As a fighter, there are few things like your first experience fighting away from home. Whether you’re driving a couple hundred miles or flying overseas, the voyage can be an exhilarating one. It’s been a while since I’ve traveled more than a few hours to compete, but memories from years ago surfaced this past weekend while on the road to see some fights in Iowa.
In many ways, the addition of travel to your fight prep can make things a bit more complicated. Packing all the necessary clothes and gear, preparing food for after weigh-ins, and the transit itself are all tasks that become increasingly exasperating for a person who is cutting weight. Once you’re on the way, you can breathe a small sigh of relief, unless you are not yet on weight. As if driving long distances while low on food and water isn’t torture enough, doing so while attempting to drop more weight can be quite unbearable. A couple years ago I was traveling from Denver, CO to Lincoln, NE for a fight while battling an infection in my foot, which turned out to be MRSA. The antibiotics I was given caused a good deal of water retention, making the weight cut far more miserable than I anticipated. I spent the majority of the drive wearing a sauna-suit with the heater on full blast, and found out that you can get some pretty weird looks by stripping down to compression shorts in a truck stop bathroom to check your weight.
Once you’ve arrived, there’s nothing like the comfort of stepping off the scale and beginning to replenish your body. Weigh-ins can be interesting, as it is possibly your first experience in a new MMA community. Meeting the promoter, socializing with other fighters, and facing off with your opponent might feel a little strange away from home; but this is a great opportunity to build new connections.
The crowd might not be very welcoming if you’re fighting the hometown favorite, but when the cage door locks it’s business as usual. When fighting someone in ‘their own backyard’, there is a good chance that the judges will favor your opponent should the fight make it to the judges scorecards. This can put a bit of pressure on the outsider to earn a decisive victory, as many fighters have been robbed of a win by hometown judges. Should you defeat a hometown opponent, the crowds reaction can range from awkward silence to small scale riots depending on the volatility of the spectators.
After the event itself is over-with, the post-fight festivities are a great time to kick back and experience some local nightlife. With all the serious business behind you, it’s much easier to strike up a conversation with some of the locals and enjoy yourself.
Win or lose, traveling for fights is something that will help you grow as a fighter. By testing your skills in enemy territory, you have an opportunity to catch the eye of new fight promoters, potential sponsors, and new fans who could very well hold the key to the next level in your career.