victory, the experience of being a winner.

He marinated in that thought while he picked up his suitcase and walked to the exit.

A KSW driver accompanied by a liaison picked Pudzianowski up at Heathrow airport’s Terminal 2. The driver took his suitcase and shepherded him into a toasty BMW. Together they traversed the 23-mile route to the Ibis Hotel in Wembley. They took the M4 highway to the A4 and continued down that path to Commercial St, all the while zigzagging through traffic. The traffic did them no favors; it was just after 4pm on a Thursday afternoon. What could be a 30 minute drive in good traffic took them an hour and 15.

The lengthy ride in a somewhat foreign land made Pudzianowski pensive. He reminisced about Wojciech, his father, and the Slavic settlement of Biała Rawska, where he had been raised.

"I come from a very tiny village — a rural place. There are just a little more than 2000 inhabitants so there wasn’t much to do. So from a young age, I focused on sports. "

Biała Rawska now boasts over 3000 residents, a square mileage of 860, and little else. Mariusz was left to his own devices as a child and quickly grew bored of his small town surroundings.  There was little to do but go to school during the day and submerse yourself in sports for the remainder of your waking hours. Kids were sent to martial arts classes by their parents and told to run outside and play football with their neighbors.

"I did some running and martial arts when I was a kid. Then I picked up karate when I was ten."

The karate style he was taught in his small town was full-contact Kyokushin. He stuck with it for several years and saw six different colored belts come and go until he settled on the 4th degree Kyu green belt. He’s still a green belt, having dropped karate in his teens for weightlifting. He owed that decision to his father.

"It was my dad who gave me the idea because he was a retired weightlifter."

China Photos/Getty Images

Mariusz soon realized he had a natural affinity for strength. He handled dumbbells and barbells with relative ease and watched his body gradually transform. In fact, he was so impressive in his first year as an amateur hobbyist that he decided to enter the Polish bench press Championship at age 16.

That day, he pressed 353 pounds. It was not enough to win, but was enough for others to take him seriously. He returned two years later to bench 452 pounds, and he only got stronger from there. Mariusz added boxing to his regimen and stuck with it for seven years before he focused all his energy on weightlifting and strength training.

"Until I was about 20 or 21, I only practiced in weightlifting and martial arts. When I turned 21, one of the organizers of a strongman event in Poland came to me and asked if I wanted to participate and I said yes.

"That got the adventure going."

While adventures typically include an element of hazard or difficulty, Mariusz’s sporting journey was about the excitement of challenge and the thrill of victory. He tested his body and regularly dared it to defy doubt and dwell only on determination.

So he lifted some more, and won some more. Then he won again, and again, and again.

Just six weeks removed from his first professional training session as a 21-year-old weight lifter, Pudzianowski was already the national strongman champion. And that was just the beginning.

"Following another half a year in these competitions, I had already reached No. 3 in the world. So I started my first competition in May, and was already in the Top 3 six months later."

The long car ride had tested Pudzianowski’s patience. But, eventually the BMW parked in front of a tall, dark building crowned with a scarlet red ‘Hotel Ibis’ sign. The words were blurred slightly by the protruding clouds, reminding him that Halloween was just a couple of nights away.

Pudzianowski stepped out of the car through the sliding doors of the hotel. Ribbed grey walls and bizarrely designed carpets draped across the room and gave it the modern, metallic feel of a contemporary art museum. Fighters, coaches and cornermen all wandered around the small, well-decorated lobby. Most were dressed in sweatpants or tracksuit bottoms and wore shirts that accentuated their figures and promoted their sponsors. They sat on curved and trendy seats, all of which lacked 90-degree angles. Some were strategically positioned at the bar, while others toted scales in anticipation of the following day’s weigh-ins.

It was a typical fight week scene.

Pudzianowski scanned the room quickly, his permanent frown plastered across his face. His upcoming opponent, Peter Graham, was nowhere to be found, as he had opted to stay in another hotel a block away. No matter, Maruisz would see him the following afternoon for the weigh-ins. And again the day after, when he came face to face inside the cage. Much like his strongman days, Pudzianowski was supremely confident.

"No matter the event, I always found my way onto the podium. Over 10 years, there were hundreds of events and I was always in the Top 3. I was always one of the best. For 12 years competing in Poland, I only made second place on two occasions. The rest were always first place finishes."

In his mind, London was going to be no different.

The (Super) Heavyweight DilemmaFriday, October 30, 2015

Starving fighters counting down the hours until their liberation - what outside observers know as weigh-ins — are quite easy to spot. It becomes even easier when you place them in a hotel dining room with a breakfast buffet of select meats, eggs, hash browns, and desserts. They are the ones seated solemnly in a corner, making eye contact with nothing but their plates, and picking away at some sad fruit. Even water was their enemy until 4pm, when they’d make their way across the street to Wembley Arena. There, they take part in a strange spectacle that involves stripping down to their underwear in front of a boisterous (and largely male) fanbase, waiting to watch them climb on a scale, breathe a sigh of relief, and finish off with a customary muscle flex for the camera.

Pudzianowski didn’t eat much on Friday morning. Heavyweights have a 60-pound margin (206-266 for non-title fights) and he always made sure to give himself a few pounds leeway. Instead of his normal complete indifference towards caloric intake, Marius made a slight adjustment to his eating habits by cutting back his fat consumption leading up to the fight.

That may appear trivial to most fighters accustomed to a 20-30 pound weight cut, but for the once-315 pound Pole, it was more than he had ever done for a World’s Strongest Man competition.

"I had no diet and no limits with my food. I had no restrictions. I ate whatever I wanted. It was all genetics. I simply have good genes."

China Photos/Getty Images

His welcoming attitude towards carbohydrates and fatty foods seems at odds with his physique; Pudzianowski was always leaner than the majority of his strongman competitors, but he was never interested in any of the specialized diets in vogue during his active years. While others had unapologetically large guts hanging from their massive frames, Pudzianowski showed off a six-pack and muscular definition that could have inspired Rob Liefeld. He gives full credit to good genetics, but it’s worth noting that he was disqualified from the 2004 World’s Strongest Man tournament. He’d originally placed third but was stripped of the title for using a banned substance.

The transition to MMA was the only time that Pudzianowski made a conscious shift in his diet and training regimen. While size and strength were beneficial during the short-burst challenges in WSM tournaments, his oxygen-draining muscles weighed down on him like a ball and chain during the endurance-heavy MMA training.

To make weight, he had to shed some muscle.

"The training regimens are entirely different for both sports but they can be altered and manipulated."

That is exactly what Mariusz did back in 2009. He stopped lifting weights, minimized strength training, and instead picked up boxing again along with some basic wrestling. The focus on endurance made him leaner, while the lack of maintenance towards his bulging muscles brought them down to a manageable size.

Konfrontacja Sztuk Walki (KSW)

By the time he debuted in MMA, he was significantly lighter. However, he still walked around just below 300 pounds, and it was not until his loss to former UFC champion Tim Sylvia in his third professional fight that he decided to take his cardiovascular training more seriously. In that fight, he was forced to tap to strikes in the second round after he abruptly collapsed to the canvas, legs unable to carry his tremendous weight any longer. He never wanted to feel like that again. He began riding bikes every morning and took up the lifestyle of a fighter full-time — eat, train, sleep, repeat. Now he walks around between 260-270 pounds and is slightly less burdened by the figure he cultivated over a 20-year period.

Mariusz devoured the remainder of his breakfast and sat around with his entourage — ‘Pudzian Team’ — trying to pass the hours until the 4pm weigh-ins.

Then, since the weather allowed it, he went for a walk.

A long stroll on a surprisingly sunny Friday afternoon in London ended with Mariusz retiring to his hotel to relax ahead of the weigh-ins. He didn’t leave his room again until his team called him to come downstairs to be taken to the Wembley Arena. He waited for the elevator, dressed in grey tracksuit bottoms and a cream-colored t-shirt with the KSW 32 logo embedded in a Union Jack. It was an excruciatingly long wait, as the hotel only had two elevators side by side for all passersby — the stuff of nightmare for claustrophobic residents. On one occasion, Mariusz was crammed into the elevator with nine other occupants. His characteristic frown was even more prominent than usual.

Compared to his experiences in other far flung corners of the globe, getting to the arena was relatively easy. Pudzianowski had been all over the world — China, Finland, Hungary, Ireland, Sweden, Canada, Russia, Austria, and Malta amongst many others — and some of his experiences were simply bizarre.

"In 2003, I competed in Zambia. I left my room open and the monkeys came in and stole my clothes. I found the clothes hanging on tree branches so I had to go use a stick to get my clothes back. I remember this story vividly until this day."

The image of a superhuman-sized Polish strongman trying to outwit thieving monkeys was definitely an image worth remembering.

"It is quite common for this to happen, actually. The hotel was located in the middle of a safari so there were guards walking around shooting them with rubber bullets so that they don’t disturb the guests.

"Obviously, it wasn’t effective enough to keep them away from my clothes that day."

Pudzianowski wandered into the arena and walked past several sets of doors until he stood behind the KSW 32 weigh-in backdrop. He leaned up against a small table in the corner, crossed his arms at his chest, and patiently awaited the proceedings to commence. The training was done, and so was the thinking.

"If I prepared correctly, everything always went smoothly. There is simply no option for me to think about whether I’m going to make it onto the podium. No. Never."

There was a particular pageantry to MMA that Pudzianowski needed to adjust to from his strongman days. There were public weigh-ins in minimal clothing, stare-downs for intimidation, boisterous crowds for atmosphere, and an abundance of cameras to capture every moment. Testosterone overflowed on weigh-in days and tensions were high for all fighters.

Also, food was on everyone’s mind.

The pleasantly hoarse voice of Waldemar Kasta, KSW’s famed announcer, filled the lobby of the Wembley Arena. He stood on a stage overlooking a crowd several hundred strong with four rows of seating for press and cornermen. This crowd erupted and applauded with hoots and hollers every time a Polish name was burst from the speakers.

Pudzianowski remained against the table backstage until the co-main event fighters — welterweight champion Borys Mańkowski and title challenger Jesse Taylor — were announced. He looked blasé and inattentive — none of these pre-fight proceedings excited him. But, he knew his turn was next, so he pulled off his training pants and replaced them with a pair of swim shorts threaded with his various sponsors.

One of the KSW liaisons ushered him over to the stage. A roar erupted as his massive frame came around the bend and up the stairs. Mariusz reached the stage and shook hands with the promotional brass. He removed his t-shirt to reveal a temporary tattoo emblazed on his chest of several red buildings with the word KOSBUD at the base — yet another of his many sponsors.

Mariusz stepped on the scale: 264 pounds — two pounds off the heavyweight weight limit. He was a little bigger than previous events. Nevertheless, he was within grasp of a long awaited title shot. If he got past Peter Graham in the KSW 32 main event, he knew a chance at the promotion’s heavyweight title would be on offer.

"If you have the mentality of a champion in your head, you are going to become a champion. 50 percent is nothing. Either you do 100 percent or none at all. If you want to be a winner, you will be a winner."

The hard part was over.  Time to go be a winner.

For the Mountains You Cannot Climb…Saturday, October 31st, 2015

For one night, Wembley, England was brimming with Polish nationals.

Some were local residents of London — nearly one million Poles and British Poles reside in England, including the descendants of immigrants following World War II — while others took the short flight from Poland to come witness the show. About 10,000 of them arrived at the SSE Arena parking lot and filtered towards the main entrance.

"Life didn’t change at all for me because I am not the sort of guy who walks around the city. I like staying at home. Things didn’t change much for me."—Mariusz Pudzianowski

At 7:30, fans flooded the arena in boisterous waves. Some broke out into song, while others drank vigorously as they packed the 12,000-seat arena over the next 45 minutes.  They chanted Pudzianowski’s name whenever it appeared on the Jumbotron at the north end of the indoor venue. It was a giant screen that stood on a stage with a ramp running gently downwards to the circular cage.

What fans couldn’t see, however — even from the expensive floor seats — was the short stairway descending from the center of the stage to the backstage area. The hallways were swamped with fighters, either battered and bruised or awaiting their turn. Some of the rooms had bright red mats for grappling practice and stretching. Others were dedicated to specific competitors.

Mariusz’s room was on the far end of the hall. He had a portion of his entourage with him, as well as several backstage videographers. His legs dangled off the end of a three-seat couch in the middle of the room as he rested; his hand supporting the back of his head.

While thousands of fans chanted his name from the arena, Pudzianowski couldn’t have looked more relaxed. Maybe that’s because he never seemed to let stardom get to him. In fact, not much had changed for the big man over the past decade.

"Life didn’t change at all for me because I am not the sort of guy who walks around the city. I like staying at home. Things didn’t change much for me."

A private individual by nature, Mariusz was not one to talk about the daily on-goings of his life. He likes to relax with good company, watch movies — Indiana Jones is a particular favorite — and tend to his numerous businesses. He owns a cargo truck company named Pudzianowski Transport, as well as a school for bodyguards, both of which are successful businesses that reap more income than professional fighting.

MMA, and sports in general, are basically his hobby — a way to escape the daily routine of work.

"I’ve got plenty of projects and it is sports that takes me out of that environment and changes things up. If all the businesses are in order, there will always be plenty of time for sports."

It took some time, but he eventually found the correct balance between his athletic and personal life. In 2011, he ventured to Florida to train with the American Top Team and came back a couple more times over the years to hone his skills. However, he never stayed away from Poland for too long. Indeed, Mariusz believes he can find all the necessary resources in Poland to keep up his training, as long as he remains vigilant and dedicated to the task.

"If you want to be the best, you have to train like the best. You need to do everything perfectly."

Mariusz was supremely confident in his training and his preparation; he could not help but smile and laugh as he sat in the dressing room. He compared his state of mind to that of a vacation. He listened to music on Polo TV — a necessary pre-fight ritual with his favorite music channel — to psych himself up, and eventually warmed up his body with a light workout.

When it was finally time to make the walk down to the cage, he zipped up a gray jacket, raised the hoodie over his head, and followed the blue light cast backstage from the arena, where an electric atmosphere awaited Mariusz. His opponent, Peter Graham, walked out first to AC/DC’s timeless classic ‘Thunderstruck,’ but the crowd barely reacted to the Australian heavyweight. All anticipated the Pole’s arrival.

Accordingly, when Graham stepped into the cage, the blue lights became crimson. The Polish flag blazed proudly on the giant screen. Strobe lights moved at epilepsy-inducing speeds.

Mariusz Pudzianowski emerged from below the stage, and the crowd began to roar.

Konfrontacja Sztuk Walki (KSW)

A KSW event is quite a spectacle. Many have gone so far as to anoint them the heir-apparent to the defunct Pride FC’s pageantry and production value. As Pudzianowski stood tall, Barbarian Horde blasting through the speakers, it wasn’t difficult to understand why. The suspended circular screen high about the cage took on the form of a globe, while the lights travelled around the arena in complimentary crisscrosses. Mobile phones added another subtle element: flashes that flickered then settled into the crimson darkness, it felt just right for Halloween.

Pudzianowski walked down the ramp towards the cage, his chest outstretched as he soaked in the adoration. His still permanent scowl remained spread across his face as he undressed down to his fight shorts for the referee — the final pre-fight formality.  The officials applied Vaseline to his face to prevent cuts and checked his gloves for irregularities. With the nod of their respective heads, Pudzianowski stepped into the cage, and jogged around it. He passed Graham and gave him a polite head-tilt, as though to say ‘I see you standing there.’

Fans were swept up in the moment beyond the fade of the walkout and the crimson lights, they never stopped chanting. They grew louder as the music softened and Mariusz had to inch his head towards the referee to actually hear the final instructions. Graham stared down at him — he was two inches taller — but Pudzianowski merely glanced back, touched gloves and nodded his head one more time as he stepped back to his corner.

When the bell sounded to start the fight, few in the stands actually heard it.

Konfrontacja Sztuk Walki (KSW)

The two fighters swung at each other, Graham with his sneaky straight jabs, Mariusz with his wild, looping meat-cleavers. Every time Mariusz threw (and missed), the crowd hollered. They wanted another quick finish for the Polish hero.  When Graham overcommitted to one of his strikes, Pudzianowski ducked under and shot for a double leg takedown. Both fighters crashed to the ground with the bigger Mariusz on top, his surface area devouring Graham’s.

For the next four minutes, Mariusz held onto top position and occasionally landed punishing blows. But, he began to slow down with each passing second and eventually limited himself to sparse, strategic strikes. He didn’t want to waste energy, but he didn’t want to be stood up by the referee for a lack of action. His oversized muscles were already struggling for oxygen, and even the feverish crowd was unable to sustain itself with little action to celebrate.

When the bell sounded, Mariusz looked entirely sapped. He expended much of his limited energy on the initial attack, the takedown, and top control. He did not have a plan for the second round. His corner told him to keep doing what he was doing and to knock him out if he saw an opening. He stood up and put his hands to his sides and took in deep gulps of air.

Almost immediately after the bell for the second round sounded, Mariusz stepped into a straight right that hit him in the eye, followed by an uppercut to the chin that shook him back. The world began to swirl ever so slightly. Graham rushed at him with five more crushing blows. The crowd murmured uncomfortably. Instinct told Mariusz to grab ahold of the Australian before matters got out of hand. He ducked for a takedown and missed. He stumbled off balance.

Pudzianowski — five-time World’s Strongest Man — went down.

The scene in Pudzianowski’s hotel room after the fight was somewhat chaotic. The big man sported a bright purple bruise on his left eye and noticeable discoloration on his forehead just above. His nose was peppered with red marks — burst blood cells — and his eyes were bloodshot. Some of his entourage paced back and forth in the room, while others sat in the corner behind the bed as Mariusz fielded questions from Polish journalists. Cameras were dispersed around the room, which made it difficult to move around.

Despite the second round loss to Graham, Pudzianowski was still in relatively good spirits. When Mariusz collapsed during the main event, so did his four-fight win streak and potential title shot. He was disappointed but remarkably pragmatic about his performance and what it meant for his future.

"Losses are part of sports. Someone has to win and someone has to lose. But it does give you the motivation to head back to the gym, try harder, and become the best."

Pudzianowski now has nearly as many losses in mixed martial arts as he gained World’s Strongest Man titles for his mantle. He was always aware that a 30-year-old’s transition to a new sport was never going to yield immediate results. Knowing didn’t stop him.

"I was aware that nothing comes easy in life, no matter the sport. You have to have the feeling of being the best to be the best, but I also knew that it wasn’t going to be easy in MMA."

"Pudzian," as he is often known in Poland,  had little time to dedicate to self-pity and depression. It was already ungodly early on Sunday morning and he had to be fit enough to resume work at his businesses the following day. He refused to allow his hobby to get in the way of his livelihood, even if his hobby was to get punched in the face.

Once the interview was over, he requested to look at his face on the camera’s screen. He leapt off the bed, stared into the screen with one good eye, and laughed as he admired Graham’s artistic infliction on his face.

For a man with as much money and success as he has, his life choices seem bizarre. Mariusz, however, claims that he would take fighting over something like politics without batting an eyelid.

"Politics is a huge pile of s***. I don’t want to go in that direction. I’ve got enough money to be alright in life until the end of my days. I don’t need trouble.

"I can’t heal the entire world, and I can’t lift the entire world either."

Despite his failure that night, Pudzianowski seemed far more content than most champions following stunning performances. While ambition, anxiety, and a long list of fears may eventually paralyze them, Mariusz could not be more satisfied with his lot. He did not fight for money. He did not fight for stardom. He already had both those things. He simply wanted to go home and spend his time amongst the people he cared about.

"It is not like I want to go and travel the world. I’m satisfied with what I’ve seen so far and I don’t want to lose more of my life looking at stuff during travel.

"What I’ve seen is enough for me."

He sat up against the backboard of his bed. Maybe it was time to switch on Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.


Text: Karim Zidan

Editor: Zane Simon

Title Photo: Konfrontacja Sztuk Walki (KSW)

Design & Development: Graham MacAree

About the Author

Karim Zidan is a Canadian journalist who works as an associate editor for, and as a contributor to Foreign Policy, The Guardian, Deadspin, Open Democracy, and Bleacher Report. He has also been featured on HBO Real Sports. Follow him on Twitter @ZidanSports.