For a couple years before I started taking BJJ, I would watch MMA fights. Thankfully, I had a friend who had done some amateur fighting and was rather knowledgeable on MMA in general, plus he was nice enough to put up with stupid questions from me. A month or two in, I realized that “fight weight” really only meant the weight the fighter was at when he stepped on a scale. An hour or so before and an hour or so later, he weighed more and by the fight he was much bigger. I didn’t necessarily understand why a fighter would do that, just that they do.
Now that I’ve been at Mid-America for almost a year, I still don’t understand what a fighter goes through, but I have a better idea of how little I understand. For example, I’m preparing for our in-house tournament this weekend, as well as Victory Grappling Championships the next weekend. For these two tournaments, I just have to be under 200 lbs, since I’m not going to make the cut to 175. That means I don’t have to worry about weight. But at my last tournament, I did. That meant a lot of obsessive weighing the week of, to make sure I could get in under 185. But for me, if I had missed 185, it would have just meant that I had to grapple against bigger guys (185-205 instead of 170-185.) For a fighter, though, it would mean missing his fight or at least sacrificing part of his earnings if his opponent agreed to a catch-weight.
Another thing I noticed this week is that weeks leading up to a tournament seem to take forever. I’ve already started getting a little antsy, for both the in-house and for Victory. It’s the competition, it’s always made me a little anxious. When I played little league sports, I loved the 8:30 games because it meant I didn’t have to wait all day to go play. I hated the games that started at 12 or 1 because it felt like game time was never here. (I’m sure my parents didn’t feel that way.) All week I’ve thought “Is it Friday yet?”
Then today, on Twitter, I saw a Tweet from one of the pro MMA fighters at the gym. He’s fighting on the Victory card the night of the tournament. He said “The fire within is burning violently, must contain it for 9 more days” To a larger extent, my antsyness is his life. I’ve got my job to help distract me from the question “Is it time yet?” I can go to work and think “Why is this code not working? What emails do I need to reply to?” But when he goes to “work” it’s the gym. He’s either teaching or training. Every day being in an environment that probably inspires him to fight that much more.
Finally, if I go to a tournament and lose (even lose badly) I get to go back to work on Monday and write code all day (which is something else I love to do.) But win or lose, a fighter has at least a month, and often more like 4-6 months before they fight again. That’s a lot of dedication and work involved. Because it’s not as if they take 5 months off and then train really hard for the last month. They’re training that entire time for 15-25 minutes of action (or less if they’re fortunate enough to win by stoppage.)
Since I’ve started training BJJ, my appreciation for what MMA fighters do has gone up tremendously. I never thought it was an “easy” job. Not too many easy jobs I know of involve getting punched and kicked in the face. But I hadn’t realized even a fraction of what a fighter goes through. Even now, I probably haven’t done more than scratch the surface.