I have noticed that there are two things in this life most people think they can do easily; #1 be an actor, #2 be a fighter. All too often MMA beginners, men and women walk into their local MMA gyms with lofty and unrealistic goals in mind. They want to become the next big UFC superstar. Everyone wants to be the next Connor McGregor, Ronda Rousey or Jon Jones but frequently beginner MMA fighters forget, gloss over or just plain do not understand all the in-between of making it to the big stage. Here is MMA Futures advice of what mistakes amateur fighters should avoid and what they should watch out for:
DO NOT RELY ON A PROMOTER
In this modern day and age it is far too easy to get a fight. You can simply make a phone call or reply to a Facebook post and shazam, the next thing you know you’re standing across the cage from a guy you know nothing about. And you may be competing in a sport that you know even less about. The bottom line in amateur MMA is; promoters need to make money. Amateur MMA fighters cannot be paid, so every ticket sold goes to pay for the production and the rest goes into the promoters’ pockets and those dollars are very few and far between. Promoters need bodies in the cage to put on a great show and sell tickets. Do your research on your opponent. Do not rely on what a promoter tells you about the quality of your opponent. They want you to be confident and may even tell you how much the other guys sucks, how easily you could beat him etc. You should rely on a manager to set you up with an appropriate adversary but if you do not have one, do the research yourself. Also, one must be careful when fighting for a promoter who has a special interest. This may result in you being the “sacrificial lamb” or, the less experienced fighter who gets purposely matched with a much more talented fighter in order to get a win. Before you say yes to a fight it is best to ask your coach/coaches/manager to analyze the match-up and give their input. After all, that’s what you pay them for, to teach you what they know, to give insight. They have the experience and all you have to do, the one very tough thing for competitive people to do, LISTEN.
PICK YOUR MENTORS WISELY
Now this goes back to the “far too easy to get a fight” concept. It’s not the promoter’s responsibility or desire to make sure you have trained properly and have the skill to kill. Once you say yes the fight is ON and its up to you to be prepared.Training in your basement or garage and watching UFC and you tube videos does NOT count as training. You should be training at a gym and sparring with worthy opponents. You should be doing lots of roadwork and supplemental workouts to improve your strength and conditioning. Cardio and strength are very beneficial to an MMA fighter but ultimately is not going to adequately prepare you for a fight. Before you even think about stepping into the cage make sure you are training with a top notch local MMA gym with a good trainer. Do your research and try to train with a competition team that has had success with a coach who is or was an MMA fighter himself. Success breeds success so the best way to ensure victory in the cage is to surround yourself with other active MMA fighters regularly. Do NOT just walk into an MMA fitness class or a strip-mall Dojo, prepare there and expect to be skilled enough to step into an MMA cage. That would be an insult to the sport and you will end up embarrassed and humiliated.
DO NOT OVER-TRAIN
Now there are plenty of amateur MMA fighters in the world who are smart, dedicated and do it for the right reasons. They are disciplined and dedicated to their dreams of being in the UFC and follow a strict regimen of diet, exercise and training. There is only one problem with some of these individuals; they are in too much of a hurry. Sure, UFC Champs, a lot of times eat everything out of a measuring cup, have a rigorous strength training regimen and train 3-4 times a day every single day! But you are NOT a UFC Champion and neither are your opponents, not yet anyway. For the amateur MMA fighter in the first year or so of his career, the essentials of success are very basic. Be in shape, and train hard. You as an amateur do NOT need to train 3 times a day 7 days a week to get ready for your debut fight. I don’t care if you were a college wrestler, football player or bi-athlete. MMA is not like anything you have ever done. Training too much, too soon will result in injury and will sometimes deter an otherwise wealth of potential. A good way to tell if you are over-training is to take your resting heart rate in the middle of the day during your downtime at the same time everyday. An increase of 10 BPM or more in your resting heart rate suggests you are over training and may need to dial it back a bit. Rest is essential for growth, both physically and mentally.
FIGHT WITH A PASSION FOR THE SPORT
Lets face it, MMA is really cool right now. Everyone wants a picture wearing MMA gloves. Everyone wants an athlete page with 500 likes. Everyone wants a custom “walkout tee” (in front of a crowd of 300 people, most likely). Everyone wants to whip out the national MMA ID and say those magic words that make all obstacles disappear (or so you think) “I’m a fighter”. But sooner or later you WILL come across someone who is doing it for all the right reasons. And when you come across that real dedicated athlete, you can only hope you don’t follow the recent demoralizing trend of 30 second KO’s. Because while you were on Facebook asking friends to help you decide on a walkout song, your opponent was training. While you were writing letters to monster and DC and Tapout telling them how worthy of sponsorship your 0-0 record is, your opponent was training. While you were shopping online for the hottest fight shorts and mouth guard and warm up suit, your opponent was training. See the pattern here? The beautiful thing about MMA is that you cannot lie in the cage. It’s impossible to tell a lie in there. What kind of person you are, what kind of fighter you are, how prepared you are, how tough you are, it will all come out once you get in there. And no amount of hype will save you from a real mentally and physically prepared opponent. So before you even think about stepping into that cage, you better make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons to avoid being exposed in front of your friends, family and supporters.
BE TRUE TO YOURSELF
I remember recently seeing one, “to remain anonymous” debut fight. The newbie was a very talented Brazilian Jiu Jitsu grappler, training under one of the top regional coaches. He had won almost every major BJJ competition in the region and his ground game translated very well into MMA. There was only one problem with this newbie the night he made his MMA debut, he assumed he could also strike. He had been watching too much Cowboy Cerrone. He walked to the cage with a pair of Muay Thai trunks and ankle wraps on, and when the fight was on he came out of his corner with a stance and movement that could only be described as a mockery. In the end, he did not attempt one single take-down and was knocked out cold in the first round after a failed overhand strike attempt. The guy who beat him moved from an 0-something record to a 1-something record and had his first victory over a very talented grappler. Moral of the story; if you are a grappler, be a grappler. Set up the take-down with strikes and do what you know. If you spent your entire adolescent life boxing then learn to sprawl and brawl. Use defensive wrestling and use your strikes to earn the KO or TKO. The breathing in boxing is different to the breathing in wrestling. Most grapplers lack that boxing cardio and will eventually drop their hands and expose their chin. If you don’t have a background, then learn all the basics and see what is best for you. The time to be well-rounded and good at everything will come in a few years, but not now! Be patient, allow yourself to grow.