Home Science Education How MMA Fighters Transform Fear: Framing

How MMA Fighters Transform Fear: Framing


MMA fighters deal with fear in many different ways, one of which is framing.

Framing is a term used by MMA fighters to help with emotion work to signify their masculine selves. It can be defined to answer the question, “What is going on here?” Framing shapes how one thinks and feels. According to Managing Emotional Manhood this technique is similar to “students minimizing fear of exams in part by framing them as ‘quizes.’ Fighters’ emotional framing most often involved defining cage fights as (A) just another day in the gym, (B) business and (C) a valuable experience.”

This technique is used mainly by competitors and hidden from those who don’t compete.

Framing as just another day in the gym gave the fighters more confidence and let them look at the opponents as boring. Granted there are the factors of audience, ring girls and announcers that differ greatly from just training in the ring. But if the fighter is able to put himself in that mind frame and block the other out it can keep them calm. Fighters were asked how they felt using this technique:

Lou said that he kept “calm and composed” by thinking “in my mind that the fight is a sparring match. I think of it as another day in the gym.”

Scotty said, “Just be natural and do the same things that I do in the gym.”

MMA competitors didn’t learn this in the gym, they got it from veteran fighters or trainers. Some would get calls at 3 AM before a bout from a fighter saying, “I don’t know that I can do this.” Their response was, “Yes, you can. You do this every day in the gym.”

Fighters can also categorize their fight as business. What this does for a fighter is puts them in the state of mind of the “everyday office guy.”

Larry said, “A true professional in this sport approaches this as a business… I got to put this dude down and get my money so I can put food on the table.”

Even Forest Griffin has this to say, “I had to turn into a professional… I wanted to be calm.” This is more widely used by experienced fighters rather than newcomers mainly because of their credibility.

The last way fighters used framing to emotionally work on their fear was to look at the fight as a valuable experience. This is a favorite among newcomers.

Steven said, “I just kind of looked at it as there’s no pressure on me… it’s an opportunity, obviously, to get some experience and I should just go out and enjoy it.”

Isaac managed it by saying, “I’m doing something that is so important to me. And it is something that I want to do so badly. That is why this is making me nervous.”

Using this technique of framing lets the fighters see the fight as one of life’s cherished moments, sweeping away doubts. This even works when losing a match.

Framing the loss as a valuable experience lets the fighter learn from his actions instead of catching fear and not getting back in the cage. This is another technique that they learned from other fighters.

Steven said a famous fighter once told him the loss was the best thing that ever happened to him… When you are able to gain more from a loss, it can become a win.

Dean emphasized, “And all my lessons learned from losing are the kind of lessons that stick.”

It keeps the fighters fear in check and gets them back on their feet fighting again.

These three forms of framing have helped MMA fighters to manage their “emotional manhood” and keep their fear under control. Even though some of these framing methods were shared through others, most of them were kept hidden and only learned when in a competitive situation. This helps competitive fighters become more superior to those that are just “hobbyists.”