If you just looked at Simon Loughlin’s photos on Facebook you’d find another good-looking MMA welterweight with a pretty perfect set of Abdominals and think to yourself…Life’s too easy for some fuckers…..and with the help of God he’ll get struck down with an addiction to Smokey bacon burgers.
If you follow Simon’s Facebook posts though a far different, sometimes darker picture emerges. A life struggling with his mind. A life with joy too in the form of two beautiful children, family, friends and past relationships. A love of martial arts. Beginning as a kid in Karate, then Judo, Traditional Jiu-jitsu and now for the last number of years MMA. I think it’s a life he’s battled with and you’ll hear me use that word more than once today. It has been a life with it’s own strange kind of beauty all the same.
Simon Loughlin’s first attempt at suicide was an overdose at the age of 18. He doesn’t recall much about the occasion other than he awoke rather groggily in a hospital bed, lucky to be still alive if not entirely sure of what happened. There have been two subsequent attempts in the intervening years.
Today Simon Loughlin is 39 years of age and still battling. If we take the suicide attempt as the starting point (it’s not) that is 21 years of battling. Battling his mind. Battling Borderline personality disorder. Battling clinical depression. At the end of our conversation I wanted to say to him, but I forgot, You’re winning Simon. Up on all the cards.
There is no glib happy ending to this story. Simon will continue to battle. He will have to continue the fight. He has no choice. If he doesn’t this is an opponent that kills. No questions asked. The great thing is that Simon knows this. Experience has taught him as much. During our chat he reference’s two fighters who have ended their own lives. People he knew.
Simon’s children are the number one reason he continues to fight his demons.
” Hand on Heart, I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them”
I believe him when he says this. His son is a regular feature at much of his training over the last couple of years. And in the way of children he hit upon a point one day with his father.
” Daddy when are you going to be fighting for a belt”
Well on May 25th 2019 Daddy is fighting for a belt. The Battle Arena Welterweight Title in Monaghan. I find a satisfying symmetry in the fact his first title shot comes on a promotion that has the word Battle in it’s title.
As much as I want to talk about this great welterweight match-up with Niall Brannigan of Beyond MMA, I think Simon Loughlin’s story deserves a little bit more than a run down of MMA technique and strategy.
One of my first questions to Simon related to a gap in his fight record (3-3) that I noticed on his Sherdog record from about about 3 years ago. An innocuous question that opened up Pandora’s box. 3 years ago he broke his hand and it set in motion a series of events that nearly swept him away again. He barely survived.
The broken hand had a couple of complications and it led to his training regime going out the window. It seems to me training is medicine for Simon Loughlin. If he doesn’t get it often and regular it throws him. He was prescribed strong medication for the problems with his damaged hand and they became another thing he had to battle to get rid of. He did but in the tsunami that followed he lost his wife, business and almost his life again. The one good thing that did come out of it was that he finally got the correct diagnosis for his mental health issues. Borderline personality disorder.
Simon has anger and frustration issues since childhood and he admits openly, he has always had difficulty coping with the periodic swells of these emotions. Martial Arts in all of it’s various forms has often been the difference between him being able to cope and not being able to cope.
He speaks about the IFS gym like family. I know from interviewing a few of them they are a particularly tight and talented bunch. Loughlin spent this afternoon being put through his paces by Daniel ‘Obiwan’ Olejniczak. Olejniczak fought recently on the Bellator Dublin card. So the calibre of training partner is right up there. They have been more than training partners to him though and he is very quick to mention that.
Around three years ago Simon was again making a heavy lean towards suicide. He did what you are supposed to do in the circumstances and went to see someone in a mental health clinic or some such centre.
He related his daily cycle of thinking. The two dark twins of self harm and suicide. At the end of the conversation he was handed a leaflet. As he left he made a decision. In the moment he understood if he didn’t start to help himself then no-one would.
He decide to start to talking about it. He also started posting about his struggles on social media. This is how he first came to my attention. He wasn’t posting for likes. It was clear to me he was posting to get some of the swirling torment out of his head. The reaction of people surprised him. It doesn’t surprise me as it is frequently raw, exposing and brutally honest.
” Complete Strangers have messaged me telling me how it has helped them. It felt amazing that what I was saying could help”
Now, I have to say at this juncture I have mixed feelings about social media posting on the subject of Mental Health. I think it is fine as long as it’s NOT your only form of self help. Posting shouldn’t be a substitute for talking. Or if it is not for too long. It feels good to actually talk and I can testify that it feels good talking with Simon Loughlin on this and other MMA related matters.
It seems clear to me that the way Simon speaks and talks about it – he uses social media as a tool to help himself and help others. The reason why the Simon Loughlin’s of this world are so important is by virtue of the fact that he has walked the lonely road for 30 years. Battling. failing. Battling some more. Making mistakes and learning a little bit more. Battling.Battling.Battling. Never quite giving up. He speaks the words of the battle-scarred. Not the words of the airbrushed.
The fact is the battle never ends and I often wonder do the younger generation fully get that. Maybe that knowledge only comes from experience who knows. In essence Simon is the epitome of the ‘ Man in the Arena ‘ that US President Theodore Roosevelt so famously spoke about. Re-reading this is never a waste of anyone’s time I think.
The reason Simon continues to fight and train in Mixed Martial Arts at the ripe old age of 39 is a simple one. He wants to set an example for his children, to show the values of discipline, self control, being part of something greater than yourself. His son especially has been bitten by the bug and that makes his father proud. No doubt seeing his father in this environment makes his son very proud also.
At the end of our conversation we both shared some further details about different personal struggles we have both faced and continue to battle (which I will keep to myself you nosey bastards), the only reason I bring this up is because of something he said to me at the end
” Listen If you ever want to talk, you know, as a friend or something not as a reporter I am here to chat”
I don’t believe in any particular God but there is certainly something godly in those kind words.
BATTLE ARENA IRELAND – Return to Ireland on May 25th 2019
Treacy’s Hotel, Carrickmacross, County Monaghan