Advice For First Time Fighters

Discussion in 'MMA' started by Pretty In Pink, Feb 23, 2017.

  1. Pretty In Pink

    Pretty In Pink Moved on MAP 2017 Gold Award

    This is a short article on what to expect if you want to fight in an MMA competition. I hope that you find something useful and hopefully I can give you a little insight into amateur fighting.

    When Am I Ready To Compete?

    The most cliché answer to this is also true; it’s when your coach says so. A good coach will never ask you if you want to take a fight. On the contrary, a good coach will hold you off until he or she thinks you are ready. Training hard is the first hurdle and the first training camp is also the hardest due to all the unknowns. You’re not sure what your weight should be, or how to eat right. You can’t gauge how hard you’re supposed to train or how often. Trust in your coach to know what they’re talking about, and take advice from them, that is what they are there for. You represent them and they want the best for you. If they say you need to do more or take a day off then that should be your goal.

    I recommend before fighting MMA that you compete in another single style combat sport before entering the cage.

    Muay Thai/K-1
    Any of these sports are excellent platforms for learning. They often encompass the same preparation but they have less to worry about in terms of ways to lose. Even better is the grappling arts are not spectator friendly so you don’t have to worry about drunk people trying to shake your hand and coerce you into violence whilst you are trying to warm up.

    I also recommend going to a local MMA show to see what to expect. If you know what something looks like it is easier to replicate and overcome.

    Train Hard, Train Smart

    Cardio is your friend. Gassing is 90% of what happens in first time fighters. That initial adrenaline dump will be massive. Being fit is essential. Do as your coach tells you to in regards to training, nutrition and what to do in your free time. Cardio can win many fights especially at the amateur level.

    Sparring hard is great, and for your first fight it will be necessary. Pros have already done hundreds of hard rounds. Those guys that “don’t spar” have already put in their time. Hard sparring once or twice a week is good for cardio and dealing with the adrenaline dump. If you are training a lot of grappling you should have goals like gaining top position, being aggressive and not being swept or submitted. In MMA being on the ground on your back is a big no-no. Even if you have an offensive guard you could be easily seen as losing a round. A take down will always count more than a close submission from your back. In striking classes keep your hands high and chin tucked. It goes a long way to not getting knocked out come fight day.

    What Weight Should I be?

    Amateur fighters often weigh in on the same day they fight. For that reason I recommend your first fight be at the weight you walk around at unless you are used to the weight cut experience from previous combat sports.

    If you are weighing in the day before then listen to your coaches advice. If you are a lighter weight (135-145lb or lighter) then compete at your walk around weight. If you are heavier (170-210lb) then you could probably lose significant weight with less trouble. You can agree to a catch weight with your opponent so you can get to a weight that is good for both of you. Remember that they are probably a first time fighter too and it’s a learning experience for them also.

    My Opponent And My Game Plan

    Nobody will give you better advice than your coaches. You don’t need to be listening to your mates talking about how hard you can hit a punch machine. If grappling is your base then stick to it. If it’s BJJ then start repping out two takedowns. That’s plan A and plan B. Pulling guard in a fight is not ideal. You’re not Kron Gracie and you can be knocked out.Stick to your game plan and advice from your coaches.

    If you are a striker there is a lot of cross over in MMA but some good general advice is to keep moving in circles and not standing still. It’s hard to shoot on someone who isn’t there. Also head movement>blocking with your hands. Small gloves allow punches to slip through your guard that would be blocked by bigger gloves that you might be used to.

    Of course your opponent might well be a grappler too. Whilst they might be a blue belt (like you) and it’s their first time fighting (like you), that doesn’t mean you can’t improve your gameplan. They won’t have any footage of MMA fights but you’d be surprised how many people post up grappling tournament results and videos on YouTube and Instagram. Small things like their go-to sweeps can make all the difference in what to expect. The other side of that coin is not to rely too much on the gameplan. The best laid plans can go right out the window when you get hit.

    Occasionally an opponent will pull out of a fight. As disappointing as that is don’t be eager to accept the first replacement the promoter comes up with. Leave it to your coach to organise. If they pull out within a week of the fight do not accept any replacement fighters. The promoter might offer you a fighter who is heavier and has more experience that he failed to mention to the promoter. It is not worth it. Accept that you aren’t fighting this time and chalk it up as a learning experience.

    Don’t Worry About Tickets

    It’s your first fight. The promoter will probably hand you tickets and ask you to sell as many as you can. It is of course nice to have support but more people can mean more pressure. My advice would be to bring your family and a friend or two, and anybody at your gym who is interested in attending. You don’t need 30 of your mates who don’t train or really understand the sport to be drinking and screaming “COME ON MATE, TAKE HIS BLINKING HEAD OFF!”

    It is incredibly off-putting and not needed for you to perform. It can be a lot of excess pressure. Guys and girls from your gym will probably know what they’re watching and most people I’ve met who train are much more supportive in the crowd. They understand what you’re going through and if anything they’ll be sympathetic to how you’re feeling.

    Make sure all the people who want tickets are done purchasing them two or three weeks before the fight. Hand the unsold ones back to the promoter ASAP. You are under no obligation to sell tickets. The promoter will be grateful as another fighter will probably be wanting more tickets anyway.

    Be Professional, Be Gracious

    This one, for me, is most important. Be humble, unassuming, quiet, confident. From start to finish professionalism is a great asset to have. Promoters will want you back and opponents will tend to respond to you in a good manner.

    You are part of a gym and regardless of how you personally feel you are representing your coaches, those you train with and those who taught you. It would dissapoint them more to see you act like an ass and win, than it would be to lose with grace and dignity.

    When you get to the weigh in, shake your opponents hand, thank him or her for accepting the fight, do the square off (you can look into their eyes if you like, I prefer staring at their chest), shake hands again and part ways. There might be idiots grinding their foreheads against each other trying to psyche themselves up. Ignore them, they are probably nervous and have no way of unloading their nerves. If by chance your opponent happens to be one of these idiots, hold your ground or simply walk away. You stand to gain nothing by playing silly mind games and getting an adrenaline dump. The only thing that matters is your performance inside the cage.

    Understand that when you see pro fighters in the UFC doing ridiculous things like pushing and shoving, swearing at each other, or otherwise being a nuisance, they are doing it because it makes them more money. It is entertainment for the masses and they can talk their way into fights and news outlets. They have to sell tickets. That is not you. You are a first time fighter simply looking to compete. If you make a fool of yourself it will do you no favours.

    Who Should Be In My Corner?

    Generally speaking your coach will be in your corner. He might assign one or two other guys from the gym to come along to help out. Make sure it’s people you get along with and can laugh with. You’re going to be in their company for most of the day and it’s their job to keep you calm and keep your mind off fighting. One of them will competent at wrapping hands. Any coach worth their salt knows how to do this. It is a coaches job to bring corner man supplies such as:

    Latex gloves (or other matieral if you are allergic)
    Bandages and tape for wrapping hands
    A medical kit
    Cotton buds, ice iron (kept in ice bucket)
    Ice packs
    Pads for hitting
    Normally there will be two guys allowed in the cage in between rounds, your coach will organise that, who will be shouting instructions and when, who comes inside the cage and who is responsible for all the baggage and gear.

    What To Bring On The Day

    Pretty simple list of essentials:

    Compression cup
    Gum Shield
    Shin pads
    Skipping rope
    A book
    Music to listen to
    The cup must be of the compression variety. No steel Thai cups or jock straps allowed. Compression shorts with a pocket designed to hold a plastic groin guard.

    Make sure your gum shield is of decent quality, as you’ll probably be needing it at some point. Generally the more you spend the better it is.

    Shin pads are for warming up with some light sparring with your corner men.

    Shorts need to be within the regulations too. Must be velcro fastening with lace to tie on the inside and no pockets.

    The gloves are just for light sparring and hitting pads. Most promoters will supply gloves to you for the fight and expect them to be returned upon the fight ending. They may in some cases let you use your own gloves.

    Fight Day

    After the weigh-ins are done, you’ll arrive at the venue. Some venues are large and have lots of facilities and some aren’t (see my previous article). First locate the promoter and the MC. The MC will ask you a few questions along the lines of “Do you want a nickname announced?” and “What track would you like played during your walk out?”

    Fairly standard stuff. Sometimes you need to go up to the DJ and request songs from them. Whatever, mostly you want to find the promoter. The promoter will tell you where your changing room/warm up area is. Go to it and dump your stuff. Some fighters and corner men will probably be there already.

    Get yourself inside the cage as soon as it is finished being set up. Ask the people setting it up first though, as sometimes they coat the canvas first and it needs to be allowed to dry. Once it’s all good take your shoes off and get inside, shadow box a little and do light movement drills with one of your corner men. Feel the bounce of the cage wall and floor. Run around and get a gauge for the size and shape of it. Is it small? Does it have two doors or one? Six sides or eight? How does the canvas feel beneath your feet? Can you get enough traction for takedowns? Can you throw a head kick without falling on your butt? Getting inside it now makes it less of a shock later on in the evening.

    There might be a few other fighters in the cage but don’t let that put you off. However if your opponent is in their it is perhaps courteous to wait until they have left first.

    People from other gyms might be watching but don’t feel nervous, they are all simply interested as you are when you see someone inside the cage practising.

    The medical is a quick form fill and a few simple questions with the on-site paramedic.

    You’ll normally have a few hours to kill after you’ve done the medical. Walk around the area and take the time to enjoy hanging out with your team mates and don’t fixate on the fight. It’s going to happen so there is no point in fretting over it. Nerves can be eased with laughter.

    Get food and fluids. Don’t pig out yet. Wait until after the fight for that. A bad day of eating can easily kill cardio.

    Head back and get the rules meeting done with the referee. Keep your coach close so that they catch the rules too. if you are shy about asking questions you can ask the ref in private afterwards the meeting is over.

    The promoter will hand out gloves. Make sure the gloves you receive have enough room for hand wraps as well as your fist. the gloves are often new, so get your corner men to hit pads with each other to soften them up. It should be easy for you to make a fist and also to move your thumbs. If you are not satisfied with your gloves then ask the promoter for a different size or ask them if your own gloves may be used. This is normally at the discretion of the referee.

    Now comes the part that sucks the most, waiting. By now the venue will be filling up. You will be feeling nervous and asking yourself all kinds of questions. This is just another part of the experience. I’ve found what works best for me is forcing myself into the moment and being very aware. Other times I like to think about the day after the fight. What I will eat and who I will be hanging out with. Fixating solely on the fight is a bad idea. It makes you nervous and burns energy. By focusing on the next day you remember that there is a tomorrow and that in reality this is just a fist fight.

    In 24 hours, everything will be different.

    – My mantra on fight day

    When it comes time for the warm up, make sure you have enough space and your hands are wrapped and signed off by the designated member of staff. Once the staff member is happy they will put your corners coloured tape over your wrist straps.

    When warming up other fighters will be respectful enough because they will know you are next (the running order will be on the wall or available on request). If it is busy you have skipping rope.

    Keep movements light and fast. Work on things that apply to your game plan. Someone will come and call you to the waiting area. The music will play and from there on it’s all you. It all boils down to personal choice here on out. I have described the cage walk in my previous article.

    About Fighting

    So you came all this way to be put in the cage with another human being. Some great advice I can offer is this:

    You are not made of glass
    Simply put, if you keep your chin tucked and your hands high, it is unlikely you will be knocked out. Keep it simple and stick to your game plan.

    When the first bell rings you will experience a huge dump of adrenaline as you realise how real and surreal the experience is. It is not like sparring, even the hardest sparring. Understand that you will probably not look fantastic on your first outing. The nerves make you throw wider punches, more telegraphed take down attempts, and wild leg kicks. It will not be like you have practised before. It will be very chaotic and wild. This is you gaining experience.

    In between rounds you will probably be dying a little inside with exhaustion. It is important that you look strong. Looking tired is a sign of weakness.

    For practice I like to do a hard round on the pads, then start bouncing around in front of a mirror, even if I am dog tired I bounce and look like I’m ready to go again. Showing weakness can mentally make the other fighter more determined.

    In between rounds your corner will normally take your gum shield out, calm you down, then offer advice and lastly they will offer water. Take the water at the very end of the break because the first 20 seconds should be you recovering your breathe. 20 seconds breathing, 25 seconds of advice and 15 seconds of water if needed.

    The fight will be over before you know it. Once the fight is over shake hands with your opponent and his corner. If you have any disputes about the fight (i.e you think you won a close decision or he caught you with an illegal technique) take it up with the promoter in private after the event. They can review footage any footage and overturn a decision if needs be.

    How you celebrate is entirely up to you. I hope you found this article informative and gleamed any small piece of advice from it.
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 23, 2017
  2. Mitch

    Mitch Lord Mitch of MAP Admin

    Nice work Chadderz :)
  3. Pretty In Pink

    Pretty In Pink Moved on MAP 2017 Gold Award

    Cheers man. Wrote it last night.
  4. aikiMac

    aikiMac aikido + boxing = very good Moderator Supporter

    Great read. I appreciate it. :)
  5. El Medico

    El Medico Valued Member

    That's a very good piece indeed.
  6. Pretty In Pink

    Pretty In Pink Moved on MAP 2017 Gold Award

    Thanks guys. Any criticism? I realise that there isn't really anything controversial about the post, but literally anything at all I could improve on?
  7. Simon

    Simon Administrator Admin Supporter MAP 2017 Koyo Award

    Good work, Chadderz.

    I bolded some headers, which helps break up the article.
  8. Pretty In Pink

    Pretty In Pink Moved on MAP 2017 Gold Award

    Aaah damn. The original article has bolder headers.
  9. Van Zandt

    Van Zandt Mr. High Kick

    Articulated really well, Chadz. Thanks for sharing. :)
  10. EdiSco

    EdiSco Likes his anonymity

    Copied to Word document and saved....Thanks man!
  11. Pretty In Pink

    Pretty In Pink Moved on MAP 2017 Gold Award

    Cool! Why tho? :p
  12. EdiSco

    EdiSco Likes his anonymity

    One day I will compete...all info. in one place for reference. very handy! May not find thread like this again.
  13. Thomas

    Thomas Combat Hapkido/Taekwondo

    Excellent article - I wish I would have read something like this many years ago before my first TKD match... a lot applies.
  14. Dunc

    Dunc Well-Known Member Moderator Supporter

    Thanks for taking the time to write this
  15. aaradia

    aaradia Choy Li Fut and Yang Tai Chi Chuan Student Moderator Supporter

    Nicely done!
  16. Frodocious

    Frodocious She who MUST be obeyed! Moderator Supporter

    Nice article, Chadderz.
  17. Smaug97

    Smaug97 Valued Member

    Great article man- i have no intention of competing in mma just yet but these articles you're writing are really goood at showing me what to expect when i do get to that level.
  18. Giovanni

    Giovanni Well-Known Member Supporter

    great article chadderz, as always.
  19. ned

    ned Valued Member

    Well written - insightful and very readable. Good luck with the next fight.
  20. Pretty In Pink

    Pretty In Pink Moved on MAP 2017 Gold Award

    Cheers everyone. Any advice or critique? Could always do with something.

Share This Page