Everybody makes mistakes.

For UFC newcomer Sean Loeffler, those mistakes have cost him a place in the life of the person he loves most, his daughter.

“I raised her every day until she was five, and then she got taken away from me,” Loeffler told The MMA Corner.

Loeffler has not seen, nor spoken to, his daughter in five years. A series of bad decisions landed him behind bars and unable to pay child support. The child’s mother offered to waive the overdue child support payments in exchange for Sean signing away his custody rights. Under the belief that he would still have visitation privileges, Loeffler agreed. Unfortunately, the decision would turn out to be one more choice the middleweight fighter would come to regret.

“When I went to pick up my daughter the next time, she just didn’t show,” said Loeffler. He went to court seeking to have his visitation rights enforced, but the judge explained that the mother wasn’t legally obliged to let Sean see his child. In fact, the mother had a restraining order against Loeffler, and his daughter had been adopted by the mother’s boyfriend and now had the boyfriend’s last name, while Loeffler was left with no recourse.

It was heartbreaking for the veteran fighter. His daughter, at just five years old, had always been able to look on the bright side, even when Loeffler was working three jobs – including a graveyard shift cleaning Porta Potties – and fighting for a living, the gas and electric were shut off and the meals were meager.

“She said to me, ‘Dad, it’s okay that we eat peanut butter and jelly everyday, because it’s my favorite. And I like reading by candlelight because we get to spend time together. And cold showers wake you up in the morning.’ And she was just trying to be cool, because she was four or five years old and she knew that that’s all we had.”

Now, Loeffler is concerned that his daughter might be convinced to see him in a negative light. But he’s determined not to let that happen.

“I kind of made it my destiny to be like, you know what, I’m going to take every fight and thank my daughter afterwards and tell her that I love her. That I want to be in her life,” explained Loeffler.

Being apart from his daughter is but one of a number of adversities that the 29-year-old has had to deal with in his life. He has also been locked up, stabbed and had another very important person taken from him.

The longtime MMA veteran found himself coping with the shooting death of his coach, Hector Gil, just three weeks prior to the biggest fight of his life, a middleweight tournament bout against Bryan Baker under the Bellator banner. Needless to say, the emotional impact of Gil’s murder took its toll on Loeffler’s chances in the fight.

“I broke my hand at the church at the funeral,” Loeffler said. “I really didn’t get to showcase what I had in that fight. I was feeling kind of broken.”

All of his life’s struggles have molded Loeffler into the man he is today, both inside and out of the cage.

“I think it’s made me mentally tougher as a human being,” Loeffler admitted. “It’s made me accept disappointment a little bit more, push past it and never hit that mental breaking point.

“I’ve been fortunate to be surrounded with the people that I’m surrounded with, and keep a good head on my shoulders after learning from my mistakes. I don’t think a lot of people do that. I think a lot of people repeat their offenses and their past and they fall back into that road, and I’ll never do that.”

Now, after nearly 12 years of battling in the cage, Loeffler finds himself on the verge of stepping into the Octagon for the first time at UFC on Fuel TV 1 on Feb. 15. While some might find such a long wait frustrating, “The Destroyer” looks to his beliefs and finds a different interpretation.

“I believe in God and karma and faith and destiny,” explained Loeffler. “I think, really, everything happens for a reason.

“It was kind of frustrating because I thought (the Baker fight) might be the pinnacle of exposure in my career when I got that big opportunity to fight live in front of the whole world and I didn’t look that great.

“I kind of accepted the fact that maybe I was just going to be fighting on very little shows and getting loaned out to other shows to fight their local talent, so I bought a house…I bought the gym that I train at…and just kind of reserved myself to being like, well maybe this is my career is training fighters, owning a gym, owning my home, and fighting when I get an opportunity. And then, when you least expect, you get the call from the big show.”

He’s now poised to take on Jackson’s MMA product Buddy Roberts. Roberts, who holds an 11-2 record, will also be making his Octagon debut at the event. Both men possess balanced records, featuring wins by both knockout and submission. But Loeffler scoffs at the idea that Roberts will be brave enough to stand with him.

“He’ll stand at first,” Loeffler predicted. “But I guarantee I hit harder than him. I guarantee I hit harder than a lot of the guys he’s fought, even the heavyweights and light heavyweights.

“Everyone says they’re going to trade with me until my right hand or my left hand hits them in the face and then they all become WWF superstar wrestlers.”

Loeffler has even brought in Roberts’ last opponent, King of the Cage champion Tony Lopez, to help him prepare for the fight. Lopez battled Roberts for three rounds before losing a somewhat contentious decision. Now, Lopez has shared his knowledge of Roberts’ game as Loeffler’s MMA coach, and will be there on Wednesday night in his corner.

(Tracy Lee/Combat Lifestyle)

“The Destroyer” has every intention of knocking Roberts out. He’s made no secret about it whenever asked. He’s also confident enough to look at the UFC’s middleweight division and point out one specific opponent he’d like to challenge.

“If you’re not looking to fight the champion, you’re not looking to be the champion,” offered Loeffler, mentioning Anderson Silva in particular. “I think that you’ve got to look and set your goals lofty. If you set your goals and say, ‘I want to fight John Doe in the UFC because he’s tough and it would be a good match,’ that’s cool, but Joe Silva makes the match-ups. I don’t have control over that.

“What I do have control over is setting my goal to fight the best guy in the sport, the best guy in the world. And if that’s what you’re going to attribute your fight game to, then you want to fight the best. So, one day I’d like to fight for the championship.”

Perhaps a day will come when Loeffler finds himself in the Octagon with “The Spider.” But right now, he’s busy setting things right in his life. After hitting rock bottom when he lost custody of his daughter, Loeffler has hope. In addition to realizing his dreams of making it to the UFC, Loeffler now owns his own gym and seeks to set an example for young people who might be headed down a rough road of their own.

“It feels good to kind of rectify my past and to show the kids out there, the young kids that have made some bad decisions and that have put themselves in precarious situations, that they can overcome anything,” Loeffler said.

He also looks forward to the day he’s reunited with his daughter, who is now 10 years old. Even if he has to wait until she turns 18, Loeffler will always be there for her. Until then, he’ll continue to fight and keep telling her how much he cares, every chance he gets.

Sean would like to thank Booster Fight Shorts, Ground and Pound Fight Gear, Headrush, O2 Trainer, Lexani Rims, VII AD Jewelry, Luxury Sportswear, Q’s Sports Bar & Grill in Oceanside, Calif., Third Street Tattoo in Hermosa Beach, Calif., Backstage Cargo and his gym, the Compound in Oceanside (Sean invites fighters in the San Diego area to come train at the gym for a couple of weeks for free to see if it’s the right fit for them).  He also thanks Paradigm Sports Management and Phil Lanides from Crossfire Media.

Top Photo: Loeffler gets his hand raised after a 59-second submission victory at an August 2011 Xplode Fight Series event (Xplode Fight Series)

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