Pre-fight talk, weight training, sparring, mental preparation, weight cutting; just some of what is expected of a fighter before going into a fight. But let's look at one of those aspects in particular: mental preparation.
A fighter must ask himself a very obvious question: What is it that I want to accomplish, when I go out there? Many obvious answers may come to mind such as win, leave everything in the Octagon, put on a show, execute my game plan, etc. But it is very easy to simply say, or think that you are going to do all of these things, and another to actually succeed.
Certain aspects may become more of a priority in the mind of a fighter, most notably the desire to win, no matter the cost. At the end of one's career fights against opponents are seen as simple letters W, L, D, or NC. This is not how it should be (although how true it may be). A fighter's career should be based on their performance in the ring, rather than just a simple look at their fight record. Look at the example of Akiyama. He has been in some very tough and close fights since joining the UFC, but holds just a 1-2 record since. This record should not take away from the caliber of fighter he is as he puts on great competitive fights. This is the very reason why he is not in danger of losing his job compared to someone who may have the same record, but less than impressive fights. Let's say Jon Fitch lost three fights in a row, that were boring 3 round decisions. Perhaps he may get cut, or more likely not to be feature on a main card at all (resulting in a lot less money for him). Plain and simple, performing at a high competitive level will keep you employed, despite a few losses in a row. For fighters at a stylistically non-appealing disadvantage, the only real option for them is to win.
Let's continue to use Jon Fitch as an example. His last loss was to the current welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre (GSP), and hasn't lost since. A championship rematch was sure to be in his future. He then steps in to face BJ Penn to receive a controversial draw on his record. From the standpoint of Dana White, why should he bother trying to sell a title fight with a guy who doesn't give the vast majority of fans what they want to see? Now he has an excuse not to. Fitch didn't win, so now he falls down the ladder (albeit he shouldn't have). BJ Penn is in a possible title eliminator fight with Carlos Condit, and he just recently moved up to 170 pounds. Why is this? Because BJ has been well known to put on great fights, and with that comes fans wanting to see his fights. It would be much easier to sell a fight for Dana and he realizes this. For someone like Jon Fitch, who has put in countless, successful training camps to not get a title shot or at least be in the same position as BJ, has got to get Frustrating.
So the question we have to ask right now is directed toward the fighter. What matters the most to you: What the fans and management think of you, or what you think of yourself? Jon Fitch, GSP, and other fighters getting ridiculed for their style have to think to themselves that if they're winning fights that they are better than all of their opponents that they have faced, regardless of how they defeated them. So what is more important: The money and praise, or knowing and being confident that your abilities are great?
There is a lot more that can be said regarding not so well known fighters and fighters in other promotions, which is why I'm going to leave it to you guys again, leave some comments on this post and perhaps your opinion(s) on the situation as a whole. (Part 3 if there is a calling for it) Thanks for reading, and as always....have nice day.
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