Strickland: Hope mental health post helps fans

Former UFC middleweight champion Sean Strickland says his recent social media post on mental health was part of a longtime “merry-go-round” with personal struggles, and he chose to share it publicly to help his fanbase.

In the post, published Monday, Strickland (28-6) admitted in a video he was “spiraling” and “mentally unwell.” In follow-up comments to ESPN, Strickland said he has learned over the past year that sharing those admissions has helped others in their lives, and he has enjoyed his ability to connect with his fans more than he expected.

“I enjoy showing I’m not Captain America, I’m not a superhero,” Strickland said. “I’m just like them, and any time I can connect and reach out to them, I try to do it. As a fighter, I can post a picture of myself hitting a bag or wrapping my hands and it doesn’t do the same thing. When I actually show people that I’m going through the same thing that they are going through, it does a lot more. This week was an opportunity to help them and to help myself, because talking about it helps.”

Strickland, 33, made a point in his video Monday to say, “I have everything I’ve ever wanted and I still am mentally unwell.”

Originally from California, now fighting out of Las Vegas, Strickland has spoken publicly about suffering physical abuse during his childhood. The topic became a point of contention before his most recent fight, when Dricus Du Plessis brought it up during a pre-fight news conference. Du Plessis went on to beat Strickland via split decision for the UFC championship in January. The bout was extremely close, and Strickland has been campaigning for an immediate rematch.

Strickland, who said the UFC reached out to him this week after his public comments on mental health, said he doesn’t know the promotion’s next steps with the championship, but said he is in no rush to accept any other fight.

“Dricus wants a rematch and I want a rematch,” Strickland said. “I won’t take any fights that I find boring. I don’t have to fight anymore if I don’t want to. I only want big fights. I talked to Dricus’s coach and he wants the rematch. It was a close fight. Everyone thought I won. I think Dricus wants to win the belt legitimately. Dricus, if you win legitimately, I’ll be the first person to put the belt around your waist. But you know as well as I do that you didn’t win that fight.”

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