Famous combat sports athletes are starting to speak up about their mental health.
Recently, two-weight world champion Danny Garcia spoke about how boxing has been instrumental in helping him cope with anxiety and depression. He said, “I did take a break going through mental things; things went dark, I went through anxiety, deep depression, just trying to be strong.”
He also stated, “It rained on me for a year and a half, and the only way to do better was to fight again. I’m a fighter. If you battle anxiety and depression, you can get out of it; that’s what I did today. I fought.”
It is encouraging to see an athlete in such a previously known macho sport be so open about his mental health struggles. The culture of toxic masculinity is shifting in these sports as time progresses.
For example, WBC, The Ring, and lineal heavyweight champion Tyson Fury has always been open about his mental health journey. He spent two-and-a-half years taking a break after experiencing suicidal ideation, addiction, and other struggles.
What Happened With Tyson Fury?
Fury said on Instagram this past summer, “Just sat here and thought I’d do a video for all the people suffering over the Jubilee bank holiday weekend.”
“[Anyone] suffering with depression, anxiety, any mental health disorder that you may have, now is the time to seek help, get medical advice, speak to a friend, a family member, or whoever you can.
“If you don’t have any family or friends you can speak to, as I did, seek medical advice immediately because now is the time. The sooner you go and do it, the better. The sooner you can return to health again.”
Fury also encouraged his followers to stop abusing substances and go out to get some exercise during the holiday weekend.
“It’s a sad, lonely place to be, especially over the holidays,” he stated. “I was just sat outside and thought about all the people who may be struggling or in need – this one is for you.
“All the people out there on and off with it all, do a bit of exercise and training. Put the drink down, put the drugs down, put everything down.
“Get your runners on, get your gym gear on and do a bit if you can. Any exercise is better than none. Good luck, God bless. See you all soon.”
In 2015, when Fury dethroned Wladimir Klitschko after an epic performance, Fury fell into a deep depression. Along with alcohol and substance abuse struggles, the British heavyweight also has bipolar disorder and was overwhelmed by suicidal thoughts.
After finding medical help and getting himself back into physical and mental shape, Fury has returned to the ring better than ever, winning twice over American heavyweight Deontay Wilder and the WBC belt.
What Have Combat Sports Athletes Like Paddy Pimblett had to Say About Mental Health?
Outside of boxing, other fighters are using their platforms to advocate for mental health. Recently, UFC rising star Paddy Pimblett talked about mental health after his stunning two-round win over Jordan Leavitt at UFC London. He spoke about his friend who had recently died of suicide and encouraged men to talk to someone if they were experiencing depression.
‘The Baddy,’ famous for his charismatic personality, was open about his friend who died by suicide, Rikki, and dedicated his win to him.
Pimblett said, “There’s a stigma in this world that men can’t talk. Listen, if you’re a man and you’ve got a weight on your shoulders and think the only way you can solve it is by killing yourself, please speak to someone! Speak to Anyone.”
Do you know the three main types of bipolar disorder? Please read our article to find out more.
How Was Pimblett’s Message Received?
Many people well-received this powerful speech, and Pimblett’s post-fight interview even went viral in the aftermath of UFC London.
As for a broader impact, his words became apparent days later when Andy’s Man Club, one of West Yorkshire’s leading men’s mental health groups, had a surge following UFC London.
In addition, Pimblett said that people have been messaging him directly since his speech and said that his words had prevented them from dying by suicide.
Pimblett told talkSPORT, “People are telling me they haven’t killed themselves because of something that I’ve said and things along those lines. It means more to me than any win, to be honest.”
In addition, he said, “We’ve had thousands of messages from different people and organizations. I want to thank every single person for those messages. As I say, that was something that came from my heart the other day.”
The UFC prospect also said charities have reached out to him, asking him to represent their organizations. However, he is now in the process of establishing his mental health charity. He added, “I’ve been asked to be the ambassador for over 100 charities.”
“I wish I could do it for every single one of them; I do. Will get my mental health charity sorted and set up in the next few months.
“I want to help people. It’s nice to be nice. A lot of people in the position that I’m in don’t believe in that, which is just crazy to me.”
How Combat Sports Athletes are Changing the Name of the Game
When athletes like this speak about mental health, it is precious to the overall community. Combat sports fans can see who value traits like toughness can now embrace openness and vulnerability. In essence, battling it out in the ring or cage doesn’t mean you must suppress all your feelings.
These warriors are brave in discussing their mental health struggles. That way, they can teach other fighters and people how important mental well-being and mental health is and how it is necessary to talk about your feelings.