If Jared Gordon was trying to break from his New York roots, he couldn’t have picked a much better place than Milwaukee.
Born and raised in The Empire State, one only needs to talk to Gordon for a few minutes to get a feel for his unique blend of street toughness and hard-earned life lessons. His past battles with substance abuse are well-documented and though he, his friends, his family and his coaches have put in a lot of work to get him to where he is today, a recent setback inside the cage prompted him to make a midwest move and take his career to the next level.
Coming off of his first UFC loss, Gordon (14-2) is starting fresh this Saturday when he fights Joaquim Silva at UFC on FOX 31 in Milwaukee, his newfound home. The 30-year-old joined the Roufusport gym earlier this year after previously working with them to prepare Paul Felder for a fight with Al Iaquinta that ended up falling through.
It’s been a massive change for Gordon from a personal perspective, but one that he has embraced wholeheartedly.
“Big lifestyle differences,” Gordon told MMA Fighting when asked about the transition from New York to Wisconsin. “I don’t have to take subways, I don’t have to go gym to gym, people are a lot happier in Wisconsin. But the transition was super easy and it was something that I wanted so it was very simple for me and it was probably one of the best choices I’ve made for my career.”
He’s moved in with teammate Belal Muhammad, a Chicago native who first met Gordon when the two were at the UFC Athlete Retreat in Las Vegas last year. He describes Muhammad as an “amazing person” and “super generous”, which is evident in their frequent social media exchanges.
My roommate @bullyb170 is literally the nicest, most generous person ever. If my dick broke he would literally be like “Dude just take mine” I dont need it anyways. Thats how great of a person he is... #thebullyandflashshow— Jared Gordon (@JFlashGordonMMA) December 4, 2018
All I said was u can have the rest of my cereal— Belal Muhammad (@bullyb170) December 4, 2018
Gordon and Muhammad have talked about working on a podcast together, which Gordon says would simply be a reflection of how the two regularly interact on a day-to-day basis. It would also provide another platform for Gordon to spread his message of positivity and recovery, along with his efforts on social media where he regularly interacts with supportive fans.
“I find that it’s one of the best ways to get the message out there,” Gordon said. “Some people are negative, but those people probably don’t have much going on for them and they just want to be relevant. That’s alright, I can’t blame them. But I think it’s good for spreading the message, that’s how the world works now is through social media. So I’m going to have to use all the tools I can.”
Staying positive and staying focused are key for Gordon not to just continue thriving as a fighter, but in his battle with substance addiction that has plagued him for the majority of his time on Earth. A win on Saturday won’t even mark Gordon’s most significant triumph of the month.
Come Dec. 27, he will be three years sober, the longest such stretch of his adult life.
Gordon’s first loss — a doctor stoppage against Jeff Lentz — back in May 2015 sent him spiraling back down into addiction after treatment for his injuries required the use of painkillers, a trigger for drug abuse, but maturity and an established support system helped him to avoid falling into that same trap following his loss to Diego Ferreira in February.
“I have different things that are in place,” Gordon said. “When I fought Jeff, I got seriously injured and I was in the head trauma unit so I was receiving pain meds, but I also didn’t have a higher power or a God in my life. I wasn’t going to [Alcoholics Anonymous], I didn’t have an AA or [Narcotics Anonymous] sponsor, I wasn’t really doing anything besides going to the gym so it was really easy for me to fall back on track.
“I actually had a nose surgery like a year-and-a-half ago and they had to give me pain meds for the surgery, but I didn’t go back to using drugs. So I think that I’ve come to the point where I’m using other coping mechanisms to not have to go back to that life.”
Beyond fighting, Gordon is focused on helping others deal with addiction. Wisconsin is as good a place for him to continue this mission as any, especially in Milwaukee, which is one of several major American cities currently affected by the opioid crisis.
In his short time there, Gordon has not had the chance yet to contribute to the fight against that epidemic, but his primary goal is to build up his reputation and develop a foothold in the community.
If that means having to climb to the UFC mountaintop so that his voice can be heard, then so be it.
“It’s actually the biggest priority,” Gordon said. “Obviously, my career is a huge priority, but helping others is the biggest one. My whole goal is to use the UFC as my platform to help other people and I clearly want to become champion — I don’t think there’s anyone in this sport that doesn’t plan on becoming champion — but I have to think about my life after fighting as well. So trying to become champion, make a great life for myself, and use my platform to help other people. That’s the goal.”