What does it take?
A guy was being interviewed before his fight the other night. He told the reporter that he likes to fight. The reporter came back with “It’s your 1st fight. How do you know you like fighting?” Classic question! Nobody knows what it takes or if it’s for them until they step into a ring/cage and actually do the deed. Everyone can hit pads, run, lift, shave their head, get a tattoo, and talk tough. It is the rare few that can deal with the mental pressure competition brings with it. A fighter has the regular stress of competition plus the knowledge that another human being wants to cave his head in. This is all one big mental screw job. You have to be 100% on your physical and your mental game just to get through. Winning consistently is on a whole other level. Your best champions have found a groove where all their anxiety works for them.
The key to it all is turning the negative into fuel for the positive. I used to hate being hit. I had a sadistic trainer who had this drill called Punch til You Puke. 2 people would go punch for punch in the stomach until somebody quit, this was bare knuckle too. I was about 175 lbs at the time working with 200 plus sized guys. This drill sucked and it made me gun shy. I hated getting hit so much due to my anxiety from the drill that my competitive game really suffered. I associated getting hit with a horrible pain mentally and physically due to getting beat down by these big sons a bitches.
One day my buddy told me to laugh it off. I looked at him like he had 2 heads, then he explained it. It was all about changing my response to the pain. Instead of gritting my teeth and crying about the pain he wanted me to laugh at it. We had a stupid hard workout and I had to laugh at everything we did. Every rep, every hit had to be laughed at. It worked. I flipped the script and changed my response which let me not only get through but to start and win again. Changing my response opened me back up. I was able to attack and do work because I didn’t care so much about being hit. Take away the fear and its amazing the freedom you find to act.
The same way I turned the pain into a plus you can make losing a response too. Winners attack when faced with a challenge. Losers quit when things get hard. We all can talk tough but we all know the truth. When nobody is around and it is just you and your own head, what is the truth? Are you a hard charging winner or a tough talking quitter? No matter the answer you can be what you really want to be. If you want to be a winner you need to change your psychology.
In 1999 I fought in Denver. They call it Mile High because it really is a mile high. This brings the challenge of depleted oxygen. I trained completely wrong for this fight. I had a strength and conditioning coach who got me ready for a football game instead of a fight. I was strong and explosive but I had 0 wind. When I say 0 wind I mean absolutely 0 wind. I fought for 3 rounds. It felt like 3 years. My lungs were gone 1 minute into the 1st round. I also had the great fortune of fighting a tank from Japan who didn’t know how to back up or stop throwing. I have never felt pain like this ever. It wasn’t from being hit either. It was from a total lack of oxygen and a massive amount of lactic acid.
I will never forget the end of the fight. The ref said “30 seconds!” I said “Oh shit! I have to go that much longer!” Time slowed down and I had a short conversation with myself. I accepted that I was in hell and that I was totally unprepared. I asked myself what I wanted to do. I could quit, coast, or go for it? I said screw it. I have been training for to long and this is to big a stage to not go for it. I went for it with everything I had. I tried to win with everything I had. I really wanted to kill my opponent. I didn’t kill him but I almost killed myself.
After the fight I collapsed in the locker room from dehydration, exhaustion, and I needed oxygen. I didn’t know if I was going to make it. I thought I was drowning. No fun but I had a sense of accomplishment I can’t describe completely. I lost that fight but I proved something to myself. I was pissed that I lost but I also had a bit of an FU attitude because I didn’t break. If I was going to lose I was going to get carried out on my shield. Win or die trying.
Try the laughing game. Do a mad hard conditioning session. When it starts to really get tough, laugh at it. You can learn to push in the conditioning room or on the road. Running is not really that important for a fighter physically but it is a mental exercise. Running is boring and painful. But doing this boring and painful thing builds confidence. You know you are grinding your way to victory. You know you are pushing when you really don’t want to. You are uncomfortable and you know that this is the place where champions are made.
When the stress hits you can remember the hard work or you can remember slacking off. Work hard so you only have positive things to think about.
Learn to laugh, work hard, never slack, and attack adversity. This is the way to become a champion.