Nate Quarry made it all the way back to the locker room before he finally broke down.
This was later. This was after he’d woken up on the mat to find that he’d lost his one and only UFC title shot. It was after he’d struggled to his feet against the cage as doctors and cutmen shoved gauze in his face and Q-tips up his nose. It was after he’d congratulated Rich Franklin on a dominant victory to retain his middleweight title at UFC 56 in November 2005, after he’d held it together all the way through a classy post-fight interview even as the blood was still spraying from his mouth as he spoke to UFC commentator Joe Rogan.
Then Quarry walked backstage, away from the cameras and the prying eyes, and completely fell apart.
“I just remember showering in the locker room and collapsing and crying,” Quarry said. “I remember saying to myself, of course this is how it’s supposed to go down. Of course I’m never going to amount to anything. Of course I’m just this big loser.”
This is the part he still remembers clearly now, almost 15 years later. From the fight itself, he has only snapshots, hazy mental images, some stuff that he actually remembers and other stuff that he’s pieced together from being forced to watch the highlights more times than he cares to count. That post-fight speech, the one in which he carried the loss like a dignified sportsman of the first order?
“That was my subconscious running the show,” Quarry said. “I don’t remember that or the walk to the back, don’t remember the locker room.”
The shower he remembers. That’s when the darkness came flooding in. That’s when every bad thing he’d ever felt about himself — stuff from his childhood, stuff from growing up in a repressive Jehovah’s Witness family, stuff from his father and the church and every other authority figure who’d ever contributed to making him the angry young man he was when he first walked into a fight gym — it all ganged up on him then, at his weakest point.
Didn’t he deserve this? He’d thought he was somebody. He’d thought he could become a world champion. When he’d signed on that dotted line, he actually thought he was going to win. Didn’t he know that he was a good-for-nothing loser and would always remain so?
That was how he talked to himself on the floor of that shower. Exactly whose voice he was talking in, he couldn’t be sure.
“It was all this stuff that I thought I’d kind of put away,” Quarry said. “I don’t think I’ve ever really told anyone this before, but my father, on his death bed, he told me that he’d intentionally tried to keep me down. He didn’t want me to realize my full potential, because then I’d run off and try to live up to it. When you’re raising someone in a cult, that’s the last thing you want. So he’d filled me with this self-doubt, made me think I was worthless and I’d never amount to anything. The only way I was able to develop this belief in myself, that I was strong enough to handle anything that came my way. That’s easy to say, but I had to really believe it. That was essential for me. Then going out there and losing so spectacularly in a title fight, all these deep-seated things just come right to the surface for you all at once.”