The last few weeks we’ve been talking about injuries, cutting weight and a variety of other topics that have an immediate affect on your MMA career. This week, though, we’re focusing on something a bit more far-sighted. It may seem trivial at first, but by the end of it you’ll realize why it’s so important.
When I was in the seventh and eighth grade, we were allowed a certain number of “shadow” days. You would go to an area high school and follow one of the students around for the day. You saw the campus, how classes were conducted and basically received an overall impression of how the school operated. More valuable than pamphlets, this information helped you choose where you wanted to go.
Sure high school and a cage are both brutal environments, but what does this have to do with fighting? Any aspiring amateur should take opportunities to shadow a pro fighter whenever they have the chance. This doesn’t mean you take a day off from work or school and hang out at their house. Rather, when they have a pro fight coming up, go with them. It doesn’t matter if it’s their first one or they’re competing in a major organization; look at how business is conducted. From the forms they have to fill out, to the check they bring home, soak in the whole experience.
Remember, this is a fact finding mission. It’s not a vacation, and it’s certainly not time for you to act like a fan. You may think you’re ready to step up, but things change once Mixed Martial Arts becomes the way you pay the bills. Fighting can be a lot of fun, but it’s not a rock star lifestyle. It’s not even the lifestyle of league minimums in other leagues. You need to see if this is really what you want to do with your life. Maybe you’ll take it all in and realize it’s not the life for you. There’s nothing wrong with that. Just be sure that you’re willing to commit fully to this endeavor.
Besides abstract notions, there are many practical reasons for this. Stage fright, cage jitters, whatever you want to call it — they’re a real thing. No matter how much you train and how strong you feel, you’ll be tense. You’re nerves will be taxed even before fight day arrives. If you witness the enormity of the situation and don’t get blindsided by the administrative nuisances, you’ll save yourself a lot of extra aggravation.
Lastly, it’s a great way to network. MMA (like most of life) is not a meritocracy. Who you know and who you talk to can make a big difference. Shadowing a pro fighter allows you to meet the matchmaker, the promoter or other agents that can play a large role in taking you to the next level. In a perfect world, strong fight performances would be the only criteria determining who makes it t the next level. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.
There’s a lot of uncertainty in MMA. Whatever you can do to lessen that uncertainty will be the difference between flourishing or letting the pressure consume you. Don’t forget to have a little fun, too. The MMA life may not always be fun, but it’s way better than high school.