The fight is just 18 days away. As it gets closer, it always gets progressively harder to put my thoughts into any kind of coherent order. So this may, or may not, make sense to anyone else.
A decent poker player I know once told me “Anyone can play poker for pretend money. Playing for real money is a whole different thing.” We talked about this for a while, and eventually he clarified “yeah, but the thing is, it’s not about treating the pretend money like real money. You’ve got to treat the real money as though it’s pretend money”.
MMA is similar. If you care too much about the consequences of winning and losing, then you don’t take the risks you need to take, you tense up at the wrong times, you stop thinking about the moment and get ahead of yourself. And that’s when things go wrong.
My sports psychologist and friend James Barraclough reminded me of this the other day. I can’t remember exactly how he put it, but it was something like this. “It’s easy for me to say from the comfort of my living room. But however hard it is, when you get in that cage in front of all those people with someone trying to knock you out – you have to fight as though you don’t give a s***.” By this, he’s not suggesting that I shouldn’t care about the fight. Just that the end result is the wrong thing to focus on. Care about the process, the performance, the second by second implementation of the game plan – and let the outcome take care of itself.
All the decisions for a fight are really made during the training camp. The software has been “programmed in” by hours of drilling, sparring, visualisation. The game plans, strategy and tactics are all there. On the night, there can be no thinking or second guessing – the correct reaction is either there or it isn’t. The only thing left for the conscious, calculating mind to do is get the hell out of the way.