The Circle of Fight
Seedy bars, seedier strip clubs, hospital rooms, and crazy after-parties—I have spent the night after fights at all of these locations. Fights are the culmination of years of blood and sweat. From the moment the fight ends until it’s time to get back to hard training, fighters have a chance to cram in as much fun as possible. However, it’s not all fun and games for the coaches, who immediately begin to think about how their fighters can improve for next time. If it were up to me, we might even go practice for a couple hours after a fight.
SATURDAY NIGHT IN THE ER
What happens directly after the fight depends on the size of the show and the commission: doctor checks, drug tests, paychecks, backroom bonuses (if we’re lucky), showers, interviews, and autographs.Win or lose, sometimes the night’s festivities are interrupted by a visit to the hospital. The trip in the ambulance is becoming a frequent outcome of a tough fight.
Fighters almost always visit their opponent after a fight and exchange words of encouragement and support. The level of sportsmanship shown in MMA is outstanding. Most fighters know there is a fine line between winning and losing, between an after-party and the ER.
FOOD AND FUN
Fighters like to eat after a fight. Morton’s Steak House or Waffle House, it doesn’t matter. The post fight meal is the one they have been dreaming of since the weight cut began. As a coach, you let them enjoy it, regardless of how many ribeyes or patty melts they consume.
Everyone has an after-party now—the fighters, the event, sponsors, fans, bars, and magazines. Some locales are better than others. Now, don’t get me wrong, I like free entry into a strip club as much as anyone, just not necessarily a strip club in Columbus, Georgia
Win or lose, there is a huge adrenaline dump after a fight. Imagine pouring your heart and soul into something for eight weeks—the arduous training, dieting, difficulties sleeping, and time away from family and friends. It is not surprising that all those bottled up feelings come rushing out. Screaming, kicking chairs, punching walls, denial, euphoria, and crying—I have seen all of these in the locker room after a fight.
Recently, a fighter who I train made his pro debut after destroying all of his amateur competition. The fight was a back and forth battle against a tough opponent. My fighter won but he was not pleased with his performance. However, in the long run, this 15 minutes of experience was going to be a lot more valuable than a two minute destruction of a lesser opponent. Tough fights and tough losses give coaches plenty of information on where to take the training next.
BACK TO WORK
I like to get my fighters back in the gym as quickly as possible (within reason) after a fight. This gives us a chance to improve while the fight is fresh in our heads. Commissions will suspend a fighter for a certain amount of time for various injuries, including a knockout, cut, broken bone, bruise, etc. Sometimes these suspensions can be reduced by a doctor. If one of my fighters has been knocked out, I do not allow him to train with head contact fora minimum of one month.
When a fighter loses, it is important that they have the support of teammates. I do not tolerate guys disappearing after a fight. The guys that got you ready need the same support for their upcoming fights.
I don’t coach fighters to collect victories. The only thing I ask of my fighters is to leave it all in the cage. The coaches and their training partners deserve nothing less. When a fighter gives me less than they are capable of, I am the first one to tell them. I expect a lot from my fighters, but they know that I am here to support them and pick them up when they fall.
After losing his first UFC fight against Yushin Okami, I told my brother Rory Singer: “In the morning, the only difference between winning and losing is the paycheck.” I know that sounds simplistic, but my point was that—win or lose—he was going to have to go right back to training on Monday. Winning or losing has to be viewed as just another step of the journey, not the destination.