I’ve been a huge fan of Mixed Martial Arts for several years now. I watched UFC fights live in the States weekly, and I follow the sport like a soap opera to this day.
For the uninitiated or those who haven’t been updated, despite your possible perception of UFC as unregulated cock fighting, the sport is beautiful, exciting, graceful, and sometimes even educational.
As an avid fan, I wanted to share five life lessons I’ve gained from countless hours of watching these athletes perform:
1) The Most Dangerous UFC Fighter
No, it’s the one who looks like he’s walking around in his own living room.
In a world where every split second counts, where the slightest mistake could mean getting knocked out in an instant, you can never afford to tense up. The moment you are nervous, you are done.
So the scariest fighter is the one who doesn’t crack under pressure. The lights, cameras, and fans don’t phase them. They just move around the ring like it’s an ordinary day, relaxing on their porch with a beer.
Who performs better in life when they’re nervous or agitated? The secret to success is finding out how to be comfortable in your own environment and circumstances, no matter what they are. You will perform at your best, and you will be ready for whatever life throws your way.
2) You Win or You Learn
This is a common refrain for many fighters, especially those who have a very good outlook on fighting and the world.
Sometimes a fighter walks into the ring, and he knocks his opponent out in a matter of seconds. There’s no time to think. There’s no perspective. Everything happened in a flash.
In the excitement, the winner will jump on the cage. He’ll scream in joy. He’ll go ahead and hug his coaches and family members.
But what happens tomorrow?
Yes, there’s joy and motivation. There’s an increased confidence and momentum on the fighter’s side.
But where does he go from here? What did he learn about himself that he could bring to the gym? Or the next fight? The answer: Not very much.
The fighter who is dragged around the ring, peppered with jabs and kicked repeatedly in the leg, humbled for 15 minutes, that fighter gets to go home with a game plan. That fighter knows the next several months are about figuring out what to do differently going forward.
So, you win or you learn. If you win, fantastic. Enjoy life’s victories. But what happens when things don’t go your way? If you’re smart, you will turn it into the ultimate learning experience.
3) Everyone Loves a Graceful Loser
There are fighters who achieve massive but temporary popularity. And there are fighters who achieve lasting fame and fortune.
I think one of the biggest keys to being in the second category is how you handle the times when you lose.
You of course have your mega-stars, like Ronda Rousey. When she was mauling her opponents in 30 seconds or less, the world was her oyster. Everyone adored her. She was on top of the world, and it looked like her spotlight would never wane, not for a minute.
But when she suffered her first losses, and she shunned the media, and basically disappeared from the public eye, everyone progressively realized we were dealing with a sore loser, and everything she had built up over time dissipated.
Some complain they really won the fight. Or the referee made a mistake. Bitching and moaning begets boos and disrespect.
But those fighters who reach ultimate fame, and humbly congratulate the victor, they win over our hearts. They thank their incredible coaching staff and tell the fans they’ll be back in the very near future to put on some more amazing shows.
You want everyone around you to love you? Have a great attitude no matter what happens. Everyone wants to be around people like that!
4) Just Keep in There!
Sometimes fighter endurance shocks and amazes me. You’ll find people who can do uncanny things, and they’re still going strong long after most people would have long passed out from exhaustion.
You don’t necessarily have to be the best or the most talented fighter. Sometimes it’s enough to have the greater stamina, or perhaps just the greater heart. And when that moment comes when your opponent falters ever so slightly due to fatigue, with perfect precision and a little technique, the fight is now yours.
Of course we all wish to be the best at what we do. And it certainly doesn’t hurt to be blessed with talents galore to accomplish everything we want in life. But sometimes the harder worker wins. Sometimes pushing just a little longer than the competition is exactly the edge needed to eke out a victory in this world.
Stay in there a little longer than the “opponent”, and seeing your hand raised can be a reality.
5) UFC: It’s All a Game
I remember my time in the Israeli Army all too well. I was miserable all the time. For my first month, day in, day out, all I wanted was for things to end.
I loathed my commanding officers. I did not enjoy or feel any value to a straight month of being yelled at and treated like garbage. And when it was all over, I felt a residual anger still lingering on me.
But I watched something fascinating happen. When everything ended, the recruits and the commanding officers in an instant became buddies. I watched with awe as all the tension melted away.
UFC vs IDF
It took me a while until I realized something important. I was a new immigrant to Israel and I didn’t understand how things worked here. Essentially basic training for non-combat soldiers was somewhere between a game and theater. A bunch of 19 year olds are acting angry and tough, and a whole slew of 18 year olds spend a month pretending like they are intimidated.
And li’l ole me wasn’t in on the game.
I feel a similar effect when I watch some of the best UFC fights. Two intense, powerful individuals trash talk one another for weeks leading up to the fight, then do everything in their power to knock one another out for 15 minutes. Then the final buzzer goes off, and they hug like they’re the best of friends.
Whatever was going on before doesn’t linger. Yes, there was intensity. That was then and this is now. In the bigger picture, the fight was just a fight. It doesn’t follow into real life afterwards. It was all just a game.
And it really is all just a game.
Today’s a new day. Let it go. Move on and stop holding on to yesterday’s problems.
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