When you hear the term “camaraderie,” you typically think about sports teams working together to win a championship. Or you think about a group of friends who have practically known each other their entire lives. But camaraderie can also come from the battlefield. Don’t believe me? Just ask Yoram Gazit.
“There’s something unique with the camaraderie of warriors fighting another human being,” said Gazit, founder of the annual Paradise Warrior Retreat. The event brings some of the biggest names in mixed martial arts together for seminar that typically lasts for a couple days, and they share their knowledge of the sport and other life lessons with attendees.
This year’s Paradise Warrior Retreat is one-day event taking place at the UFC Gym on Reseda Boulevard in Northridge, California, on May 14. UFC veterans Stephen Thompson, Alan Jouban and Carlos Condit will be on hand, as will Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt and competitor Arnoldo Maidana.
Gazit’s interest in building camaraderie through fighting stems his background as a member of the military in his native Israel. “You’re bonding and creating a lasting relationship in a way you don’t get in the business world,” he said.
However, it’s not so much the art of fighting that interests Gazit, as the fighters themselves.
“They’re very unique and people can learn from them,” Gazit said. “You can learn how to handle adversity instead of just catering to everyone. Champions can be a role model to people and inspire them.”
Paradise Warrior Retreat started 12 years ago in hotels in Malibu, California, and has featured fighters such as current UFC welterweight champion Robbie Lawler, Luke Rockhold and Anthony Pettis, as well as MMA legends like Bas Rutten and Pat Miletich. Rutten was one of the first instructors at Gazit’s event, he said.
When asked what he wants attendees from his retreat to take away from their experience, Gazit expressed hope that they will take some inspiration home “for a rainy day” or when “things get tough,” he said.
But it’s not just those who attend Gazit’s retreat who he wants to help. While he thinks children can benefit most from his event, Gazit also wants to help the fighters themselves going forward.
“I’d like to start a nonprofit foundation for fighters,” Gazit said. “Some fighters have no place to go after fighting, and someone needs to help them re-integrate them into society and lead them in the right direction.”
Gazit singled out former UFC fighter Chris Leben in particular, whose battled problems with drugs and alcohol during his career and other personal issues. “Some fighters seem like they have post traumatic stress disorder,” Gazit said.
“It’s really not about training, but more of a spiritual experience,” Gazit said. “I want people to go out in the world with something special, because fighters have something special in them.”