3 UFC fighters who suffer from pre-fight anxiety
In the UFC, stepping out in front of a rabid crowd to get his face punched is only a reality. As routine as it may sound for fighters, combat anxiety remains pervasive.
After months of grueling training and a strict diet (in most cases), fighters must survive the grueling process of losing weight. With they almost finished rehydrating, it’s time to step into the Octagon and fight with all their might for victory.
This is all very stressful, even for the most hardened UFC gladiators. Needless to say, nerves can often take the wheel, with fighters finding themselves on the wrong side of severe anxiety attacks. From nervous nerves to outright vomiting, pre-fight stress can manifest in a variety of unpleasant ways.
Here are three seasoned UFC fighters who have openly admitted to grappling with this issue.
# 3. Former UFC welterweight title challenger Darren Till
Prior to his UFC 244 split decision victory over Kelvin Gastelum, Darren Till was, by his own admission, “terrified.” After back-to-back losses to UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley and Jorge Masvidal, Till was in desperate need of a win. Feeling the pressure, ‘The Gorilla’ seriously considered faking an injury just to avoid facing Gastelum.
Till’s confidence had been severely shaken by his 17-game winning streak that ended with Woodley. For Till, the Masvidal KO was just the icing on the cake of the professional anxiety that was starting to weigh on him.
Despite consuming fears of another loss, Till managed to overcome the stress to secure another victory on his record. The Muay Thai master has since spoken about the pre-match nervousness which in one way or another affects almost all fighters.
After losing to Robert Whittaker last year, Till finally returns to the Octagon in August to face Derek Brunson. With three losses under his belt now, don’t be surprised if Till starts to panic once again.
# 2. Former UFC lightweight title challenger Donald Cerrone
MMA’s resident cowboy doesn’t appear to be the anxious type. When Cerrone is not fighting in the Octagon, he is known for his love of extreme sports such as bull riding and motocross (due to which he lost a significant portion of his intestines in 2012).
One would assume that Cerrone is essentially fearless, all things considered, but the man himself has confirmed that this is far from the case. Severe episodes of vomiting right before a fight have been a sad fact of Cerrone’s life for years. He also described how his anxiety attacks physically anchor him during the wait time before his fights.
Struggling to warm up or think properly, the last moments before he stepped into the octagon were often psychologically debilitating. Luckily for the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt, the moment the bell rings, he enters a state of tunnel concentration. Considering his nausea issues when nervous, that could also be a good thing for his opponent …
# 1. Former UFC welterweight and middleweight champion Georges St-Pierre
Before his first fight against Ivan Menjivar in January 2002, Georges St-Pierre failed to fall asleep for three days. Terrified of how the fight might turn out, the anxious GSP fell into sleeplessness and arrived for his fight in a state of stressed mental exhaustion.
Given the severity of his anxiety attacks leading up to his debut, his first round TKO victory becomes all the more impressive. While “Rush” steadily grew stronger for most of his career, he never managed to shake off his pre-competition nervousness. Impressively, GSP has almost always managed to appear publicly phased and fearless in the preparations for their fights.
Many who trained with the former welterweight pivot confirmed his nervousness leading to a bout on the verge of danger. After his UFC 217 middleweight title win over Michael Bisping, GSP admitted that the stress of fighting was often overwhelming for him. So much so, in fact, that it basically ruined any fun he could get from fighting.
To ease his nerves, GSP would make a long drive before a fight to distance himself from the chaos for a short time. By studying the people he saw go by, GSP would take comfort in knowing that everyone has their own things to do and the obstacles to overcome on a daily basis. Taking that step back from himself and his fights was what he needed to make the long march to the octagon later that evening.