Over the years I’ve sat in many changing rooms of all shapes and sizes, from overly packed storage rooms, kitchens, to my very own room, even the back of a pick up truck in Thailand. Regardless of where it was the emotion was always the same; fear.
Fighters who have had just a handful of fights and those who are big names in the sport still ask me if I still get nervous and the simple answer is yes. Everyone gets nervous for different reasons; some are nervous of the crowd, others are of their opponent but mine is none of these, mine is not performing to the best of my ability. As I said in a previous blog post there has only been two occasions where I’ve been nervous of whom I’m fighting.
The changing room is the worst part of the fight game for me to be honest. In my opinion this is where a majority of fights can actually be won or lost. Your mind can play all manner of tricks on you during this time. Everyone will probably have a negative thought before going in to a contest but its how you deal with it, is the key.
Most of you have probably heard or read the quote by Cus D’Amato (Mike Tyson’s mentor/trainer) “The hero and the coward both feel the same thing, but the hero uses his fear, projects it onto his opponent, while the coward runs. It’s the same thing, fear, but it’s what you do with it that matters.” These feelings are your defence mechanisms, fight or flight.
When I was younger Steve sat a few of us down and actually explained how we’d feel before a fight. Saying that we’d get nervous, maybe even have some doubts. But its ok, it’s normal its how you deal with it that is important. The reason he told us this is so it wasn’t a shock if it happened, we were prepared for every aspect of the fight. He then went on to explain the fight or flight theory.
Basically adrenaline is released in to the system due to an emotion, in this case fear. The purpose is to prepare the body for either a quick escape or to fight back. Let’s say you were attacked by a demented squirrel monkey, adrenaline will be released and you will either choose to run away at a ridiculous pace or fight back tooth and nail; fight or flight. In both cases your body is defending its self.
I often think to myself while I’m waiting in the changing, “Why am I doing this” or “This is definitely my last one” knowing full well it isn’t. If I just sit there pondering my confidence starts to fade, it starts to feel like I haven’t done any training, as if I’ve forgotten what I’d prepared to do. But it doesn’t get to me that bad, because I know what’s happening to me, I know why I’m nervous and I know how to over come it.
Everyone is different on how they get themselves psyched up,so you need to find what works for you. For myself, once I start to warm up, it kind of feels like a power growing in the pit of my stomach. I can actually feel the confidence build up, as if it was a living thing, it may sound strange but that’s how it feels. The nerve’s start to fade as it gets closer to my name being called out, almost as if I’m numb to emotion. This is the complete opposite side of the scale compared to how I was feeling moments ago. I know this moment will come, which is why no matter how nervous I get in the changing room it will just be a memory and I will deal with what ever happens in the ring.
I’ve been in the changing room as a corner man too, and I’ve seen many fighters crumble in there before even getting in to the ring. In these intense emotional surroundings you really begin to learn about yourself and see really who are inside. Sometimes you may let the changing room beat you, I have on a couple of occasions but that’s only made me more determined to control the emotion and beat it next time. You must not only be physically prepared but you must mentally be in peak condition also, so bare that in mind.