If you’ve never competed in a professional fight, you might not realize the amount of mental fortitude required by the fighters to get into the ring. Coach and former professional MMA fighter Joey Alvarado will fill you in.
Time after time, fans of MMA glue themselves in front of the big screen to watch the UFC. What they see is the fight that happens in the cage, but what most people do not realize is what an MMA fighter goes through behind the scenes preparing for the match, both physically and mentally. They simply see the final culmination of months of hard work. As a former professional MMA fighter, I can tell you from personal experience that the trials of preparing for a fight are some of the most difficult I have ever experienced. Here is an inside view of what an MMA fighter endures when preparing to fight. I have broken it down into what I call the “Four Stages of an MMA War.”
Stage One: Long Term Preparation
Training for a specific MMA match can take anywhere from two to three months. If you are training properly for a fight, you should be training at least twice a day (some UFC fighters train as much as three times a day). When training this much, there is little time for anything else; almost everything else takes a back seat to the training. The preparation of a fight can put a significant strain on personal relationships; if your significant other is not understanding, it can hinder the training process. A boyfriend/girlfriend who is demanding attention can cause you to lose focus, leading to lackluster training sessions or even inconsistency in training. My father, a former world ranked boxer, once told me that in order to be a fighter, one must live the life of a monk. What does a monk do? A monk spends his days meditating and keeping away from the distractions of the outside world. If afighter can apply the discipline of a monk into his/ her own training, they will be much better off.
Stage Two: Hell Week
This is the week before the fight. This is the time when you might be cutting the pounds needed to make weight the day before the fight. Reducing your caloric intake significantly can cause your mind to become more susceptible to the stresses and anxiety of the upcoming match. During Hell Week, fellow training partners are constantly going to ask you, “How you feeling man, are you ready to fight?” The slightest thought of the fight will most likely raise your anxiety levels and mentally drain you. Keep your mind occupied and try not to dwell on the fight too much. This is a difficult stage and it is important that your coach pays close attention, preparing you both mentally and physically.
Stage Three: The Day of
Stage three is the final waiting period the day of the fight. This is an extremely nerve racking time period; it may only be a few hours before the match, but it will seem like days. While in the warm up room, you can hear the droves of people filling up the arena and your adrenaline will kick in. Proper breathing is extremely important to control your anxiety levels. It’s important that your coach stays with you during this whole period to make sure your mind is in check, wrap your hands, and make sure that you’re warmed up properly. A good coach will prepare your mind and constantly reassure you that you are prepared for the fight. If you are not prepared mentally, you can lose the fight before you even step in the cage.
Stage Four: The Fight
The final stage is the actual fight. There is a saying amongst trainers/fighters that states, “the hardest part of a fight is the preparation, the easiest part is the fight itself.” This is 100% true. Months of training boils down to a mere 15 to 25 minutes a cage fight (sometimes much less). A fight can end within seconds. During the fight, you must not think; you should simply react. After the months of drilling techniques and the countless hours of sparring, your body should be conditioned for the proper reactions to what happens during the fight. In MMA, there is no time to think. If you spend too much time thinking, your opponent may capitalize on it and end the fight.