UFC bantamweight women’s champion Ronda Rousey made headlines a year ago when she said she tries to have “as much sex as possible,” before a fight.
Rousey, who will battle Miesha Tate on Dec. 28 at UFC 168, told Jim Rome in 2012 this:
“For girls, it raises your testosterone, so I try to have as much sex as possible before I fight actually. Not with everybody. I don’t put out like a Craigslist ad or anything, but if I got a steady, I’m going to be like, `Yo, fight time’s coming up.”‘
It’s an issue that is as old as the topic of sex itself. Some date the myth back to Plato, who in 444 B.C. wrote that Olympic competitors should avoid sexual intimacy before competition.
In the old days of boxing, fighters were under the impression that sex before fights meant less aggression and weak legs in the ring. The idea was that men wanted to keep all of the testosterone stored so that they could be wild animals when they actually competed. After the fight, of course, it was game on in the bedroom.
Rocky Marciano, the great heavyweight boxing champ, lived by a rule of abstinence before fights and retired 49-0. Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Robinson, and many of the other old-time greats practiced abstinence before fights, and they were very successful. Was that just coincidence?
According to Askmen.com, Ian Shrier, sports medicine specialist at McGill University in Canada, said it’s not really true that sex hurts fighters. Sexual activity before a competition has no influence on a man’s grip strength, power, balance, endurance, lateral movement, reaction time, or aerobic power, according to Shrier.
Askmen.com also states that the only concern about sex before a fight has to do with whether one is just going to tire oneself out too much to compete. Still, sex generally only burns about 5o calories, the same as walking up a couple flights of stairs.
UFC fighter Pat Barry said it’s all a myth.
“All these boxer, fighter dudes who say, ‘I don’t have sex for six weeks because I’ve got to keep the energy,’ – they still whack off twice a day,” Barry told MMAjunkie earlier this year. “That’s crazy. You’re not going to have sex, but you’re going to masturbate. What’s the difference? Maybe that worked back in the day, but that’s not for everyone.”
Opponents of sex before fights, however, say that even if there is no pure science behind the belief, restraint has mental benefits, such as maintaining a strong competitive desire, and a mental discipline leading up to fights. Boxing trainer Freddie Roach said he asks his fighters to hold back for 10 days before a fight because he not only believes that sex reduces testosterone levels, but that it takes away from a fighters’ focus.
His top fighter, Manny Pacquiao, has said in published interviews that he restrains from sex for three weeks before a big fight to ensure that he maintains aggression. The once-unstoppable Pacquiao, of course, has been defeated twice in recent years, losing by a controversial decision to Tim Bradley, and then knocked out by Juan Manuel Marquez.
Still, despite, Pacquiao, Roach and the old-time boxers who reportedly restrained, the science doesn’t appear to support any clear physical benefits.
According to Men’s Health Magazine, Dr. Neil Baum, an associate clinical professor of urology at Tulane Medical School, said many people argue that sex decreases testosterone, a hormone that’s released during athletic activity.
“I’ve never seen any evidence that proves sex has an impact on testosterone levels,” he said. “So if you abstain, you won’t store up a bunch of testosterone that you can draw on later.”