Imagine for a moment that you are a professional fighter. You spend months in the gym training and getting set for your big pay-per-view fight. When the night finally arrives, your adrenaline takes over and your heart pumps at double speed. Thousands of eyes follow you as you make your way to the octagon, while millions watch on screens from all around the globe. The hot, bright lights of the arena shine down on you as your opponent stares from across the ring. Time slows down. Then suddenly, that bell rings. And when it does, you’ve got to be fearless — because somebody’s about to get very hurt. Despite all uncertainties, that is an inevitability.

If you thought this process was gut-wrenching on its own, imagine doing all of this injured. Panic and pain would set in pretty quickly for most of us — but not John Makdessi, who, through blood, sweat and sheer determination, won his April 10th Las Vegas bout last spring against Ignacio Bahamondes (12-4-0), a fighter 12 years his junior, despite recently recovering from ACL surgery and breaking one of his toes in the first round.

“I broke my toe in the first few minutes of the fight, throwing a kick. It was a clean break. And I felt something was missing. But I had to kind of block it off,” recalls Makdessi, an 11-year UFC veteran. “Adrenaline is a really big part of that. You don’t really feel the pain until later.”

Throughout his career, Makdessi — known by many as “The Bull” — has always demonstrated incredible discipline and tenacity. It is perhaps qualities like these that have allowed him to achieve incredible longevity in one of the most physically daunting sports on earth — and earn himself a nickname for the ages in the process.

Originally born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Makdessi remembers his family’s move to Laval’s Chomedey district when he was a young boy, calling the city “an important part of his upbringing and adolescence.”

But long before turning pro, Makdessi got his first introduction to martial arts at the age of six at a little Taekwondo gym in the Montreal suburb.

“I was a troublemaker when I was a kid, so my mother encouraged my brother, who was doing Taekwondo at the time, to take me to the gym with him. I felt an instant connection there. My first sensei told my mother that he saw something in me and wanted to develop me into a champion,” says Makdessi, who found early success in his craft. “Since then, I could never see myself doing anything else in life,” he adds.

As a teen, the first-generation Lebanese-Canadian attended Laval Catholic High School. It was around this time that his childhood dojo closed, leading him to seek other martial arts. In his quest for a new fighting style, he ultimately developed a knack for kickboxing, something he also seemed to pick up with ease.

Throughout his 20’s, the passionate Makdessi rose above the competition as a kickboxer with a dominant 22-0 amateur record. And so, with a flawless record and laser focus, The Bull was now ready to charge into the next phase of his career, training alongside and following in the footsteps of other Canadian MMA legends.

“Tristar gym was a great foundation for me. A lot of Canadian MMA pioneers like Georges St-Pierre, who I trained with, and David Loiseau, got their start there. It got me a few professional promotions and that’s where the UFC scouted me and signed me in 2010,” says Makdessi, who compiled an undefeated professional record of 7-0 before signing with the UFC.

When Makdessi finally made his UFC debut at 26, it was on home soil, in Quebec’s largest arena. Thinking back on that first bout over a decade ago, the fighter smiles.

“I was super excited, super nervous, a mixture of emotions. And I mean, it’s the big stage, right. You’re in your hometown, at the Bell Centre. The energy was crazy, electrifying,” he recalls fondly.

Although he was able to celebrate after winning that first fight against opponent Pat Autinwood, Madkessi says he had trouble with the pressure that came with his new status.

“If I look back in time, my 20s, I probably didn’t know how to handle that pressure. It’s kind of just being thrown into the ocean. I mean, you just had to deal with it. I’ve gotten better at it with age and maturity. I matured a lot because of martial arts. It focuses on personal development. So, it’s always about becoming a better person.” And like a good wine, Makdessi seems to get better with age.

“36-year-old me would definitely beat 26-year-old me in a fight,” he laughs. As someone who has lived and trained all over the globe, from Arizona to Singapore, the athlete now spends most of his downtime in his RDP home or at his favorite hangout, Cafe Gelato in Montreal’s Little Italy.

When he’s not in the gym or about town, he prefers to stay close to his loved ones, who have been in his corner since day one. “My mom was always my motivation. She is why I wanted to pursue my dream and become better. Not just as an individual but as a son. She taught me these values,” he says.

And while things have certainly worked out for him up to this point, there are still a few more things Makdessi wants to do before retiring from the UFC and hanging up the gloves for good.

“I would like to be known as one of the most exciting fighters in MMA and also as someone who was never afraid to get hit,” he reveals. “But my ultimate goal is to become a world champion. And I’m going to die trying,” he says, this time, sternly and with absolute certainty.

And if there’s one thing Makdessi has proven throughout his life and career, it’s that when he puts his mind to something, he does it.