Thursday, July 28, 2011

Everyone's got a plan until they get punched in the face

In my first legitimate post of this new blog, I'm excited to announce that I am booked to make my MMA debut for the Battlefield Fight League promotion's 11th event. I've attended a number of BFL events and they run extremely professional regional shows and have some really top-notch fighters. There are a lot of legal and political barriers thrown at MMA in Vancouver, and in spite of that, they've put themselves out there to put on some quality shows. If you happen to be in Vancouver on September 17th, I hope you'll check out the event and watch me fight! For days, I've been on a total high because of this fight, and I know these next seven weeks are going to be among the longest of my life.

Because I'm the kind of guy who doesn't want to give too much away, I won't be writing in detail about my upcoming training camp. But one thing I can divulge is that it's going to be torturously hard. My academy, Universal MMA, gets its fighters ready. When you're just a recreational guy or girl coming in to hit the pads or roll around on the ground, then you can train as hard as you want to. But when you fight under the school banner, you're going to be prepared.

And I have a lot to learn. I've been training striking, wrestling and grappling for a few years now, but my combined MMA experience to this point totals less than a month, and so it will total less than 3 months when I step inside the Battlefield cage. It is insufficient to say that MMA is striking, wrestling, and grappling. I think it is better to say that MMA is striking while wrestling, striking while grappling, grappling while wrestling, and the reverse of all three.

"Everyone has a plan, until they get hit in the mouth."

The above quote is actually attributed to a boxer, Mike Tyson. But I think it applies even better to MMA. When I train standup, I have a plan. An example might go something like, "Okay, I am fighting a southpaw, I will use straight right hand counters, or rear inside cut kicks." If I am grappling, I have plans. "I have the guy in side control; when he turns into me to take the underhook, I can use it to spin to the back."

Well, I'm not the most experienced MMA guy in the world, but I've learned one thing in my short time: Having a guy on top of you punching you in the face will fuck up even the best plans.

It sounds obvious, but it's really not, if you have a little experience. This is one of those cases where a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Like anyone else, I have armchair quarterbacked many an MMA fight. Why doesn't he do this? Why doesn't he do that? Often, it is simply poor strategy on the part of the fighter. But sometimes he simply can't do any of these things. He's getting punched in the face.

It's not simply a matter of punches to the face hurting. It's a variety of factors. The bottom guy in MMA is not necessarily losing, but he is expending a lot of energy bearing the weight of the other person. His breathing is impaired because of the weight of the man on him. His breaths are interrupted every time he is punched, which is always a jarring event. Sick of this situation, he fights to escape that position and expends more energy, and if he fails, he has wasted some of the energy in his reserves. Every second he is on the bottom, every punch he takes and every failed escape depletes his energy. And not only that, he is expected to formulate a plan -- a counter-attack -- under these circumstances. It's a lot to ask of him.

It is little wonder why excellent grapplers give up passes, dominant positions and even submissions when they've been getting beat up. People often say wrestling is the most exhausting part of MMA. I think getting beat up -- in any position -- is the most exhausting part. It messes with your breathing, it makes you tense, and it threatens to break your desire to continue fighting.

And if you understood the preceding, you have a pretty good idea of how my 8:30pm-10:30pm went tonight. I took an absolute ground-and-pound beating from one of my teammates, Zach, one of our undefeated 145-pounders. Zach is a grinder, a guy who gives no space and works at a tireless pace. And by "works", I really mean "punches you in the face". For the first time in my entire life, I am icing my face. Cheeks, temples, orbital bones, jaw -- everything above the neck hurts. I don't mark easily so it's not really visible, but I really feel like I tried to stop a moving vehicle with my face. Make no mistake, this is the not-so-glamourous side of MMA; these is what fighters go through for what can be anything from 10 seconds to 25 minutes in the cage. It is an absolute meat grinder. And it's what I've signed up for, of my own volition, for the next seven weeks. I will take seven weeks of beatings so that when September 16 comes, I won't take one. Taking beatings so that you won't take a beating. A delightful paradox, isn't it?


  1. Hi,
    Glad to see your making your MMA debut. As a pro poker player and pretty hardcore MMA fan, I've been following your blogs forever. Find them quite inspirational. Good luck in the fight, I'm sure your hard work and dedication will pay off. Btw, is it going to be taped/uploaded? I would certainly love to watch it.

  2. Hey Terrence, I've heard you on the 2+2 Pokercast when you've guest hosted. Good luck with the initial match. Hope the training gets you ready to put on a good show and feel proud of the effort!

  3. @posts: It will be showing on the Fight Network in Canada and I also know they make DVDs, but I'm not sure whether or not they put them online.

  4. I don't really know you well enough to be as vehement as I'd like. But I like you, so I'm going to be more forward than is probably polite.

    I think you are making a mistake.

    Consider that I say that in light of the fact that I love MMA and that I've trained in multiple martial arts.

    I think that, for some people, the risk is worthwhile. However, simply from a financial point of view, your particular brain is valuable enough that seven weeks of your head being a punching bag sounds incredibly -EV.

    I understand the allure of fighting. You talked in a recent post about becoming more mentally tough, and I can see how continuing to think and fight strategically while being punched in the face could fall in that category. But what's the point in sharpening the software by taking a hatchet to the hardware? Surely there's another way to be physically challenged and mentally tough without doing irreversible damage to your brain.

  5. @chloe: Pretty confident research will show that just like getting punched in the abs makes our cores tougher, getting punched in the brain makes our mentals tougher.