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What jail time taught Tim Means: ‘If I don’t stay down, I can’t lose’

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UFC Vegas 30’s “Dirty Bird” learned life’s hard lessons before ever slipping on a pair of four-ounce gloves.

For many fighters, martial arts are the physical manifestation of life lessons, but for UFC’s Tim Means, those lessons were learned in a cold jail cell.

Means (31-12-1) meets Nicolas Dalby (19-3-1) at UFC Vegas 30, which is headlined by Ciryl Gane vs. Alexander Volkov this weekend (Sat., June 26, 2021) inside UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada, airing on ESPN+. “Dirty Bird” spoke with MMAmania.com ahead of the fight, revealing that mixed martial arts’ tough lessons were taught to him before he ever slipped on the gloves.

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“Sitting in a jail cell a long time ago for me, those guards would come and get you when they were ready to come and get you,” he explained. “I had to learn to develop patience and not to stress about things that I could not control or were out of my control “I would say that type of mentally dates back to those days — 18, 19-years-old sitting in a jail cell and I can’t get out ‘cause, I want to get out. I have to be told when to go to sleep and things of those nature. It just makes you a patient person. It made me strong mentally and made my fortitude real strong.

“As long as I look up and keep my head up and don’t stay down, I can never lose,” he added. “I might lose some fights or not get that nod or whatever, but I’m still getting to put a cheque in my bank account. I’m still feeding my kids and my family. Living in a nice home and stuff. If I don’t stay down, I don’t lose. And if I don’t stress about things that I can’t control, I’m not losing there. I’m going to find a positive way out of it. Doesn’t mean it’s going to solve every problem but it’ll definitely help me face the challenges and find an answer to get past those things.”

Means, 37, has experienced life's cold, hard lessons first-hand: from a near-fatal gunshot wound and drug addiction (morphine and methamphetamines) to a four-year prison stint and MMA losses. Having made it out the other side, Means — now a family man through and through — now guides the next generation as head wrestling coach for Moriarty High School, his old stomping grounds in New Mexico. You would think his status as a certified killer in UFC would command universal respect, but teens are going to be teens.

“Yes and no — I’ve got some kids who like to test the boundaries or whatever,” Means chuckled. “I have some very coachable kids who were on the team. My first year of coaching and we pulled our first-year state champions. When you have a good athlete and just a good kid with good character, you don’t have to motivate those kids. They show up and they’re motivated themselves. It shows in their work ethic and their commitment to the system that you’re trying to apply.

“Seniors are some of the hardest ones to deal with,” he concluded. “Seniors just know it all and they don’t want to change. They don’t want to adapt to things and welcome different issues. I told my seniors and even the varsity football seniors that were leaving at that time, ‘You better get ready for life to change on a regular, regular basis. Or you’re going to be a little upset calling your mom [because you’re] upset on a regular basis.’ Change makes us strong and if any young person is listening to this, be willing to take on change and be willing to make that adversity. Change makes you better you just have to accept it.”


Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 30 fight card right here, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance on ESPN+ at 4 p.m. ET.

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