In a sport that’s unapologetic, Sean Strickland might be the most unapologetic of them all. It might be too extreme, but Strickland has always been honest with what’s going through his mind. From his Neo-Nazi past to his homicidal thoughts, Sean Strickland will always let you know what he feels regardless of how dark it could be.
The darkness came from Strickland’s childhood where he grew up with a mentally and physically abusive father.
“I remember hugging my mom's leg in the kitchen, like pre-elementary school while my dad will fucking drunk telling my fucking mom I'm going to fucking cut you off little pieces, then bury you in the backyard and a bottle of acid.” Strickland told Ariel Helwani on an episode of the MMA Hour.
“Whenever you experience things like that day in and day out, your brain biologically changes. My brain was made to survive. Whenever I had to transition to the normal world, my brain wasn’t built for that”.
The psychological trauma that Strickland endured put him on a bad path himself. He walked around the streets with a knife in his pocket fantasizing about hurting others. He became a Neo-Nazi and drew swastikas on his arms.
“Did you ever watch American History X? People would always ask me when I was a kid, who did I want to be? And that’s what I wanted to be. When I was a kid I thought they were so cool, man. That’s something I hero-worshipped but I was in elementary school, and I didn’t know what it all meant”.
Strickland was filled with anger and he didn’t know why. Then it all changed the day he discovered training for martial arts and realized that he wasn’t who he thought he was.
“When I started training, I was like man, I don’t hate anybody. Like everyone’s cool. A lot of people helped me out. Like a lot of ethnic people were the ones that kind of held their hands out to me. It was weird because I was a Neo Nazi, Hitler youth, and the people helping me out weren’t even white”.
Strickland started to have realizations and felt ashamed of how he acted.
“It’s a shameful thing you have to come with terms with, because my entire life I hated you because your color, and now you’re the one helping me out. Life is strange”.
Strickland could have hid his past if he chose to, but that’s not the person he is. He says how he feels, whether people like it or not.
Martial arts gave Strickland an opportunity to channel his rage and put it into something productive. He’s currently on a 5 fight winning streak and is looking to one day challenge for the UFC Middleweight title.