“What can I say? I am pretty lucky, I guess.”
These were the words spoken to me by Josh Samman back in 2012. At the time, he was an aspiring UFC star, fighting on the 17th season of the Ultimate Fighter. I was hosting a podcast with good friend and former UFC star Marcus Davis. Both of us had the same aspirations in mind, to reach for that proverbial brass ring so many strive for. While our paths were reaching for a different rung on the proverbial ladder, we quickly found out that we both had similar goals, and as people, even more in common.
Following that first appearance on the previously mentioned podcast, where he served as our TUF 17 correspondent, Josh and I immediately struck up a friendship. We often discussed our history, our demons, our ability to overcome them, and our futures. For him, TUF 17 was just the beginning. “Titles will be won,” Samman said to me in a separate conversation. “And when they are, you’ll be the one calling them hopefully and both of us will be able to then say we have defeated our demons once and for all.” That was truly Josh. He never looked out for just himself, he was always looking out for others; especially his friends.
As the years passed, I witnessed the highs and lows of Samman’s life and watched him overcome them all.
I applauded loudly for him when I saw him overcome an early barrage of offense to defeat Kevin Casey and earn his first UFC victory on the TUF 17 finale.
I cried for him when I heard news that the love of his life Hailey passed away in 2013. I wept more and said silent prayers for him as he poured his heart out wondering how he was going to be able to go on without her.
Along with many others, I encouraged him when he said he was going to dedicate everything he ever did to living for her and honoring her.
I cheered perhaps as loud as anyone when he returned from a severe injury that nearly cost him his career, as well as the emotional traumas of the passing of both Hailey and his stepfather (all three happened in a 17 month span), and picked up a highlight reel knockout win over Eddie Gordon at UFC 181 in one of the greatest finishes you’ll ever see.
All along the way, I often found myself proud to say that my friend was able to overcome the worst life had to offer and flourish, no matter what path of life this world took him on. He did so all without excuses and all without quitting, even when faced with adversity that would have made many of the toughest you’ll ever meet wave the proverbial white towel. It was why his nickname of Anqa, an Arabian phoenix, was so fitting. If anyone was defined for rising from the ashes to shine again more than Josh Samman, I truly don’t know who they are, or if such a person exists.
Sometimes unfortunately, life is a cold mistress and the only guarantee is that one day, we all will meet our final chapter. Yet, Josh’s death just doesn’t seem right. Like I said in June when my good friend and former MMA Fight Radio cohost Ryan Jimmo was tragically taken from us; there are things in life that will never make sense and frankly just aren’t fair. This is another prime example. Josh Samman had a bright future ahead of him, one that will be tragically left untapped. 28 years old is entirely too young to say goodbye to a man who gave so much, overcame so much and had so much more yet to give. Yet, this is where we are.
Today, the MMA landscape lost a talented fighter. The world lost a man with an unlimited ceiling. Many more lost a friend. Billy Joel once said “only the good die young.” In the case of Josh Samman, you will find few who were better.
Today, as we all mourn his death, and I reminisce on the many ways he positively impacted me and so many others; while thinking of a proper way to summarize him in a nutshell , the most appropriate way seems to be to share a quote and sentiments he shared on his first appearances on my podcast: “what can I say? I’m pretty lucky I guess.”
We all were Josh. We all were.