Important Lessons From Fighting You Can Apply To Your Life


The following is a list that I originally composed for an MMA website I used to write for back in July 2011. I recently looked over it. It is simply amazing how much of these things are still applicable. Furthermore, I’m 5 years wiser in life and I can see that these lessons—if the essence of them is applied to other endeavors in your life—will make you a better competitor and person.

  • I can’t tell you how important your cardio is. You hear it all the time, but I can’t think of one other thing that will decide the outcome of most of your early fights than who is in better shape.

If you can persist to the end, you have a better chance to win.

  • Film everything about your training if you can. Then go back, study it and see what you’re doing wrong. One objective viewing of yourself shadow boxing is worth more than you know. Even more valuable is going over it with someone better than you. They will see mistakes you didn’t even know existed.

The past is useful only if it is used to prepare for the future.

  • Technique is essential, but perfect technique is over rated. Effective technique is under rated. What’s more valuable: A pretty hook that almost never lands or a less than “perfect” one that has an 80% KO percentage?

Improve the process to improve the outcome, but don’t worry too much if the outcome is not perfect if you still accomplish the general objective.

  • Pain is the great equalizer in fighting. No matter how much better than you someone is, if you can cause them pain, you stand a chance.

All human beings have the same problems that can be manipulated: they get tired so they fatigue, they feel pain so they retreat, and they bleed so they can die.

  • The first ball shot is free. Use it wisely.

Some rules you can break the first time and plead ignorance. Make the infraction count for something. You may not be so lucky the next time.

  • Amateurs practice things until they get them right. Professionals practice until they can’t get them wrong. Until you start drilling your techniques to the point of mind numbing boredom and then hours beyond–everyday–you are only taking the scenic route to mastery instead of the superhighway.

The implications of 10,000 hour rule might be under debate, but one thing that can not be debated is the value of practice. Perfect practice makes perfect technique.

Whether it’s true or note, get started!

  • Speaking of professionals, not everyone you see fighting for money should be. Not everyone who is still amateur is unable to earn a living with their skills. Sandbagging is surprisingly common, but not as common as the former phenomena. You will reach a point where you can beat most amateurs but that does not mean you can go pro just yet. Some guys shouldn’t have declared for the draft early. Imagine how much more money they could have gotten if they gave themselves just one more year to develop.

Sometimes you can’t go backwards, so use the time you have wisely to develop when the outcome won’t cost you much. Likewise, awareness of when you are wasting time at a certain level will also cost you. Shift levels seamlessly like a racer’s transmission.

  • No matter how good you do, there will be critics and haters who would rather take a clean left hook that congratulate you. On the flip side, there will be people who think you are the best thing since crack cocaine no matter how bad you look.

Critics are a sign that you are making progress. Your success is having an impact on another person’s emotions.

  • Keep a close counsel you trust so your life remains in perspective.

Find people you can trust. Keep them close. This process can be long and painful, but a garden is more beautiful when it’s free of weeds and snakes.

  • Right before your fights, you will get nervous. You can manage this to barely noticeable levels, but the moment you stop getting completely nervous, you either don’t care enough or you have mastered the sport. Since the latter is probably not likely, it most likely the former and you need to get motivated.

Nervousness is a good sign. Remember: the courageous man and the coward both feel fear but the difference between the two is how they react to it.

  • I don’t have to pump myself up and neither should you. That is because I go into every fight highly prepared. There is no such thing as confident. Only prepared or unprepared.

I know that at the given contest, I am the best version of myself. If I lose, then it’s because I faced someone better. It’s ok to lose in that situation. It is NOT ok to lose because you did give it your all.

  • It’s important to have experience with other competitive endeavors. This way you can tell which coach is a good match for you and which one isn’t. Because you may not vibe with and/or have trouble learning with one coach doesn’t mean they are a bad coach; just that you are a bad match. Not only do styles make fights, but styles also make coach/fighter tandems.

Two people can say the exact same thing, but the way they say it affects the delivery of the message and how you receive it. Find someone that vibes with you to learn from.

  • As a corollary to the last statement, unless you are extremely lucky, there will come a point where you you are not learning anything else from your first coach. At this point, you can either decide to leave or stay. This decision, like all other important ones in fighting should be made with your brain and not your heart.

A good teacher understands that you will eventually surpass him. A great teacher actively pushes to that point. Bad teachers will try to keep you around for many reasons, all selfish but not obvious.

She started knowing nothing and eventually beat his best pupil.

  • Don’t watch tape on opponents. If possible, don’t ask a thing about them. Just show up and fight.

The better you become, the more you realize that it’s impossible to prepare for every eventually. Your ability is adaptable.

  • Contrary to what everyone wants you to think, there is no way for you to execute your game plan AND prepare to deal with his. The human mind is simply not that complex.

Just stick to a game plan. Adjust when necessary.

  • You are going to lose. Find a way to deal with it. You are going to win. I suggest you find a way to deal with that too. Excessive amounts of alcohol is not recommended for either.

Lose well, Win even better.

  • Keep your glass empty, even when the water around you appears to taste like shit. I’ve made some amazing insights and developments by opening my mind to guys who didn’t know much about fighting, but they did manage to drop a gem or two if I listened long enough. Even a broken clock is right twice a day.

The best competitor isn’t usually the best teacher and vice versa. You’d be surprised who you can learn from.

  • Study war strategy. Learn chess. Learn deception. The way you have to think to understand these things, if applied to your fighting, will pay dividends and will help you surpass those around you.

All competitive activities are based around the same goal. One mountain, many paths to the top.

  • If you want to be popular, do MMA. If you want to be rich, box. This is not to say that you can’t make a living in MMA or that you can’t become popular with the masses as a boxer, but unless something dramatic changes in the way the two sports are conducted, these are the shortest routes possible to each respective desire.

On a less poetic note, this disparity has actually gotten worse but only the MMA side. Boxing is experiencing a resurgence and is now on many more networks than when I first wrote this. This means more money for boxers. On the flipside, MMA is on fewer networks and the fighters are making less.

Robert Downey now making his second image appearance on my blog

  • As a corollary to the above piece of advice, if your goal is money or fame then juijitsu and kickboxing are a waste of your time.

Great skills to learn, but you will be learning them for your own sake and nothing else.

  • Talk shit at your own risk. If you win, it’s entertaining. If you lose, you won’t ever be taken seriously again. At best, you went and did what you were supposed to do. Who trash talks about something that they’re supposed to do? People who truly don’t believe they can.

Conflicts that can actually be settled—like a fight—don’t need shit talk. All the words in the world can’t save you when you’re getting your ass handed to you in front of everyone.

  • Keep friends outside the fight game. For your own sanity, a fighter should have three types of friends. Those that fight those that like watching him fight, and those that have never seen him fight. When I first started I wished more of my friends came to my fights. Now I’m grateful that some don’t care. The reasons for this extended beyond this post but take my word on it.

Having friends outside of your industry who only care about you and NOT your industry is crucial to maintaining your sanity.

  • You’re never as good or as bad as you think you are. This is why it’s important to focus on improving your actual skills rather than on your record. One man’s 10-0 is another man’s 8-2 depending on who, when and where he fought. This is true at all levels, but one should always seek to win.

Not everything is as it appears to be. Nor is it otherwise. Learn to see the layers behind the scene. Learn to read what’s in between.

  • Size doesn’t matter until everything else doesn’t. Then it matters more than anyone will ever admit. Speed is such a highly valued trait because it is the only trait that has a genetic limit. All things considered equal, the faster fighter will win. Many times, the faster fighter will beat the stronger, more powerful, more experienced, more “insert attribute here” fighter. Any one with speed that doesn’t develop their other traits is a waste and a disgrace.

If you are fortunate enough to be born with a significant advantage that can not be taught or obtained easily, you are a literal waste of life if you do not develop supporting attributes around it. This is how a person becomes world class. Not everyone can be world class so if you have the chance to, don’t waste it.

  • Counter-punching: The worst strategy but the best tactic.

It’s always better to be the cause of action rather than reacting to it.

  • There are three things that end a fighters career: Age, Injury, and Bad Lifestyle Choices. The last one makes up about 90 percent of lost careers. Foreman took a title a 48, Hopkins fights at 46, but the list of guys that fell to drugs or prison before 30 is so long it deserves a post of its own.

There’s a lot of things that will keep you from achieving your potential. You can control your lifestyle so there is no excuse for anything in your control to derail you.

  • Women are to fighters as fire is to society: They are neither good nor bad. How they are used in your life will make the difference on whether you have a warm cozy home or one that remains no longer.

A corollary to lifestyle choices: Choose how to have women involved in your life or they will chose for you. It most likely won’t be in your best interest.

  • The only thing that you can control is your ability and your life. You can’t control the judges, the crowd, or your opponent. You can’t even control if you win. Remember this and all other things will fall into place.

In the end, you can’t control anything. Except yourself.

I talk about even more lessons from fighting in my new book here

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