The cage door closes. You hear it lock shut with a solid metal clang. Suddenly the baying of the crowd dims to a murmur. The only noise you clearly hear now are the doubts in your own head, eating away at you:
What’s going to happen?
Am I going to win?
Will I get hurt?
With your feet exploring the unfamiliar canvas, inexplicably different to the mats in your gym, you find yourself looking over at your opponent. This is a guy you have trained to beat. A guy you have sweat, bled and strived towards facing for weeks. But now that he is in front of you, you’re terrified. He looks just as well-prepared as you, just as ready. Can I win? Will I win? In what feels like an instant, the referee is calling you to the centre of the cage. You lock eyes with your opponent and something clicks. He is just as scared as I am. The referee tells you to separate and come out fighting. Here you go, this is it. No more time to think.