The last four years of my life in a New England MMA gym are the ones that will shape my next forty, I think. The names of the individuals most closely involved are inked in Sharpie on a dirty dollar bill on the right side corner of a dive bar in the middle of Orlando, Florida. This dollar is as close as I’ve ever come to etching my name into the bark of a tree or scraping it into the wall of a high school bathroom stall. This is more fitting, and, in some ways, more permanent.

First, there’s The Russian, a strong but noodle-limbed black belt whose command of English, I’m told, has improved in his…