After a big win and big loss in the UFC, Sean Pierson is just trying to find his balance inside and outside the cage.
The 35-year-old welterweight from Pickering, Ont., is coming off a rollercoaster year that saw him celebrate his UFC debut with a gritty win over Matt Riddle last December at UFC 124, only to be knocked out in the first round by Jake Ellenberger at UFC 129 in April.
Pierson (11-5) looks to bounce back Friday when he takes on South Korea's Dong Hyun (Stun Gun) Kim (14-1-1 with one no contest) at UFC 141. The main event in Las Vegas pits former UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar against former Strikeforce title-holder Alistair Overeem.
While Ellenberger is an elite welterweight, Pierson looks within when it comes to analyzing the loss.
Having quit his full-time job with Dell Computers to focus on fighting, Pierson says he started feeling the pressure to succeed at his sport.
"It was stressful because now I started thinking my family depends on me to win this fight to feed them," he said.
It wasn't quite that dire, but he knew his income was now related to winning.
"No longer was there any fun in this for me. And really the reason I do this is because I enjoy it. It's fun," Pierson said. "So I felt like I had lost that in that (Ellenberger) fight and that's something that we went back to."
Part of shedding that weight was realizing that he had a career before the UFC and that he will have another when fighting is over.
"I don't need to stress on what happens each fight," he said. "Just go out there, have fun, do your best and enjoy the moment. Because this is what you dreamed of doing for 10 years. You've wanted to be in the UFC.
"I want to be able to say when it's done that I loved being there. Not I was stressed out every minute of the day because I didn't know where my next paycheque was coming from. That's not the way you want to live and that's not the way any of us really have to live."
Against Ellenberger, Pierson never got started. He was hurt with a left early and never got his offence going. A lazy right was greeted with a crunching Ellenberger hook and the fight was over in just two minutes 42 seconds.
Pierson says he is looking forward not backward.
"I tell everybody you've got to have a short memory in the UFC — and in fighting in general. You can't dwell on your losses and you can't pride yourself up on your past victories. Because it's a new fight every single time."
After the Ellenberger fight, Pierson had a deviated septum fixed. Then it was back to the gym, thinking he would be on the UFC 140 card in Toronto on Dec. 10.
Instead, he was matched against the South Korean in Vegas. "So I just kept training," he said.
Pierson prepared for the fight at Tristar in Montreal, as he has done since 2009, in addition to his local gyms.
Already branching out, Pierson has started managing a pair of friends who are fellow fighters: Antonio (Pato) Carvalho and Adrian Wooley.
He is looking to expand his client base but only if he can keep the personal touch.
"These are my friends. I'm just trying to help them out."
So far, so good. Carvalho is slated to make his UFC debut at UFC 142 in January.
What about possible complications with the UFC while serving as both a fighter and fighter representative?
"Definitely in the future that could be a problem but because I'm not that far into the game, I haven't had to cross that bridge yet."
One possibility would be to have his management partner, Neil Forester, negotiate his fighters' contact with the UFC.
While they have yet to settle on a name for their company, Pierson has settled on a new nickname— "The Punisher."
A self-proclaimed "superhero geek," Pierson thought it was a good fit. especially since one of his coaches had already started calling him that after the boxer Paul (The Punisher) Williams.
Pierson was once known as Pimp Daddy for his flamboyant entrances. He gave up that nickname years ago, thinking that it had negative connotations, but it still came back to haunt him when he applied to become a Toronto police officer.
Away from the cage, Pierson savours his status as a UFC fighter. He has no airs — "I'm the average Joe that tried to be a little less average" — but enjoys the fact he can perhaps serve as a role model for kids.
He knows he will have his hands full Friday with the 30-year-old Kim, whose background is judo, looking for his own redemption following a first-round knockout in July at the hands of Carlos Condit.
The lanky Korean is good at blunting his opponent's skills, then snaring them in clinches and taking them down where he controls them on the ground.
Pierson, who comes from a wrestling background, points out that he has yet to demonstrate his full repertoire in the UFC. The Riddle fight was fought mostly on the feet, while the Ellenberger loss was too short to show anything.