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The Mental Game Of Mixed Martial Arts

Smart MMA Competitors Use Mental Coaching As Their Secret Weapon.
How About You?

Bill Cole, MS, MA

Miriam Nakamoto, world kickboxing champion, with Mental Game Coach Bill ColeI am the mental game coach to mixed martial arts competitors and other combat sports athletes. I greatly admire their training ethic, and their competitive fire and passion for their sport. Recently, one of my former clients, Miriam Nakamoto, won her fourth world kickboxing championship, and became the first U.S. woman to hold the WBC Muay Thai World title. Another MMA client, Jesse Gillespie, fought on TV at the Playboy Mansion, and later won the California State MMA Championships.

How about you? Do you train your mind as hard as you train your body? Is your mind an ally or an enemy when you step into the ring? Old school fighters either ignore the mental game or take it for granted. They even almost consider it some kind of voodoo or superstition to even discuss it, in partial fear of being considered mentally weak.

Modern fighters embrace mental toughness. They know they must have the mental resiliency and hardiness that comes from mental training. They know that when they step into the ring, the octagon or onto the mat, they must be able to answer a major, critical question. Am I ready mentally, emotionally, physically and tactically? Confidence is the name of the game in MMA, and mental training can give you that golden currency.

I want to share with you some of the mental training methods I use with these combat sport competitors that shows you how you can be ready, at all levels.

Seven MMA Mental Toughness Training Methods

1. Give Yourself Permission To Win: You must believe in yourself, and give yourself every chance to win, before you fight. To win for real, you must first win in your own mind. If you can't do that, winning for real is very, very difficult. When you give yourself permission to win, you open up your belief in yourself and set positive energy in motion. The mental game of mixed martial arts tells you to be good to yourself and give yourself permission to succeed.

2. Come To Terms With Losing: This does not mean to give up, or to give in. It means to realize that you no longer accept the fear of losing, or the fear of failure to hold any power over you any longer. To do this, you must realize that the possibility of losing always exists, and that if it happens, you will still be able to come back another day and fight again. Life will go on. The mental game of mixed martial arts tells you to realize that there is life beyond your sport.

3. Tremendous Trust Comes From Terrific Training: Most people don't plan to fail. They simply fail to plan. You earn confidence by training hard and realizing that if you worked that hard, you simply are not willing to give up or give it partial effort when you compete. Your investment is too great. The mental game of mixed martial arts tells you to invest in yourself.

4. Surrender To The Moment: This means when you compete, to trust your training, get out of your own way, and let go so a fabulous performance can flow out of you. Trying to retain conscious, effortful control is a blueprint for disaster. Letting go is key. The mental game of mixed martial arts tells you to let go and step into the zone.

5. Create A Focus Funnel: You need to bridge from your normal world to your special world of MMA fighting. This is called getting your game face on, step by step. You leave one world behind and you enter the special world of fighting, where your need for focus and energy is deeper and more pronounced. To do that, you need a mental readiness plan. The mental game of mixed martial arts tells you to sharpen focus to your special world.

6. Be The Calm In The Center Of The Storm: While there is chaos, turmoil and frenetic energy flying in all directions at a fight, backstage and walking through the crowd, you are the calm center of that tornado. You learn this by grounding and centering yourself. The mental game of mixed martial arts tells you to find poise and confidence, no matter what is happening.

7. Make A Commitment: When it comes to a successful career, those who have staying power see things through. Others who give up easily at the first sign of trouble are never heard from again. Commitment helps you stay the course when you have a bad day at the gym or in a fight. You won't pull the plug or give up in the face of adversity. The mental game of mixed martial arts tells you to honor your agreement with yourself.

The Mental Game Of Mixed Martial Arts Is Your Special Edge

How successful do you want to be in your sport? How hard are you willing to train? Are you willing to train ALL of you, including your mind and your emotions? You must slay your mental dragons before you encounter your opponent. You do that with the help of a mental training program. The mental game of mixed martial arts tells you to cover all your bases.

I ask all my fighters this question. "When your foot hits that canvas, can you say with conviction that you prepared 100%?" If you can answer yes, you are ready, no matter what. You have done all you can do. That is what I want for you, to be able to say "Yes!" No regrets, just peace of mind that you did all you could do. Then you let the results take care of themselves.

The mental game of mixed martial arts tells you to think like a champion, feel like a champion, and behave like a champion.

See you in the gym! And in the winner's circle!

For a comprehensive overview of your mental abilities you need an assessment instrument that identifies your complete mental strengths and weaknesses. Here is a free, easy-to-take 65-item sport psychology assessment tool you can score right on the spot. This assessment gives you a quick snapshot of your strengths and weaknesses in your mental game. You can use this as a guide in creating your own mental training program, or as the basis for a program you undertake with mental coach Bill Cole, MS, MA to improve your mental game. This assessment would be an excellent first step to help you get the big picture about your mental game.

Copyright © 2010 Bill Cole, MS, MA. All rights reserved.

Bill Cole, MS, MA, a leading authority on peak performance, mental toughness and coaching, is founder and President of the International Mental Game Coaching Association, Bill is also founder and CEO of William B. Cole Consultants, a consulting firm that helps organizations and professionals achieve more success in business, life and sports. He is a multiple Hall of Fame honoree, an award-winning scholar-athlete, published book author and articles author, and has coached at the highest levels of major-league pro sports, big-time college athletics and corporate America. For a free, extensive article archive, or for questions and comments visit him at

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