MMA fighters use a few ways to get control of their fear and use it to their advantage, one is called scripting.
To an untrained observer, a MMA fight can look like one chaotic mess of blood and sweat. Fights are typically unpredictable with everything a fighter has to worry about: “take-downs, knees, kicks and elbows.”
To take control of this, according to Managing Emotional Manhood, Fighters will create a game plan of sorts that will help reduce the fear in themselves. This game plan is referred to as scripting because like a movie script it is planned out ahead of time and rehearsed over and over again. This can be seen in large events like football where the script “shapes the emotions of participants and spectators during the events, we focus on how scripting future events shapes feelings in the present.”
In interviews with fighters asking how they dealt with their emotion of fear before bouts these were the typical responses:
“I need to have a game plan and stick to that.”
“I would do a lot of visualization of the event so I was emotionally prepared.”
“I just think about what I want to do. What is this guy going to try to do?”
Fighters and their trainers will script out the fight, what they need to start with and then how to finish it. “Our game plan is always to hit it on the mat whenever possible.” Of course fights are always unpredictable and this is what evokes fear into the fighter. Going over their games plan will help to surpress those fears, giving the fighters confidence in their ability to win.
Putting together a script for a bout isn’t something learned over night. More experienced fighters are able to put together a more polished game plan than newer fighters. This comes from knowing their strengths and weaknesses and being more in tune with their bodies than others. A veteran fighter commented, “If you’re a great grappler then don’t stay on your feet… when you’re training a guy, you got to start gauging where that person performs the best.”
Some aspects of the script can get generalized throughout all fights, but there needs to be research done on their opponent as well. The same thing doesn’t work on every fighter. Just as in football, they go over tapes and strategies, looking for weaknesses and strengths. Fighters are researching websites, stats, records, fighting style and how their opponent has won and lost their fights.
Rocky said, ” If I’m fighting the kick boxer who wins his fights by knock outs, you’re going to be damn sure I’m practicing my striking.”
Creating a script is just the beginning for the game plan. Fighters must then “instill the script into ‘bodily memory.'” They must practice to the point where it all comes natural. The fighters repetition, seeing and doing it over and over again, until the actions become instinctive.
If done the right way, scripting can result in a level of confidence that can be seen in fighters before their fight by the way they talk and walk. Some will strut around proclaiming how they are going to win their upcoming fight. If the fighters are asked about the fight, their response will be something like Scotty’s, “Yeah, I am going to choke him out. I can feel it.” They’ve embodied their script and now it’s all about the execution.
Game plans come into play minutes before the fight and even making sense of victories and defeats. Often on TV you’ll see a fighter backstage striking pads with his trainer going over the game plan. When a fighter won they would give their game plan credit for the win. “I stuck to my game plan.” Losing a bout, trainers would use scripting to “minimize the fear that they were not cut out of the cage and evoke confidence that they could come out on top in the future.”
When fighters create, embody and review their scripts, research their opponents strengths and weaknesses as well as their own, and repeat those scripts until it’s an instinctive reaction can keep a fighters mind clear of fear and full of confidence, win or lose.