If you told Aaron Chalmers two years ago that he would end up fighting in front of 8,000 plus fans, he would have laughed. At that stage in his life, the TV star was barely able to go outside because of his anxiety, as he told me at the Bellator Dublin media day.
“At its worst, I wouldn’t leave the house. I would just sit in and be worrying about stuff you shouldn’t even have to worry about. It just got the better of us at one point. It was just a slippery slope.”
Alcohol was part of the problem. Being a cast member of Geordie Shore came with a reputation for partying. He lived that reputation, but he was doing so to numb what was bubbling under the surface.
That didn’t work.
“I wasn’t dealing with it. I was just turning to drink. (I was) drinking, but then the next day it was making it even worse. That was a vicious circle. Drink would take it away, but then it come bad twice as bad the next day. It just kept going around and around. I knew I had to do something. Otherwise I was going to be in trouble.”
“I was doing (nightclub appearances) loads. When I was on the road I was getting really bad anxiety, but the only way to get into the nightclub was to get pissed. I couldn’t go in there sober, so I’d get pissed and the next day the anxiety was worse. It was just constant. When I wasn’t in the nightclubs I was just staying in the house because of the anxiety. It was a horrible place. It was a dark place to be.”
Once he started addressing the problem, things began to change for the better. His focus shifted towards MMA and the new environment he found himself in had a tremendous healing effect.
“Being in a gym and around positive people has really helped my anxiety. When I used to have it bad, I locked myself away, but that wasn’t answering the questions. But I got help and then being in a gym full of fighters who give each other confidence has worked wonders.”
MMA also provided him with a greater sense of fulfillment. Training for weeks for a specific opponent and then putting his new skillset to the test inside a cage gives him a better buzz than any TV appearance ever did.
“Television gives you the fame and stuff. I don’t really like fame. I went on television to build up my profile to go into MMA. I enjoyed it, don’t get me wrong. I fucking traveled the world with Geordie Shore, but I always wanted to fight. So I kind of used it as a stepping stone towards the fighting.”
“Mentally, being a celebrity (is more grueling than MMA) because you’re being put on a pedestal for abuse. Physically, fucking MMA! Some days I feel about 50 years old, but it’s worth it.”
Now 5-1 as a professional MMA fighter, Chalmers takes on 3-1 Austin Clem on the Bellator Dublin main card this Saturday. It will mark Chalmers’ first time fighting outside the UK. Although he has no known family ties to Ireland, he vows to fight for the Irish on the night.
The negative voices that piped up when Chalmers signed for Bellator have subsided. Now, he feels like a card-carrying member of the MMA community.
“I feel a hell of a lot more accepted than I did a year ago. It’s slowly starting to turn now. Whereas, I think when I first started to get into MMA, people thought it was just for a quick payday. To be fair, for my very first fight I thought, ‘have one fight and never come back,’ because I didn’t even expect to win. Then I won and that feeling was quite good and I just kept grinding away. I just try to keep my head down and work hard. People are now starting to see that.”
Pretty soon, Chalmers will have a new motivation in his life. With his partner expecting in May, he is contently nervous about the next chapter of his life.
“It’s kind of the unknown, isn’t it? I have a stepdaughter, but I’ve never had a newborn baby, so it’s the unknown what’s scaring us, but I’ll take every day as it comes.”
Image credits: Sathishaa Mohan