The hype engine is churning out tons of smack on both Diaz and GSP this week. In preparation for UFC 158 the media is bubbling with stories on a history of rancor between GSP and Diaz, referencing an incident in 2011 that involved a supposed chase through a hotel where Diaz wanted to confront GSP. Of course many of you have also likely been exposed to the emotionally charged smack talk that Diaz was dishing out during the press call this past week. However, while it’s easy to get swept away in the marketing drama, the real question is, “How healthy is it for there to be this much emotion prior to a fight?”.
Let’s assume for a moment that everything being reported about the two athletes and their history is 100% accurate. If that is the case then we have a very, very emotionally charged fight on our hands at UFC 158. It certainly sounds exciting for the fans but is it a good thing for either of the fighters? We wanted to take a look at a bit of the science behind anger, heightened emotion and it’s effect on the body and mind. Here what we found. . .
The National Academy of Sports Medicine has a commonly accepted point of view on the value and effects of anger as it relates to athletic performance. According to the NASM, “Anger has many impacts on performance. The biggest impact of anger on performance is that it doesn’t allow an athlete to move beyond whatever prompted the anger. If an athlete is unable to move beyond the issue that prompted the anger, then they are unable to continue to concentrate and focus on continued performance. Some other impacts of anger include muscle tension, negative thinking, rapid heart rate, and rapid breathing. These impacts of anger can be dealt with in similar ways as anxiety: progressive relaxation, imagery and deep breathing. Progressive relaxation means progressively going through your body and relaxing your muscles. Deep breathing helps take the focus off anything negative and also relaxes your mind and your muscles. Imagery relates to processes to produce an internalized experience that will support or enhance training or competition. Imagery allows the athlete to focus on something positive and something specific to the sport.”
However, a recent University of California Santa Barbara study indicates that, “Anger can help boost analytic thinking as angry subjects more often ignore less useful information.” In essence anger can help one focus on what truly matters. As a result anger may be advantageous during a confrontation, so long as the subject can focus their energy on those elements that are most important. This, however, likely takes a great deal of discipline and training to achieve in an adrenaline packed event like an MMA fight. Though, we don’t expect anything less from two top notch athletes like GSP and Diaz.
At SciFighting, our philosophy is that an athlete would benefit most from a calm mind, a relaxed body and a high tolerance for stress to ensure they can maximize performance and decision making. However, given the UCSB study it would seem we may have some more investigation to do into our own assumptions on what is best.
So the question remains, do these fighters (Diaz and GSP) have what it takes to keep their emotions in check and use anger to their advantage in the upcoming UFC 158 bout? We will likely soon find out!
In the mean time what do you think? Is anger and heightened emotion a generally positive or negative influence on fighter?