It’s so rare to hear about someone that has left a secure job or lifestyle to drop everything and pursue their dreams, but Rollie Peterkin did just that when he quit his job on Wall Street to become an MMA Fighter in Peru. We got the chance to interview Rollie and learn more about his decision, his experiences and what inspires him!
Image via Rollie Peterkin
What are you doing now?
“I am fighting mixed martial arts in Lima, Peru. I’ve been training here for the past five months. I’ve won four MMA fights (two amateur and two professional). I practice six days a week at the Pitbull Martial Arts Center under the tutelage of Ivan ‘Pitbull’ Iberico, one of Peru’s most legendary fighters.”
Image via Rollie Peterkin
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What was your job before becoming an MMA fighter and why did you leave it?
“I was working as a corporate bond trader for the Royal Bank of Canada in New York City for three years after college. When I took a vacation to visit my friend Ben in Peru, I trained at his MMA gym. They invited me to come down to train and compete. At first, I thought this was ridiculous but the more I thought about it, I knew I had to do it. I still had the competitive drive from my collegiate wrestling career, and I wanted to get back on the mat. While I liked my job and the people I worked with, I needed a change. I felt like there was too much out there in the world to be cooped up in an office all day.”
Were you scared to leave your job? Did people tell you not to do it?
“So many people tried to talk me out of it. And they almost did at times. People made really good points about my future and the lasting impact of my decisions, but at the end of the day, I had to do it. Sometimes it scares me to think that someone might have talked me out of it. I know that if I hadn’t done this, I would have regretted it for the rest of my life. I would have always asked, ‘What If?’
The funny thing was that once I made my decision, it wasn’t at all scary leaving my job. I knew it was just something I had to do and that was it. I knew that I could always go back to that life, but I had a small window to do this. If other people didn’t understand that, it wasn’t my problem.”
Has it been worth it? And why?
“Yes, for so many reasons. For me, the most important reason is the breadth of new experiences I have had. Every day I get to try something new and different as I learn things about a different culture. Whether it’s learning a new technique or a new language, every day offers a chance to learn something entirely new. I have also made incredible friends down here through fighting. I know that whatever I do from here, I will have these friends for the rest of my life. And to me I wouldn’t trade that for anything.”
How has MMA compared to your old job?
“My parents were very concerned with my safety when I came down here. I don’t blame them, as I can see how dangerous it sounds (cage fighting in South America!). The thing is, at my old job I was extremely unhealthy. I went out late many days of the week with other traders and salespeople drinking and eating. I was chronically underslept. I had terrible stomach problems and couldn’t eat many foods or even drink coffee. I was drinking most nights of the week. And for the three years I worked, I rarely exercised. I felt terrible all the time.
Now, I rarely drink and I work out six days a week and I feel amazing. While I may be taking certain health risks in the cage, I think that on the whole I have added years to my life. Oh, and I lost 30 pounds.”
What’s the craziest thing that has happened to you in Peru?
“This is a tough question because my definition of crazy has completely shifted. The second day I was down here, my friend got pulled over for absolutely no reason and the police wouldn’t leave him alone until he paid them off. This has happened to me numerous times. They say it gets worse around Christmas time too.
Even just having a professional MMA fight would have been an absolutely crazy concept to me a year ago. Or that fact that I took my first amateur MMA fight on four hours notice after having trained for less than a month. That was a pretty terrifying experience.”
Image via Rollie Peterkin
What inspires you?
“My teammates. They train incredibly hard every day and never complain. It is something about the Peruvian psyche that is less inclined to complain about hard work. They just put their head down and get it done. Every single one of them is an inspiration to me daily. I strive to keep up.”
What is your long-term dream?
“I spent my whole life making long-term goals. First, it was get into a good college. Then it was get a good job. Part of this adventure was about letting go of the reins a little bit. People ask me how long I am going to stay in Peru and I don’t really have an answer. Indefinitely. I love fighting and want to be the best in the world. But do I want to be doing this when I am 40? Probably not. Who knows where this adventure will take me? I certainly don’t.”
Do you have any advice for others who have a dream they want to pursue?
“You can spend your whole life planning to pursue a dream, but at the end of the day, it is action that matters. The conditions will never be 100% ideal. There will always be a million reasons not to. But the more you plan, the longer you wait, and the more difficult it becomes. There is no better time than now.”
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