Apologies for my long absence. I’ve been too busy with full time work and occasionally freelancing for the North East’s biggest promotion, Made4thecage. For anyone curious I won my fight after a last minute replacement popped up. I’m left a little hollow after the short bout – I took him down and submitted him fairly quick and again didn’t learn too much about myself. But when he was the only person to step up so my camp wasn’t wasted, I took the fight. Story over.
Recently, an interviewee I talked to set the seed of a topic I’ve had on my mind. He’s one of the North East’s biggest grapplers and admitted to me: “I don’t enjoy competing.”
This made me think about how odd I find competition as a whole. I’m a fairly placid, calm individual and fighting isn’t really in my nature. So I began wondering about the two main dispositions fighters seem to have.
Recently, Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier had a very public brawl. It’s got me debating a question I’d like to explore in writing. Fighting is scary and no matter who you are fear does creep in. But how do you handle fear? Is it better to fight with anger and aggression or is it better to be calm and collected.
The obvious answer I can imagine ringing out is “Calm.” All of the most ‘elite’ fighters in our generation are typically intelligent, dedicated human beings that think out the fight. They plan, they adjust and they compete with a level-head.
The question occurs because I myself have literally zero aggression in me. I face opponents at staredowns and they look right into my eyes, desperately trying to intimidate me and looking absolutely furious. I can’t even suppress the smirk most of the time. Fighting is scary, but I can’t empathise with their aggression, or return it in anyway. I don’t understand anger. At the end of the day, if the worst occurs, a referee will pull them off me and that’s that.
But then you think of Jones and Cormier. Two men who are at their prime, both seem calm and collected during fights. However, they exploded on one another at a staredown and reverted to their animal instinct out of what I think was fear. These are men that I consider proper martial artists, brawling like street fighters. Even afterwards, Jones boasted about it. Hardly the antics of a calm man.
It leads me to wonder how important aggression is. I myself don’t have it in me and neither do other people I’ve talked to of similar backgrounds. In contrast, other people I talk to discuss how much they want to hurt their opponent and how angry they feel during fights. It’s alien to me, but I can see how it helps.
Fear is something entirely different. Fear is a basic human instinct I don’t think anyone can escape. I feel fear before every fight, but it doesn’t translate or transform into anger like some people’s fears do. I feel like it is fear that is the catalyst. You feel nerves, which you then have to handle. The two choices tend to be, do you handle your fear with calm? Or do you handle it by getting angry and taking it out on your opponent.
Fighting calm is the goal for most athletes: you gas far less often when you’re relaxed and you don’t panic and make mistakes. Being calm when you fight is almost like a zen state. Fighters such as Lyoto Machida, Georges St. Pierre and Gunnar Nelson come to mind. These men are tacticians that don’t get invested in the anger or animal instinct of a fight. They never brawl and they tend to make very few mistakes.
On the flipside, fighters such as Wanderlei Silva, Thiago Silva, Nick Diaz and others seem to channel anger and use aggression to their advantage. These are the modern day equivalent to boxers who used their anger to rally back from knockdowns and bull forward. Diaz, in particular, reminds me of Jake LaMotta in his hardiness and brash attitude.
Often, aggression can lose a fight. You can be too hasty, panic, get caught. It’s easy to call aggressive fighters unprofessional, but when you consider it – sometimes anger really helps. Fighting is, at its heart, a very base and emotional activity. We call it martial arts and it suddenly becomes a calmer, more collected and civilised sport. However, those who still see it as fighting can be dangerous men indeed.
In the end, I’ve written this mainly to express how strange I find aggression. I’m an extremely calm person who tends to get more annoyed and anxious than angry. I’ve never really felt the need to hurt another human being and I don’t think I ever will. Someday in a fight I may have to go a step further than I want to.
That’s a bridge I’ll cross when I get to it. Until then, I’ll continue to manage my fear as calmness and try to think my way around fights. But, for entertainment value and for contrast, I can’t deny I enjoy seeing those who genuinely love to fight – the angry men of the world who step into the cage hell-bent on finishing their opponent. Aggression is another way to handle fear, to channel your own and try to intimidate your opponent. Both Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier are both nervous, this is potentially the biggest fight of their careers. What happened seemed an explosion of that fear, Jones trying to intimidate by placing his head against Cormier and him responding with a shove. The downwards spiral from there was an eruption of the pent up fear of both men.
Truthfully, whether you’re a calm fighter or an angry one, you’re still stepping into a nerve-racking environment that tests you in ways you never thought possible – no one can blame you whichever outlook you take. Whether you’re a professional at the highest level or an amateur making his debut, you’ll either fight angry or smart. Either way, you’ll be fighting to control your fear. Make it count.