LAS VEGAS – Khalil Rountree picked up the tenth win of his professional career on Saturday, but talking about the fight was far from his number one priority afterward.
While he was pleased with his performance inside the cage, Rountree immediately turned his focus to how he can use his platform to help others who may be going down the wrong path in life and need the motivation to help them turn things around. It’s a story that Rountree is deeply familiar with because he was once one of those people.
“We hear about certain fights’ stories and it’s like, ‘Okay, that’s cool. Well, on to the next, or talk about the fight,’” Rountree told MMA Junkie and other reporters at the post-fight news conference. “No, man. We’re still people. Yes, I come in here and I put on performances, and people know me as fighting, but it’s like that whole part of – man, when I (was) like 300 pounds without a hope or a dream or a dollar in my pocket, stepped into an MMA gym to try to change my life.
“Every time I’m in here, that’s still a growth. It’s not like I’ve just surpassed that person. Every single day I have to wake up to that person. Every single day I have to fight that person. Just because I’m in the UFC, just because I fight, doesn’t mean that person is long gone, you know? I still have demons, I still have doubts. …Yeah, I have f*ckin’ doubts. Everybody does. When you’re doing something good in life, when you’re doing something that’s trying to surpass everything else and do something that’s meaningful, f*ck yeah you’re gonna have doubts.”
The Ultimate Fighter 23 veteran is familiar with making wholesale changes to benefit his career and his life in general. After a knockout loss to Johnny Walker in 2018, Rountree packed his bags and moved to Thailand to further elevate his fight game and gain new confidence. It’s one thing to recognize a change is necessary and it’s another to act on it. While Rountree has transformed himself into a person who will do both, he wants to figure out the best way to help others achieve the same.
“I’m still the guy, although I’ve grown and I’m taking on more challenges and I’m growing as a man, it’s like my fight is different than everybody else,” Rountree explained.” Everybody else has their own fight. For me, part of that is how do you get a man off of the couch, from killing himself with eating trashy food, and smoking cigarettes, and watching porn, and doing all this toxic sh*t to be an all-star athlete? The switch just doesn’t flip like that. It’s a constant progression and I think that there’s millions of people out there that kind of need help in those steps of like, ‘Hey, guide me here.’ Yeah, I’m cheering for you, but how do I do it? What’s next?”
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Discovering the ideal method to deliver his message and offer his support to the masses is an ongoing process for Rountree, but he knows it starts with winning fights. Along with more winning, comes more attention and more money, which keeps him motivated to succeed so that he can achieve the goals of building a community of people who need his assistance.
“If I’m not winning fights, one, I make half of my money, and two, nobody gives a sh*t,” Rountree said. “… The person who loses the fight kind of gets forgotten about. You don’t get an interview, you don’t get this, you don’t get that – only the winners get to say a piece.”
When asked what his message would be to those who need the motivation to make a change in their life, Rountree gave a heart-felt reply while holding back tears.
“It might sound a bit cliche, or you’ve heard this before, but your life matters,” Rountree said. “You can be special. You can be strong. You can be seen. You can be heard. Life is beautiful if you make it that way. It doesn’t have to be how everybody else makes it seem. Stick around. Stick around another day.
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