Throughout my 10 years or so in Mma I’ve gone back and forth with my opinions on the ego and how important it is in Mma.
The first thing I believe that you have to do is recognize that you have one. Seems like a silly thing to say, but I think so many fighters fall foul of recognizing when their ego is doing the talking, and maybe they should give it a rest and take over for a while. But is letting your ego run away with you a bad thing and if so why? This is a very complex, convoluted question, one which I’ll do my best to answer.
First off since everyone is different, not to mention every situation is different, there isn’t any right or wrong answer.
Now, when I first started Mma I would’ve argued that I didn’t really have an ego. I knew I was a beginner, I had no illusions of grandeur and I listened and tried to learn as much as I could. I linked someone who had an “ego” as a bad thing because like most people… I link ego with arseholes (not literally as I’m not quite sure how that would work).
Because I haven’t ever classed myself as an arsehole, I didn’t think I had an ego. I’ll explain why I was wrong.
When I was training there were no real Mma clubs about so I trained the three martial arts separately, Ju Jit su, Boxing & Wrestling. I remember when I started to get a bit fitter and I’d gained a few low level wins under my belt I watched Pride. Nog vs. Fedor. I recall thinking I’m not there yet but I’m not a million miles away. When the reality was that I was really a couple of light years away!
Looking back, what I believe would have helped me was if I had been sat down and told the cold hard truth, then again if I had then I might not have even stepped foot in the ring/cage to start with.
The problem is that positive thinking can be part of the problem itself, but it will only take you so far when it comes to your ego. Reality caught up with me and let me tell you it has a hell of a right hand.
This is what I was talking about earlier. Once your ego takes a body blow, how will you react to it? When something like this happens the vast majority of fighters lose. I used to get pissed off when I detected a bullshit excuse from a fighter about losing a fight. I’d think come on now. I think it’s essential to look back see the mistake you’ve made hold your hands up and improve on them. The bullshit excuse stops the fighter from doing this and so I didn’t see any plus side in it.
These days I see things a little bit differently. Although I stick by my previous comments I now also see those ‘bullshit excuses’ are a safety device as for a lot of fighters. Bullshit excuses are an airbag that save the ego from taking too much damage. It’s needed because too much damage to the ego can really have a negative effect on a fighter’s mentality.
When it comes to fighting you have to really believe you’re going to win. If you can write off your loses with an excuse, but still train hard and improve what you need to improve, then you’re laughing.
This is why I envy some fighters out there who aren’t really too self-aware. They believe their own bullshit, which can be really helpful especially if you have a good coach who can see this and knows how to handle you with kit gloves and improves your weak areas.
Myself, I am very self-aware. For a while I thought I was TOO aware. When my trainer would say before a fight “ come on James, you’re ready for this, you’ve trained hard” I’d think no I haven’t, I’ve spent most the time at the blackjack table. That’s how I reacted to decisions that I saw as unfair back then.
I used to see this self-awareness as a disadvantage but it wasn’t. It will only work though if you’re putting the time in at the gym. You can’t spend all your time listening to Antony Robbins tapes, enter Mma and then take the title in blitz of carnage and mangled bodies.
So to sum up. It’s important to listen and learn, stay grounded and realise you’ll never know it all, but at on the other hand if you hear a fighter giving excuses you don’t believe, give him a pass. It’s a tough sport and going out fighting in front of people takes a lot mentally and physically. Sometimes a fighter needs that ‘ego air bag’.
I remember Rampage Jacksons saying in a Pride interview
” I’m not going to give you excuses for my losses, but I have an excuse for all of them”
I realised if I wanted to fight and if I couldn’t baffle myself with my own bullshit then I’d better start putting the effort in. That way, win or lose, I could be satisfied I had done everything I could.
Being injured after the Lashley fight, then having a whole array of sickness and injuries, has given me a lot of time to reflect on my career and now I’m healthy (although fat at the time of writing this) I’ve looked at my weak areas and took apart my training, so next time so you see me you’ll see a more ‘in tune’ Colossus, mentally and physically, who will be dishing out some damage and finishing the last part of his career on top…. Grrrrrrrrrr… I told you I had an ego ;)
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