Preparing for your first fight can be pretty stressful, as your head is constantly spinning just thinking about what to expect.
It’s really hard, as you probably haven’t done anything similar to it before. Consciously accepting and then taking to months prepare for a fist fight -- who does that??
It can be hard to know exactly how to prepare for your first fight: should you focus on cardio, technique, strength...?
Well, the answer to that question is usually to just listen to what your coach tells you, as you probably aren’t the only fighter they’ve brought to their first fight. But even if you’re doing everything your coach tells you to do, you’re probably still thinking about even more things to do so you can guarantee that win. The struggle never ends.
That being said, let’s talk about some things you should do in preparation for your first Muay Thai fight to make it less stressful and much more constructive for your overall Muay Thai career.
Make 110% Sure That You're Ready
This is talking in more of a technical and skill sense right now, but we will touch on the physical conditioning aspect in a bit.
Before I had my first official amateur Muay Thai fight, I was offered the chance to take an exhibition match (exhibitions are what we call "smokers" in Canada) with about five or six months of training behind me.
Did I want to take the fight? Yes. Did I agree to it? Yes. Was I ready? Oh, hell no.
Luckily for me, my coaches saw this and pulled me out of the fight, to the annoyance of the gym owner who was hosting the event, which also happened to be the gym that provided the Muay Thai coaches for my gym. Sticky situation...
I still wasn’t ready about a year after that when I took another exhibition match while training at a different gym. I got beat, hard. Gassed out less than thirty seconds in with two and a half more two-minute rounds ahead of me. The nerves killed me.
I’m glad about that experience, though, as it clued me into how important cardio is. About one year after that, I took a real amateur match and, despite my past bad experience, I knew I was ready.
Why do I tell you this? It's because most of us are eager to get a fight, but if there is a part of you that is seriously saying, "don’t take it!", especially for your first fight, I recommend stepping back and thinking about it.
How are you doing in sparring? How do you feel in training cardio-wise? How does your technique feel to you? How about your power? How long have you been training, and how much extra time outside of training are you willing to put in to not only make sure that you’re ready, but that you can win?
These are all questions you need to consider before signing on the dotted line.
I strongly recommend only considering taking fights after one year of consistent training, particularly if you have no experience in other combat sports competition.
Study Sports Psychology
This is something that fighters, analysts and coaches of combat sports have been talking a lot about in recent years. It's also something that I have only recently (like, as in within these past few months) found out how important it is.
It’s normal for fighters to doubt themselves in the lead-up to and right before their matches, but sports psychology can help deal those thoughts, and the anxiety, and the nervousness you will feel going into your fight.
There are a lot of books and apps that you can use to help train your mind so that you can be ready to handle those situations. Muay Thai Guy recommends the Primed Mind app, which is a fantastically powerful mind-changing tool to have in your pocket. In terms of reading, I recommend The Mental Athlete and Sports Psychology For Dummies, both of which you can find on Amazon.
Meditation and Visualization
I personally recommend practicing daily meditation and visualization in the lead-up to your fight.
There are many methods for meditation and visualization that all have their benefits; what you need to do is find out which ones work for you and what you can do consistently. Just doing one or both of these once a day for 10 minutes is good enough, as it will help you calm down and focus on the task at hand - your fight.
I remember in the hours before my first amateur match me and my training partner were sitting in against a wall in the hallway of a banquet hall (where most Muay Thai matches are held in Ontario) with our eyes closed, both of us visualizing our matches with dozens of fighters and coaches walking and chatting around us. We did this for maybe an hour and a half, did I fall asleep during that time, possibly but I don’t know.
I believe that this played a huge part in me winning my first fight.
Be In Shape
When I say be in shape, I don’t just mean have abs; I mean to be able to go at least three rounds in sparring easy. This is because when you get in there, every move you make is gonna take a lot more energy than it usually does, especially if it’s your first real amateur fight.
This means that you need to get your miles in and start running well in advance or else it’s not worth it.
Remember that you should also get in sprints but just twice a week at most. If you are a fan of sports-specific conditioning, then get in a ton of rounds on the bag. I recommend doing double the amount of time that your match is going to be. So if your fight is 3 x 3-minute rounds, then go for 6 x 3-minute rounds.
Training for your first fight should be a serious, focused task that maximizes time/energy put into your preparation.
Remember: HAVE FUN!
This fight is going to be hard, but it’s going to be a lot harder if you don’t remember that you love doing this. Muay Thai is fun and, ultimately, the reason that you took the fight, or at least the reason you should have when taking a fight, is because you love Muay Thai, and you want to show off just how good you are at it, and how much it means to you.
Out of everything on this list, this is the most important, because you can do or be everything else on this list, but if you don’t want to fight and you aren’t enjoying the process overall, you are never gonna perform your best. Learn to love what you do!
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