clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The Mitchell Paradox - Part IV: Busted

Previously: David Mitchell enters the UFC. He loses for the first time and his health begins to suffer like never before. He runs to the other end of the world to escape his problems, but returns only to face another loss in the Octagon. Surgery then sidelines him for over a year.

Artwork by Chad Stanhope

“Right in the midst of my UFC run I got totally popped,” sighed David Mitchell, as he thought back to the inciting incident that kicked off one of the worst phases of his life.

David can’t remember the exact date it happened, but on a routine run to his weed farm in Mendocino County he was pulled over by the cops. He had plants in the car. After he was booked, his property was raided. He wasn’t there, but David heard the story. Cars, cops, guns, dogs—it was the kind of bust usually reserved for TV. By David’s count, the police seized around a million dollars worth of product.

David faced three felony charges, but eventually plead guilty to misdemeanors for his role in the operation and was sentenced to house arrest, probation and a fine of $30,000. “You can call them fines, but they were bribes. They were like, ‘Give us $30,000 and we won’t put you in jail.’ Up in Mendocino County, that’s how it still is, I imagine. They call it an eradication fee. I had to pay them $30,000 to destroy my weed.”

The fine was nothing compared to the legal fees David had to pay. Those forced him to sell nearly everything he owned. He had to start leasing out the home he’d bought in Santa Rosa, too, pushing him into a cycle of couch surfing and sleeping in his car. Recreational cannabis became legal in California a few years later.

“I don’t know if they’ll give me an apology, but I believe they expunged my record already. It’s just one of those things where I went from a million dollars to zero dollars.

“I was going to court every week and trying to stay out of jail and try and stay on my feet. It just became so much of a struggle just to survive in life, without thinking about trying to fight in the UFC. On top of that, I had the recovery from my neck surgery.”

David had to wear an ankle monitor for three months and then complete three years of probation. Fortunately, was able to keep all this from both the UFC and the MMA media. In 2013 he needed court permission to travel to Chicago for his return to the Octagon.

Under different circumstances, he and the man he met in the cage at the United Center for UFC on FOX 6 might have become friends; bonded over similar roads to the big show. Like David, Simeon Thoresen had sailed through opponents in the small ponds close to home. If they’d traded stories, instead of punches, David might have learned that the Norwegian could relate to the feeling being on top of the world, before a set of UFC gloves sent them crashing back down to earth. For Thoresen, his rude awakening came via a thunderous punch from Seth Baczynski three months prior to meeting Mitchell in the ‘Windy City.’

The actual interaction between the two men lasted a whole three rounds. It saw David – enjoying his improved mobility – hopping in and out of range, landing looping shots on his lanky opponent. He hurt, cut, and bloodied Thoresen. He harried him with submission attempts; omoplata, gogoplata, heel hook, triangle. Even though David was on his back when the final bell sounded, it was obvious he had won.

Laying prone, he threw his hands straight out and howled gloriously. His face was bright red as he clambered to his feet. Only a small fraction of that color was because of the blood that trickled from the cut on the bridge of his nose. Most of the redness was the result of raw emotion. David was close to tears.

After his victory was made official, Joe Silva shook his hand, told him “Good job.” David had been desperate to hear this. “Thanks Joe,” he said enthusiastically, followed by, “Hey Joe!...” but the matchmaker had already walked away.

Alone in the cage, sweating through the Dethrone shirt that had been pulled over his tired shoulders, David looked around. He was waiting for something that never came.

“I remember after winning there was such a high, being there in the cage. And, every single fighter that wins would get interviewed, you’d think? But something happened with Joe Rogan and they were late or something, so they didn’t give me an interview.

“So I’m just standing there like, where’s Joe Rogan? I think in my mind, going into MMA – I started when I was 25 years old – I never thought that I could win the UFC title, probably, but I thought I could get that interview with Joe Rogan, you know?

“So I was standing there like, where’s my interview? And he never fucking showed up and I never won again. So I went and sat down in the crowd and I remember thinking, well that’s it, I guess. Like, I don’t know—there was a sadness, even though I had won. It was weird. Maybe – I don’t know if it’s trauma or not, post traumatic, like I killed that dude – but it was, I don’t know, it was weird. I just wasn’t all that happy. But maybe that’s just my personal struggle with depression.”

As David sat in the crowd, the elation from winning his first UFC fight quickly became an afterthought. The bitter realization that the feeling was so fleeting and fragile overcame him. As he watched other fighters perform, some to rapturous applause and the feting of Rogan, David struggled to recognize himself in any of them. He thought, what am I doing here?

“It didn’t feel like as big a moment as being at Tachi Palace with all my whole family there and all the craziness, straight pandemonium. I guess I got a check for that, which I currently remember being the only real check I got from the UFC. It was about $10,000, I think. I think I got a good check on that one.”

Since David’ finances had been wiped out by legal problems, I asked him what he did with the $10,000. He let out a syllable and then paused. Silently David rooted around his brain searching for the answer. I heard him hum and haw.

“That’s so weird,” he said, eventually. “I guess I got just a blank spot there. That money must have been super helpful at that time, but I can barely remember.”

In his seven or so years of training and fighting in MMA David had accumulated dozens of concussions amid countless blows to the head. Under Dave Terrell at NorCal Fighting Alliance, he’d seen more stars than an astronaut—thanks to hard sparring and in-house fighting. In regional bouts across the San Joaquin Valley he’d avoided getting his bell rung too often. His ground game being light-years ahead of the competition helped there, but he wasn’t completely unscathed. In his UFC debut he was surprised by TJ Waldburger, who hurt him in the cage like no one had before. All this came after that catastrophic car accident, which cracked his teenage skull.

At 33-years-old David’s brain had suffered like a battle-scarred soldier or a senior with Alzheimer’s. Hundreds of blows, concussive and sub-concussive were adding up. And they were starting to affect how David functioned. His ability to regulate his mood, to focus, to gauge what’s real—all these things suffered. In addition, this damage was also stealing memories. Small ones at first; a phone number, a parking spot. But as more damage was done, increasingly larger groupings of memories started to disappear.

His blank spots were becoming black holes, capable of destroying time itself.

David thinks this transition came after what happened in his next fight. It’s there that he suffered what he believes was the worst incident of brain trauma in his career, perhaps his life.

In the next installment of The Mitchell Paradox David loses a fight that he barely remembers.

The Mitchell Paradox - Part V: Lost Time will be released on Friday, only on Bloody Elbow.

UFC News

Video: UFC star Conor McGregor scuffles with Machine Gun Kelly at MTV VMAs

UFC News

Ortiz claims Silva hit him with illegal shot - ‘The back of my head is sore as hell’

Asian MMA

ONE Championship’s 2020 finances: $48 million more in losses, and a curious $400 million transaction