MMA is a cruel mistress. Fighting in the cage will give you some of the best and worst moments of your life. Some people take up fighting as a way to let off steam or stay in shape, and some people embark on their journey with UFC title dreams. I personally believe you can do anything you put your mind to, but you’ll get a lot farther a lot faster if you understand the realities of the sport.
EXPECTATION 1 : PROMOTERS HAVE MY BEST INTERESTS IN MIND, AND THEY WANT ME TO FIGHT BECAUSE OF HOW TALENTED I AM.
REALITY: YOU ARE A BODY. A BODY WHO SELLS TICKETS.
So you answered the ad on MMA.com and said you wanted to fight, told the promoter how many street fights you’ve had , how much you can bench press, and how you went to middle school with Sharkeisha. BOOM You are slated to take on Johnny WhatsHisFace at ULTIMATE CAGE BATTLES 32: BATTLE AT THE BUILDING THAT’S CHEAP TO RENT. They put you on the poster and everything, this is it, you made it. Move over Anderson , Joe Shmoe is the man now. Your phone rings everyday with the promoter on the other end asking how many tickets youve sold, telling you to sell more, offering ‘discounted’ table seats that are only 40$ and are a whopping two feet closer to the cage than the 20$ generals. Come fight night you realize that Johnny wrestled at the university of Skoal and long story short, you and 40 of your friends and family members showed up to watch you get annihilated by the promoters golden boy, who by the way sells way more tickets than you. The harsh reality here is that “Amateur fighter” is just a fancy word for “Ticket prostitute”, and the promoters are the pimps. Bottom line, they need enough bodies to put a card together, and they need to sell enough tickets to turn a profit off that card. Thats where you come in. Know yourself, Know your worth. (yes i quoted Drake) Its best to train at a legit MMA gym and take fights through your coach. That way you get honest match ups and are not getting pimped.
EXPECTATION 2:’I’M A STRIKER’ JUST NEED TO SHARPEN UP MY GROUND GAME
REALITY: YOU HAVE ZERO KNOWLEDGE OF EITHER ONE
Wanna know how to identify a guy who doesnt know how to fight what so ever? they say something along the lines of “Im a striker” or “ive got good hands” and think they just need to learn BJJ to be cage-ready. Heres the reality- they dont know how to fight at all. The most basic human instinct when getting into a physical altercation is to throw punches. To the untrained individual, wide-looping haymakers are no different then crisp-precise punches. Just because youve thrown a few punches in your life and havent wrestled around on a mat doesnt make you anymore of a striker than a grappler- it just means your a newbie like everyone else. Dont mistake your lack of knowledge in grappling for a base knowledge of striking, because odds are if youve never set foot in a gym you have ZERO knowledge of either one. Becoming a true MMA fighter requires taking a honest hard look in the mirror, because if you dont youre setting yourself up for failure and embrassment and quite possibly injury.
EXPECTATION 3: MY (SINGLE DISCIPLINE) WILL GET ME TO THE BIG LEAGUES
REALITY: THE FIRST ‘M’ ACTUALLY STANDS FOR ‘MIXED’
The worst part about this expectation is that it actually is true in the beginning of an amateur career, especially in areas with small MMA scenes, ESPECIALLY for wrestlers. But If you think your wrestling, your BJJ, or your boxing or whatever will get you all the way into and to the top of the big leagues, you’re in for a rude awakening. The first M stands for mixed, and to be a truly competitive fighter at the highest level, you have to be well-rounded. I’m not saying you have to be a division 1 wrestling all american with a K1 world title and win double gold at the IBJJF worlds- but you gotta know how to do it all. If you don’t diligently dedicate time and effort into every facet of your game, you might as well be a hobbyist. And the Hobbyists get eaten alive by the guys who fight to feed their kids. It’s more than just pride on the line, if you can’t fight everywhere you’re setting yourself up for serious injury. So take the first M seriously and develop every area of your game. Learn to utilize your strengths but minimize the impact of your weaknesses. Your BJJ coach will say BJJ is the answer, your Boxing coach will say your boxing is the answer, Eddie Bravo will probably send you on a spirit quest with some DMT or something, you get the idea. MMA stands for MIXED martial arts, and gone are the days where one discipline can stand head and shoulder above the rest.
EXPECTATION 4: I SHOULD BE FIGHTING THE BEST OF THE BEST EVERY SINGLE FIGHT
REALITY: YOUR BIGGEST ACCOMPLISHMENT WILL BE LOSING TO GUYS WHO FIGHT FOR THE UFC NOW
A long time ago i had the chance to talk to a UFC champion who will remain unnamed. He was doing a Q&A session on Ustream and i was able to slide my question in- a bit of an open-ended one. I just asked for advice, any advice at all that would be beneficial to an up and comer like myself. His response was simple. and i quote
Take fights you know you’re gonna win. What i mean by that is – don’t get sucked into this ‘ i need to fight the best of the best’ mentality. that doesn’t mean fight bums, but fight guys with similar records who your coaches feel like you match up well against. In America they look at records, they want guys with good records. The time will come when you will constantly be fighting the cream of the crop- but not right now. Get momentum on your side, build yourself up, and choose favorable fights. The time will come to always fight the best, but not now.
Guys who are constantly fighting top-tier fighters are known for just that- guys who fight top-tier fighters. UFC matchmaker Joe Silva said he would rather sign a guy with a bunch of tough fights than a guy with an undefeated record, but what evidence do we have to support this? I have yet to see a 9-8 guy in the octagon , and look at how many people got signed to the UFC after their undefeated record at XPLODE fight series in California, which has been under investigation multiple times for padding guys records in their unsanctioned pro shows. Get 2 or 3 wins as a pro- get some cage time- learn to fight for 15 minutes with elbows and head kicks- THEN test the waters with a durable guy. For those of you who are older than 12 i will quote the movie Gone in 60 seconds
You don’t jump in the ring with Ali just cause you think you can box
EXPECTATION 5: MY SKILL ALONE WILL GET ME TO THE BIG LEAGUES
REALITY: STATISTICALLY, YOURE MORE LIKELY TO BE STRUCK BY LIGHTNING THAN TO BE SIGNED BY THE UFC
I did a little bit of research here, i like to see numbers. SO
- There are roughly 14,000 licensed fighters on the planet
- out of that 14,000 ,5000 will turn pro
- ouf of that 5,000, 559 are on the UFC’s roster
So, not the most in-depth or scientific number crunching, i will admit- but 559 out of 14,000 is a stretch. When there’s that many people trying to climb the mountain to the top, unfortunately there is more than just skill playing a role here. For instance, almost every single fighter in the UFC trains at a big name gym with well-known fighters and coaches. So you may be the most talented fighter at Derp MMA in Amishtown, Wyoming, but unfortunately nobody is looking there. Even if you have the talent needed to fight in the big leagues, you’re still a big fish in a small pond. Problem is, nobody fishes for big fish in small ponds. People who want big fish go to big ponds. Common sense here. anyway, another thing is marketability. Lets say you DO move out of Derp MMA and train at a big school like AKA or Jacksons or Xtreme Couture, now you’re a big fish in an ocean of other big fish. You have to find a way to stand out. If you’re 19-0 all by unanimous decision and you’ve never knocked someone out with an upside down 720 degree big toe kick, and you don’t have a facebook or twitter following- you might as well be back at Derp MMA. Be exciting, build your name, and train where champions train, not easy but not rocket science either.
BONUS: NOBODY USES THE WORD OCTAGON
‘Getting ready for the Octagon’
‘Love stepping in the Octagon’
‘Cant wait to get in the Octagon at the country fair next week’
-says the instagram guy who’s never fought.
You see, if you are an amateur fighter, or a Professional fighter outside of the UFC, you do not fight in the ‘Octagon’. The Ultimate Fighting Championship has exclusive rights to the word Octagon in MMA and has Exclusive rights to the eight-sided cage. Odds are you are actually training to compete or have already competed in the Hexagon. Its used 99% of the time in small shows and is 12 foot smaller than the UFC Octagon.