Being in a committed relationship with a fighter is uniquely challenging. Relationships can be an all-out battle all on their own without having the added stress of preparing for an intense physical confrontation. This gets especially difficult during the period leading up to a competitive event.
If you are the significant other of a combat sport athlete there are a few things that you should be aware of as you buckle in for the fight-time rollercoaster. Your understanding really is crucial to the survival of the relationship.
1. This is Dangerous
This is not golf, swimming or bowling. Though not extremely likely, people can die doing what we do. The degree of danger associated with MMA is important to understand because if you don’t respect the seriousness of what we are doing we will have a hard time taking you seriously as well.
There are precautions in place to minimize the damage we sustain. This includes all of the rules in place for the actual bout, pre-fight blood tests and sometimes MRI/CT scans depending on the promotion. There are doctors cage-side and we have gone through countless hours learning how to protect ourselves.
Don’t freak out! Just know what we are working with. The best way to be supportive of this dangerous sport is to just put all of our protective gear in one spot so we can grab it on our way out the door, and kiss us quickly as we leave for practice.
2. This is Exhausting
Fight camp training is grueling to say the least. If you haven’t come in to watch a practice or two maybe you should do so to get an understanding of how we are spending our gym time. Conditioning, sparring, bull-rings . . . we are literally getting beat up. There is a reason we don’t want to go out tonight.
The best way to be supportive is to help pick up the slack where we are failing (because we will be failing in some areas.) Simple things like making the bed and doing the dishes can be excruciatingly draining after a long day of practice. If you can possibly get to it, please do!
3. We Can’t Focus on You
If we didn’t hear what you said, or you told us once already and we forgot please don’t take it personally. Yes, we have been hit it the head a lot. Yes, we are working on blocking those shots. But it is difficult to focus on much of anything else as the fight approaches. This includes you.
Understand that you are still very important in more ways than we have the energy to say. Don’t ever think that you are coming in second behind our teammates. And if we haven’t given you a reason to worry about “groupies,” don’t be. It may feel like we love the gym more than you. That isn’t the case, but we need to be there. Not training is not an option.
We want to be there for you, but know that it may be a stretch. If you are freaking out because you chipped a nail or your hair color didn’t come out right, expect that we may not share your reaction.
Be patient and let us talk when we need to talk, but let us sit silently when communication is just too much.
4. We are Hangry (Hungry & Angry)
“Do not feed the fighter.” We are going to be hungry. The weight cut is one of the most difficult parts of fight preparation for a lot of fighters. Just like a Snickers commercial, we are also going to be cranky because we are hungry. Don’t hand us a Snickers!
This also includes the potential dehydration period, which may be necessary during the last week leading up to the event. Please don’t say “Well, can you just have____?” If we could we would and you reminding us that we can’t doesn’t help.
Unless you know exactly what we should be eating (and there should be a conversation about this), please don’t feed us and don’t cook food that smells amazing when you know we can’t eat it. If you do know exactly what our intake requirements are and you can take care of the preparation, then you seriously rock! Please respond accordingly.
5. Space is Crucial
A lot of fighters spend an increased amount of time alone (when not with the team) participating in activities like deep prayer and meditation, running, stretching or other things that provide an opportunity for visualization and focus. This is hard to accomplish with someone next to you.
At the end of the day, despite the help of you, our coaches and our teammates, this is a solo sport and we will be in that cage alone. Give us the chance to work things out in that same introverted head space that we reside in once the cage door locks.
We may also need space on fight night. The less distractions the better, but don’t worry. We can’t wait to celebrate with you after the victory!
Most of us understand that is is tough to be in a relationship with a fighter, and we will try to make it worth your while.