Well, I think I was 38 at the time (I’m 42 now). I’m an adjunct English professor at a small college in Pennsylvania, and I’ve been an adjunct for ten years. I make about $16,000 a year. I publish fairly well but, for various reasons, it’s pretty clear that my academic career is not going to come to anything. The tenure track hasn’t happened, and it’s probably not going to.
So I kind of reached this point where it was an authentic midlife crisis. It was like, Here I am: I’m pushing up on middle age, and I don’t quite have a real job. What am I going to do with my life? I knew the first thing I had to do was quit my job and move on to something else, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I really wanted to be an English professor when I grew up. It was my great ambition in life.
So I thought, “Well, maybe I can get myself fired.” At about that time, when I was going through this sort of crisis, an MMA gym — Mark Shrader’s Academy of Mixed Martial Arts — opened across the street from the English Department, and I thought that was just hilarious. A cage fighting gym was now as far away from my office as you could throw a snowball. The juxtaposition of the incredibly refined world of the English Department and this savagery across the street struck me as very, very funny, and I started to fantasize about going over there.
The fantasy was never about “Hey, I’m a serious tough guy. I’m going to go over there and kick ass.” It was like a joke. I thought I could make people in the department laugh. They’d see me walk over there. They’d look up from their poems and there I’d be, in the cage, getting beat up.
And then I had this other funny thought: “That’s how I’ll do it. That’s how I’ll get myself fired. That’s how I’ll get out of this job, because English Departments really don’t approve of blood sport.”
It all began as an elaborate career-suicide fantasy. But then I thought, “Maybe there’s a book in this.” So I went across the street and tried to learn how to fight and ended up writing a book.