It’s your first fight and everyone knows about it. Your friends, family and buddies at the gym are coming to watch you. You want anything but to lose in front of them, and you spend your days obsessing with thoughts about the big day. You listen to advice coming from well meaning friends and family, but the truth is, you don’t know what to expect. So what to do?
First, be aware of the most common mistakes beginners make, and just by being aware is usually enough to completely avoid them.
Here’s what I see are the most common mistakes, and what to do about it…
A six-minute fight goes fast. You don’t have much time. You need to get to work. Many novice fighters hesitate and give away an easy win to their opponent. More often than not, if you have two first timers, one will go hard and one will over-think it or hesitate, and you can guess who loses the fight.
The reason many first timers hesitate is either because they’re looking for the perfect shot, waiting to “do the right thing,” or simply giving too much respect to their opponent.
You need to GET IN THERE and engage! Bite down on your mouth guard, move forward and let your hands and feet fly. Fight! Be active- Proactive. Work the whole two-minute rounds. If you’re in pain, remember your opponent is too. The long term pain of hesitating is much worse than the temporary pain it takes to just push your body to its limit for six minutes of the fight. The worst feeling is the next day in the shower when it’s all over, realizing you didn’t really squeeze out every last bit of juice in your tank; and that will haunt you until you redeem yourself!
2. UNDER OR OVERESTIMATING THE OPPONENT
Some first timers think fighting is easy, and need to get roughed up a bit before they humble out. The reason for this is either there’s no one at the gym to give them a good run, or they’re just inexperienced and don’t get the fact that there is always someone out there tougher than you.
Others overestimate their opponent. Maybe they look intimidating on Facebook or they’ve had more fights, or their opponent has a six-pack and they don’t, or… whatever.
Understand that your opponent has two arms and two legs and experiences the same emotions just like you. Your opponent is really not going to be that much different from you, only a small degree. Physically the differences aren’t that much, you both know how to fight, and will make it equally hard for each other. It’s the mind that makes the majority of the difference. If one fighter thinks he’ll win and the other has no confidence, then the confident fighter will utilize his physicality and the weak mind will just flop and wont use his body to its full potential. So the point is this- Don’t underestimate your opponent and get complacent, and at the same time don’t overestimate and put so much pressure on yourself. Just go out, get experience and fight your best. After the fight you’ll realize it wasn’t that big a deal and you’ll likely want to do it again.
3. GOING SPASTIC
Some fighters train hard for months in the lead up of their fight only to throw all that hard earned technique training out the window once the bell sounds. This usually happens because the fighter has put so much pressure on him or herself and is way too hyped, wants the win so bad that they can’t think, and when that adrenaline dumps, they lose it.
Your first fight doesn’t have to be perfect, but if you can use at least 50-70% of your technique like you do at the gym, then that’s a good performance. Any less than that, is too much adrenaline and emotions getting in the way. Some fighters exceed 100% and actually perform their best in a fight, but that’s the exception.
BREATHE and calm down before you walk out. If you’re the hyper type then do something to calm yourself down- not listen to your favorite rock song or scream war cries in change rooms. Rub some essential oils, massage, reggae music, alone time or anything that calms you down.
4. GETTING FANCY
This one is probably the worst, and most unnecessary. I see some really bad looking (and unpracticed) moves that people throw during fights, and 99% of the time they miss and tumble over and make themselves look silly.
Stick to your basics and stick to what you’ve trained. If the jumping-spinning-back-hook-elbow-to-knee worked so well your coach would have let you know about it earlier. Only use what you’ve been trained to do… don’t start experimenting in the fight, experimenting is at the gym. Come fight time you need to minimize risk, not increase it.
CONCLUSION: Don’t have too much expectations, stay as calm as possible during the lead up and in the change rooms, practice and focus on basics over and over, and in the fight don’t hesitate; stay busy, and you will increase your chance of winning!