There is an old cliche which suggests that fighting is 90% mental and 10% physical.
Although the percentages can vary slightly from utterance to utterance, the key point remains – one’s success in the actual physical act is impacted massively by psychological factors.
In this context, confidence is usually the thing most associated with successful combat sports athletes, although the ability to draw emotional responses from foes while simultaneously maintaining calm can also come in handy.
Confidence can be a tricky thing though, especially in sports like boxing and MMA, wherein hype tends to combine with inflated self-belief to create egotism and feelings of invincibility with much greater regularity than in other sports. Overconfidence however, is not a desireable trait when one inhabits a world in which even a momentary lapse in concentration can lead to the most sudden, dramatic, and cruel of reality checks.
The history of combat sports is thus littered with examples of hyped-up, overconfident, once seemingly irresistible fighters receiving unexpected and devastating comeuppances.
In recent months, the UFC has seen it’s two biggest stars fall, and many feel that a familiar blend of factors was at play in their demises.
Ronda Rousey was being compared to a prime Mike Tyson such was the destructive nature of her tear through the admittedly underwhelming ranks of the UFC women’s bantamweight division. Ironically, that comparison became most apt when her streak came to a brutal conclusion at the hands and, more prominently, the feet of Holly Holm at UFC 193 last November.
A few months later, Conor McGregor had the audacity to jump to welterweight, albeit to face a natural lightweight in Nate Diaz, but his hubris-tinged bravery landed him with his first UFC defeat via second round submission.
However, one major UFC star who has resisted the temptation to buy into his own hype, despite having many a reason to do so, is former light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones. That’s what he claims at least, and he is attributing the longevity of his winning ways to this very thing.
“I try to exude confidence and I try to be confidence,” Jones said at a media luncheon in Los Angeles on Tuesday. “Even when I’m not confident, I pretend to be confident. It’s important. But I know that I can be beat and I think that’s why I haven’t been beat, where some of these guys really start to believe their hype (Transcription via MMAFighting)”.
“Ronda Rousey, they were saying she’s the best fighter of all time and best athlete in the world, stuff like that. And I was happy for her to hear those types of accolades, but once I realized that maybe she was starting to believe it herself, I knew she was in a dangerous spot. Conor McGregor saying these things about just being the baddest dude and ‘I’ll beat anybody at any weight class,’ that’s foolish stuff. When you believe the hype to that level, that’s when you’re in danger”.
Jones, who faces Daniel Cormier for the light-heavyweight title in the main event of UFC 200, has only lost once in his entire professional career, and that was by disqualification to Matt Hamill all the way back in 2009. Less than two years later he scooped the 205lb belt by eviscerating Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua and went on to rack eight successful defences.
The only reason he will find himself in the role of challenger on July 9th is that he was stripped of the title for transgressions outside the octagon.
But dominance has not entirely erased doubt, and Jones wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I talk about being confident in winning all the time, but the reason why I tend to always win is because at the end of the day I’m more nervous than any other fighter,” Jones said, “and it causes me to spend every night until 3 o’clock in the morning just on my laptop watching the same damn fight over and over again with a notebook, thinking about the ways I can lose, thinking about what I need to do. That’s really what I attribute to being undefeated all these years, just how seriously take it and how much I don’t know. It gives me power”.
“I think I owe not losing to losing. I lose a lot in practice. There’s a lot of guys who are on my team currently, a lot of guys on my team who aren’t in the UFC who can beat me on any given day. I get taken down all the time in practice. I get hit pretty hard. I get tapped out all the time in practice. To the fans and other fighters, they probably look at me as close to unbeatable. Whereas if you spend time, you see that I’m definitely not a guy that wins every day. I just got beat in a 5-mile run by a kid that’s like 16, 15 years old. So, I know that I’m not unbeatable”.
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