Kamal Shalorus still isn't quite sure what happened. One day he was on the top of the world, entering the universe's biggest fight promotion with an undefeated record and a brilliant swell of momentum, then the next it was all over, just another washout riding a string of losses, the last two mystifyingly apathetic.
It took some time, nearly a year of soul-searching on the sidelines, before Shalorus could begin to forgive himself for the way in which his UFC career came to an unceremonious end.
"To be honest, I tried to get a better job, a career," Shalorus admitted to MMAFighting.com. "Fighting is not a career, especially -- I have a problem with my family. I'm living in this country by myself, and when I go back to see my family they say, ‘What's you career?' They don't believe that fighting is a career.
"That's why, mentally, I wasn't ready for my last three bouts. I was almost, 'My [head's] not good, but I have to do it.' So I found a job."
Shalorus works on the construction fields now, the classic bastion for testosterone, a safe haven for a former UFC fighter. He went to school to get his contracting license and is attending university with an eye on his degree.
Fighting, Shalorus says, is now his back-up plan. It has to be after the way in which he lost three straight, being on the receiving end of finishes courtesy of Jim Miller, Khabib Nurmagomedov, Rafael dos Anjos from early-2011 to mid-2012.
"My first fight with Jim Miller, you know, Jim Miller is a good fighter. I had two injuries, but still I fought with my two injuries and I lost my confidence," Shalorus conceded. "For my second and third [fight], mentally I wasn't ready, to be honest.
"That was 20 percent of me. With Jim Miller, I did (try). But with other two, to be honest, I didn't try. I was, like, different. I was fighting with myself. I defeated myself.
"I shouldn't have been fighting at all," Shalorus continued. "It built pain, I realized that fighting is dreaming. It's not a career. It's just, you have to do it as a passion, on the side with a job. So, now that pain [is gone], I have a job now, and I'm excited to be back fighting. It's something I like doing, like old days, WEC days."
After ending his self-imposed exile, Shalorus inked a multi-fight contract with ONE FC, Asia's largest mixed martial arts promotion. He's 35 years old but holds none of the common delusions of grandeur other aging fighters cling to. This late-career revival, he says, is about something different -- something larger.
"Sometimes when you lose, people change their attitude towards you," Shalorus said. "Sometimes even your good friends, they really, really disrespect you. You feel like it took your pride.
"You don't think mentally right. Fighting is, 99 percent of it mental. The physical is easy. I wasn't there. I didn't want to fight. Even my last fight, with dos Anjos, that wasn't me. I was thinking, when this fight's over I'm going home. It's too bad. Now it's different, brother.
"Now I'm starting to get my pride back," Shalorus continued, his voice swelling. "I'm glad I covered that thing. I'm a different person. I want to fight. I didn't fight in my last three fights, to be honest. I didn't try. Now I don't want to feed that."
For awhile, Shalorus thought this would never happen. He "absolutely" was convinced that the end of his road had come and gone, and the next chapter of his life was up next. In a way, he was right. Fighting is no longer a priority for Shalorus, but a joy. It may seem like arguing semantics, but the Iranian has come to understand the difference.
"When I recovered, I realized is that fighting and having a good job is completing my life," Shalorus said. "I love this kind of living.
"Without fighting, I want to train, I want to fight. That's my passion. People like to paint, people like to [play music]. This is my passion, and that's why I'm still fighting. I still have a few good years left, brother. I'm not done yet."
Shalorus plans to make good on his word.
If he could go back in time and do it all over again, he'd try his best. He'd fight like he used to. But that chance is gone; all that remains is the present, and one last opportunity to reclaim the pride he abandoned in a past life.
Shalorus is excited. He can't help but say it. With a six-fight contract in hand, Shalorus expects to make his ONE FC debut promotional debut against reigning URCC champion Eduard Folayang at ONE FC 9 on May 31st.
He isn't sure what happens next, but Shalorus knows that whatever the outcome, he'll be satisfied that this time he did it right.
"They have a really good organization. They're not like big UFC, but they're getting big too, so I like it," Shalorus finished with a smile.
"I'm going to fight ... and life is just going to keep going on, brother. But I need to get my pride back. They took my pride away. A man lives with his pride."