Fighters, no matter how many championships they’ve won suffer from anxiety before a fight. Notwithstanding, once in the ring, they seem calm and perform at their highest level. Conquering pre-fight nerves can take as much and sometimes more practice than honing their fighting skills. Some experienced fighters play a mental game, remaining calm and using the contained angst to boost their tactics, strength, stamina and skills against their opponent at strategic moments to secure the win.
On the flip side, athletes who get over stressed and unable to remain calm during the fight may suffer from muscle tension, coordination and rhythm issues, and loss of concentration and focus.
Here are few things top professional fighters do to control their nerves
Many athletes develop rituals they do without fail before stepping into the ring. Rituals can provide a sanctuary to relax which in turn could give them a boost during the fight.
Angela Lee, ONE Atomweight World Champion: “I stay calm before my fights by listening to happy music and munching on my snacks.”
Kwankhao Mor. Rattanabandit, Multiple Muay Thai World Champion : “I pray to the statue of Rama V to bring me luck. It was something I started doing after my fight with Petchmorakot.”
Yoddecha Sityodtong, Muay Thai World Champion: “I think of my parents and pray to Buddha, I think of my training partners and instructors. Asking them for good luck and protection.”
Taking a nap in the locker room might sound too simple a solution but it certainly helps some fighters to wake up feeling relaxed and calm.
Brian Ebersole, UFC Veteran and Evolve Fight Team Head Coach: “I sleep in the locker room as long as possible and get right into an active routine when I get up. Sometimes, I can’t sleep and just lay quiet anyway. Get up, wrap hands, change clothes and warm up. No idle time equals no time to panic.”
Many fighters use visualization to calm their nerves before stepping into the ring by imagining going through the steps they could experience in the fight.
Sagetdao Petpayathai, Multiple Muay Thai World Champion and ONE Superstar: “I think of my game plan and think of how the fight is going to go, focusing on what I’m going to do. I also think of my parents. I also have a shower to cool me down and relax me.”
Orono Wor Petchpun, Multiple Muay Thai World Champion: “I sit and meditate through my game plan, as discussed by the camp owner and my trainer. I also take slow, deep breaths and sit and relax.”
Pre-fight nerves can sometimes lead to self-doubt and using positive self-affirmations to get rid of negativity. Muhammad Ali was definitely a master at this technique.
Muhammad Ali, Boxing Legend: “It’s the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen.”
It may take a while before you find what works for you. Even the most experienced fighters have pre-fight nerves, it’s how they use the nervous energy that matters. Find the technique that gives you a positive edge in the fight instead of it working against you.