On August 19th, Brad Katona and Cody Gibson faced off in the octagon at UFC 292. The fight resembled something out of a movie script, particularly the movie “Warrior” starring Joel Edgerton, Tom Hardy, and Nick Nolte. In the movie, Joel Edgerton plays a Chemistry teacher who realizes his UFC dreams. In this real-life version, former high school history teacher Cody Gibson takes center stage.

The Come-Up

Gibson grew up in Visalia, California. In high school, he discovered his passion for wrestling and pursued the sport into junior college at Baker State, achieving the distinction of being a two-time JUCO All-American. He later transferred to Menlo College, where he majored in history. Despite his achievements, Gibson felt that he didn’t fully realize his wrestling potential during his time at Menlo.

In an interview with UFC.com, Gibson admitted that he was more focused on having a good time than on his success on the mat. It was during his years at Menlo College that he developed a love for MMA. His breaks from school were spent training at a local MMA gym. This eventually led him to compete in local fights and, in 2014, secure a contract with the UFC.

Keeping the Dream Alive

At 27, Gibson received his first opportunity to fight in the UFC. However, this meant he had to put his substitute teaching job on hold. “I’ve got to put 100 percent into what I’m doing. When I’m a teacher, it’s going to be 100 percent to be the best teacher I can be,” he told reporters shortly after signing the contract.

Gibson went 1-4 in his initial stint with the UFC and was released in 2015. With his contract ended, Gibson followed his passion for teaching and became a full-time educator. He believed he could make a significant impact on the next generation.

“I love working with kids, especially high school students,” Gibson said. “I had the right influences at the right times in my life to keep my head on straight. If I could provide that for other kids—whether to inspire them in the classroom, assist with their social and emotional growth, or guide them on the wrestling mat—that’s more important to me than anything.”

Even with his new teaching career, Gibson didn’t give up on his MMA dreams. He continued training and fought for various organizations, including XMMA and the Professional Fighters League. In the 2019 season, he even competed for the Bantamweight title and the TFP Championship.

The Return

In 2023, Gibson was invited to be a contestant on the 31st season of “The Ultimate Fighter.” He made it to the season finale, where he faced Brad Katona at TD Garden in Boston. Although Gibson lost by unanimous decision, good news awaited him.

Following the fight, Dana White, the President of the UFC, offered Gibson a new UFC contract. Despite the loss, Gibson couldn’t help but be excited. “I guess if you’re going to lose, 50k and a contract isn’t the worst consolation prize a guy could ask for,” he told reporters. “Can’t wait to do it again.”

Cody Gibson’s journey back to the UFC teaches us an important lesson: even while juggling a regular teaching job, he never abandoned his dream of making it to the UFC. Just like him, we might need to adjust our path as we pursue our goals. However, that doesn’t mean we should give up. The key distinction between those who don’t succeed and those who do is that the latter never give up.

Keep pushing forward – you’ve got this!