“All my life, I’ve been fearful of defeat. But now that is has come…it’s not near as terrible as I’d expected. The sun still shines. Water still tastes good. Glory is…all well and good but…life is enough, nay?” – Mark Antony, Rome, (c)HBO.
I spent the first two years of my competitive amateur MMA career undefeated. Every fight went more or less the same way, with me shooting takedowns and securing chokes to finish my opponents in the first round. I never had to pummel anyone, never knocked someone down or finished them with ground and pound. In fact, I never even got hit cleanly in any of those bouts.
A Month To Go.
I’m currently one month out from an amateur four man tournament for a title belt. My life has become a mixture of emotion, effort and exercise as I float between my day job and training hard in the gym as well as cleaning up my diet. I’m already starting to daydream about my opponents at work, wondering what tools they might have or how my game plan and strategy will go. I’m starting to visualise it all positively – but I can’t stop the creeping sensation of nerves that blister across the back of my neck when I think of the day.
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. Continue reading
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.
It’s the third week of fight camp for my sixth amateur MMA bout. I am beyond tired – my body already feels broken, with bruises picked up in places I didn’t even know existed, my sleep schedule is messed up and I’m short and ill-tempered with everyone at work and at home. I’m flitting between a 9-5 job, through an hour long queue of traffic to the gym I train at then back to my girlfriend’s flat for maybe an hour to ourselves a night. Put simply: I am completely exhausted.
Great fights are a thing of beauty. Watching Jon Jones and Gustaffson locked in a battle of skill, witnessing Dan Henderson and Shogun Rua push the limits of human endurance and seeing Fedor and Cro Cop deciding who the best heavyweight of their era was – MMA as a whole thrives on these battles.
But a great battle requires two men to last through the rounds, elevating it to legendary status. Sometimes, the stars do not align and a quick KO, Sub or injury robs an audience of the spectacle. But that is the nature of MMA: Random chance.
Yet, if MMA is so capricious, then what do we have to rely on when it comes to entertainment? The answer: entertaining fighters. I’m talking about fighters you could watch a thousand times and not get bored. Fighters who, win or lose, put their hearts and bodies on the line for their family, fans and the love of the sport. Presented below is my list of 5 of the most entertaining UFC fighters to have ever graced the cage with their blood-soaked, battle-worn bodies.