Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Surviving my first MMA fight

About a month ago, I traveled to the fair land of Delaware to make my MMA debut. (Sorry it has taken me so long to write about it. I've been a total blogger slacker lately). Taking a fight is something I decided to do about a year ago to push myself as a martial artist. I had no plans to ever fight on a high level or for the long term. But a) I'm not someone who gets into street fights and b) I'm fortunate enough to have never (yet) needed to use jiu jitsu for self defense. So I wanted to take a fight at least once as a chance to really test my jiu jitsu against someone who wanted to punch me in the face.

It took me a long time to find an opponent. I wanted to fight locally, in one of the Bull City Brawl events, but was having no luck finding someone to fight. So when this fight came up, even though it was 6+ hours away, I jumped at the chance.

Training camp was 50% painful, 25% hungry, miserable, carb-deprived, and 25% adrenaline rush.

I got beat up a lot:

But when I got home each night and soaked in my epsom salt bath, I would feel a pretty deep sense of accomplishment. Like man, I can't believe I made it through that and I'm still in one piece! It was an unexpected rush.

My teammates talked to me about how I would feel as my fight approached. They said that nerves hit everyone, and that as I stepped into the cage I was going to feel so much adrenaline that I would not be able to think. I would only be able to act on instinct, which meant I had to drill everything a thousand times, until it became muscle memory. So that's what I sought out to do. I got to the gym early and drilled a LOT. And I sparred a lot. And slept a lot. And ate a lot - psych! I wished.

I made it through training camp in one piece and woke up early the morning before my fight, expecting to freak out.  I had a long day ahead of me - I had to cut 8 pounds of water, drive more than 6 hours, make weigh ins, recover, refuel, and rest up for the next day. Having never cut that much water before, I had no idea how long it would take, so I erred on the side of caution. My coach and I decided that I should cut it before, rather than after, my long drive. The water cut turned out to be easier than I had feared. After a week of hyper-hydration and sodium restriction, it came off quickly in an insanely hot epsom salt bath. Boom! I was ready to hit the scale in just a couple hours.

On the downside, being this dehydrated made my drive to Delaware miserable. On the upside, it distracted me to the point that I wasn't nervous at all about my fight. My brain focused on one thing and one thing only ... W A T E R.

After weigh ins, I drank and ate (still cleanly) to my heart's content. I woke up the next morning feeling great. And I still wasn't nervous! For whatever reason, I seemed to be immune to first-time-cage-fighter's-nerves. I spent a restful day at the local mall, shopping, relaxing, and thinking there was something wrong with me.Why was I so calm? I bought a pretty, new sweater that I found on sale. I ate a frozen yogurt. I totally kept my cool...

...Until I arrived on site, a few hours before the event started. That's when reality hit.


I still felt confident enough. I knew that I had put my work in. My thoughts were filled with positive self-talk. But my heart raced at about twice its normal speed. And no matter how many yoga breaths I took, it refused to chill. My heartbeat knew - I was about to get into the cage with a woman who wanted to hurt me.

I got my hands wrapped and paced around the locker room listening to my Lil' Wayne, until finally it was go time. My entry music played and I walked into the cage ready to go. Having come from so far, I had a small but very dedicated crew there to support me and they made as much noise as they could. But my opponent was the hometown favorite, and when she walked in, the crowd exploded in cheers. I tried to channel my inner villain. I put on my meanest game face [reader, don't be skerred!].

The fight was intense and lasted all three rounds. I got take downs every round but my opponent had great jiu jitsu and was also tough as nails. As much as I tried, I was unable to get a finish by submission or by strikes.

In the end, I won by unanimous decision. And our fight won fight of the night! I was ecstatic! It was an amazing experience and I went home floating on an MMA high. I wanted to fight again as soon as possible!

Once I got home and back to reality, however, my enthusiasm for fighting dampened. I always swore I wouldn't be one of those people that only trained MMA when I had a fight coming up, but gosh darned it, I was suddenly having a hard time motivating myself to go get punched in the face. My sporty jiu jitsu game was also feeling the effects of being put on back burner for a few months.  

So, for now, it's nice to focus back on rolling tournament style. When the time comes, I think I'd like to take 1 more MMA fight, this time in my home state. I'm in no rush, though!