Are You Ready?

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Posted by Josh Boyd

I realize that most people are probably tired of discussing UFC 151 and Jon Jones’ decision to turn down the fight with Sonnen.  However, the situation has brought to light some pretty major questions that may have huge implications on the future of MMA as a sport. I brought up a few of these issues in a previous article //knuxx.com/nv/2012/09/are-mma-fans-getting-too-much-mma-from-the-ufc/ but there is one specific item that I think is worth a bit more discussion.

It is the issue of fighter preparation. There has been a transformation in how fighters prepare for fights. It seems in years gone by that most fighters focused on being the best fighter they could possibly be and it was their goal or strategy to force their will on their opponent.  Ironically, before all this Jon Jones stuff happened, Sonnen was very outspoken about this very thing. When asked about his training for Silva, he said that he doesn’t get caught up in game planning, strategy or worrying about what his opponent is going to do.  He said that it’s his job to get in the cage and do what he does.

This begs the question. Who is right? Should fighters be training and preparing to be the best at what they do or getting ready to avoid what their opponent is going to be doing? UFC President Dana White says that MMA coach, Greg Jackson, is killing the sport with his game planning/strategy approach of training. Many people agree. Rampage Jackson says he is leaving the sport because of it.  He doesn’t like the so many guys layin’ & prayin’.

My question is, does game planning for your opponent’s strengths/weaknesses really work or would fighters be better served to focus training time and effort on what they plan to do instead of their opponent? It seems that in most cases, fighters who impose their will on their opponents win fights. A great example would be Rhonda Rousey. When she trains, her focus is on what she does best, how to get the fight there and keep it there. So, far, she has been very successful. On the flip side, her opponents, undoubtedly, spend a lot of time and effort game planning and strategizing how to avoid fighting her fight.

Unfortunately, it seems almost like telling someone not to think about a purple elephant. Of course, instantly, a purple elephant pops into their head. Maybe, just maybe, if fighters focused on where they want a fight to go and not on where they don’t want it to go, they would end up at their desired destination more often.

Instead, we have more and more fighters so focused and determined to neutralize or defend against their opponent’s attack, that they never offer any of their own. More fights are close. More fights go to decision. More people complain about the decisions. It’s a vicious cycle!

Right now, I can think of 3 fighters in the last year that have gone into a fight that they could have won, but, as soon as the fight started, you could see that they were only focused on what their opponent had planned and was going to do. They didn’t do what they do best, they fought their opponents fight and they lost!

I guess my main point would be that the UFC should be careful. They need to make sure that fighters don’t get comfortable with the idea that opponent specific game planning and strategizing is their right. Martial arts, combat sports and even the UFC, in the beginning, has traditionally been tournament style competition. Now, for fighter safety and a lot of other reasons, I don’t propose that we go back to that format. However, in that format, there was no long term opponent specific training going on! You knew who you might have to face, you trained to be the best you could be and you fought whoever was put in front of you. If you won, you knew for sure that you were the best!

Breaking news:  UFC 153 Rio is being torn apart by injuries… Rampage, Aldo and Matyushenko out! Maybe, the UFC needs a clause in their fight contracts that says, “If for some reason your opponent cannot compete, you must fight the fair and suitable replacement that we select.”

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