Two weeks ago, I did the walk for the very last time. "The walk" being the walk from the locker room, through the corridors of the boxing establishment, up to the entrance where you wait for your walk-out song.
As I entered the ramp that took me to the cage, I heard the roar of the crowd and out of the thousands in attendance, the spotlight was on one person: me.
Although that fight was my last fight, I still remember my very first “walk” as if it was yesterday. Before doing MMA, I boxed and kickboxed. I had done various competitions prior to that, but nothing compares to walking to a ring, knowing that the other person who is going to be inside that ring is going to try to knock you out.
Preparing for Locker Room Jitters
For me, the most important part to prepare for is what’s commonly referred to as the locker room jitters. Those jitters have broken many men and women.
“But I’m trying to prepare for my first fight, how come you’re not talking about the training part?!” you might be thinking. Why? Because obviously you have to train and learn all your basics such as footwork, punches, combinations, defense, how to cut angles and so on (see below for a few tips).
However, with all the adrenaline pumping, there are two things you'll need above anything else when you go into your very first fight: stamina and mental preparation.
Stamina comes from getting the roadwork in (running), along with countless of rounds of heavy bag work, hitting mitts and sparring.
But how do you prepare mentally? There are two ways: hard sparring. Preferably with opponents that you don’t know, so you know what it feels like to fight a stranger.
The other way is visualization and breathing meditation. Visualize yourself doing that walk and stepping into the ring hundreds of times, so by the time you actually do it, it will feel familiar to you. The mind is a powerful tool and this will help you tremendously.
Read more: The 8 Best Cardio Kickboxing Moves
Other Helpful Pre-Fight Tips
- Do your roadwork (running). Many fighters are surprised by just how much cardio it takes to go the distance in a bout. But if you can't jog at a good pace for twice as long as your bout will last, you'll run out of gas well before the last bell rings.
- Have a game plan. Research your opponent and how to avoid his strengths and capitalize on his weaknesses. Have a basic strategy for how you'll capitalize on your own strengths while protecting your weak points.
- Be prepared to get hit. And know that it'll hurt. A lot. Regular contact drills and sparring with someone of a comparable or more advanced skill level can help take some of the shock and mystery out of getting hit for the first time in the ring.
- Make weight early. You'll need to maintain that weight over the rest of the week, but maintaining weight allows you to take in more food and fluid than losing weight. That extra food and fluid means better performance in the fight.
- Use the bathroom first. You'll be very nervous in the minutes before your first bout. One common symptom of nervousness is a false sense of needing to use the restroom. Once you've gone, you can ignore that sensation.
Now decide on a time frame with your coach, hit the road, heavy bags and mitts. Get your rounds of sparring in and get ready for the scariest, most thrilling, yet oh so rewarding, first fight!