Sean Strickland is overcome with emotion while reflecting on his childhood: ‘I stopped believing in god’

Sean Strickland

Just because Sean Strickland rocks, it doesn’t mean he’s made of stone.

If toxic masculinity had a face, it would be Sean Strickland’s. But underneath that incredibly tough exterior is a flesh-and-blood human being attempting to navigate life after overcoming an overwhelming amount of trauma. And whether you love him or hate him, you have to appreciate how open the reigning middleweight world champion has been with fans regarding his rocky upbringing and the strained relationship with his father.

Unfortunately, putting all of that information out there makes it that much easier for someone to weaponize it. That’s exactly what happened at the UFC Seasonal Press Conference last month in Las Vegas. Going face-to-face with his first title challenger, Dricus Du Plessis, ‘Stillknocks’ decided to deliver a low blow by making an ill-advised crack about Strickland’s childhood struggles.

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The comment kicked off a fiery exchange between the two which turned physical 24 hours later when they were seated near one another during UFC 296.

Sean Strickland lets his guard down

Sean Strickland has since revealed that during an appearance on Theo Von’s This Past Weekend podcast shortly after the incident, he was overwhelmed with emotion while reflecting on a moment from his childhood.

The episode was officially released on January 1, 2024.

“In second grade, I kept falling asleep at my desk and my teacher took my desk away from me,” Strickland said. “She made me stand up and so, me, I’m like, ‘F*ck you’ and being this little kid, I just went and fell asleep on the ground. Mind you like, the school system’s like, ‘Oh, Sean, he’s just a bad kid.’ They don’t realize I’m up until three o’clock in the morning.

“I remember laying in bed, I remember when I stopped believing in god, man,” he continued. “Like, f*ck. I have f*cking … it’s crazy sh*t, dude. Crazy sh*t, man (laughs)” (h/t MMA Mania).

Von began to tell his own story after Strickland was done speaking but he was quick to apologize as the champ was noticeably “just processing,” as he’s heard saying.

“I think that’s one of the hard things people don’t understand about trauma, you know?” Strickland added.

Sean Strickland is coming off his best year yet in combat sports, earning three straight wins, none bigger than his lopsided unanimous decision victory over Israel Adesanya in September to claim the 185-pound crown. He’ll put that title on the line for the first time on January 20 when he headlines UFC 297 in Toronto against No. 2 ranked contender Dricus Du Plessis.

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‘Stillknocks’ goes into the bout riding an eight-fight win streak dating back to 2019.