Executing MMA moves, or even the individual disciplines like jiu-jitsu or muay Thai, in a school is different from utilizing it in the ring. First-time fighters often tense up in the ring resulting in a loss. To help new fighters who seek glory in the ring get accustomed to fighting in front of an audience, Ralek Gracie, son of Ultimate Fighting Championship co-founder Rorion Gracie, created a list of 10 things a fighter must know before entering the ring based on his fighting experience and lessons passed down to him by his family. UFC and Pancrase veteran Bas Rutten weighs in on Gracie’s tips and offers additional advice.
1. Losing is Winning According to Gracie, the more you lose in training, the more you will win in competition. Training with bigger and more technical partners will make your reflexes and technique sharper. Rutten added, “It’s good to lose in training, but I don’t want a student to do it a lot because it can mentally affect him. When you have to tap over and over, you paint in your mind a picture that they can beat you with ease.”
2. Cardio is King Gracie recommends adding variety to a fighter’s cardiovascular routine such as uphill sprints, running sand hills, and running on a treadmill when it’s turned off. “He’s 100 percent right,” Rutten agreed. “If you lose because you run out of gas, you are not that smart. Like Ralek says, ‘Go run some hills!’”
3. Matter Over Mind In high-stress situations, your body produces a reaction by releasing certain hormones that tell your mind to work simultaneously with your body, which will bypass your normal thought process, according to Gracie. One should train to feel comfortable in that state of mind. Once your senses take over, your mind works as a slow-motion camera taking split second pictures that makes decisions, so your body follows without hesitation.
4. Respect Your Opponent “That other person is a reflection of you since you both want the same thing,” Gracie explained. “If you lose, you should respect your opponent more than if you win. A worthy opponent is more important to your growth than a walk through opponent.”
This might seem like a tired adage, but Rutten believes the advice is important. “Respect your opponent’s skills because if you don’t, you might make mistakes,” Rutten said. “Always be prepared for an opponent who will have the best day of his career.”
5. Focus “The more shots you take at your opponent, the more likely you are to get the right one — eventually,” Gracie said. “The more you focus on getting the right strike, the more likely you are to capture the moment of victory.”
Rutten concurred and said, “With me, the focus is on one thing, and one thing only — I don’t want to get side tracked by other things,” in regards to fighting opponents in sold-out arenas.
6. 10,000 Hours Just like his grandfather Helio, the younger Gracie believes, “It takes 10,000 hours to be an expert in anything. Understand that everything monumental was built over time with three main elements: knowledge, perseverance and teamwork.”
Though he agrees, Rutten warns fighters to not drill too much because “I know that once in a fight when you try the drill and the opponent suddenly bucks up or does something else, it won’t work. So drill while rolling.”
7. The Basics Though as fighters advance in their training, “The most basic moves work better in a fight than the most complicated,” Gracie said. More basic moves require less movement and better timing.
“I am 100 percent with him,” Rutten said. “If your fundamentals are not right, you can’t build on that, because everything that you would try to build on that would crumble, just like a house.”
8. The Right Team According to Gracie, if you beat everyone you train with, it is time to find new training partners. It may sound harsh, but training with partners better than you will only make you grow.
9. The Right Philosophy Gracie believes that though life is perfect, man will always lack in his complete discovery. His only chance for peace is to be grateful for the smallest details of his experience. However, Rutten countered and said, “Life isn’t always perfect, but that’s the great thing about it. Falling and getting up again, that’s how you get better and learn in life.”
10. Discipline The fight is not won the day of the fight – it is won six months before when a fighter eats the right foods and gets enough rest and the right amount of training, according to Gracie.
An additional tip Rutten said he believes should have been included on the list is to “Forget about the no sex rule, it’s stupid. It makes you more relaxed, which will help you fight better,” he said. “I believe that rule is invented to keep the fighters in line so that they don’t screw around and get side tracked by women.”