With the sport of mixed martial arts still being so young and training still evolving, we could see a major shift in the next couple years.
Many fighters have gone on record to say that they were doing a lot less sparring during the time they spend in the gym. At times, this is simply due to general wear and tear on the body, however fighters are also becoming more aware of issues associated with brain injuries when it comes to heavy sparring.
Obviously, if you are new to the sport, then sparring is beneficial to the growth of a fighter. It can improve your timing and make you feel more comfortable inside a cage. Without a doubt, taking a heavy body shot or solid leg kick in sparring can help a younger fighter.
But is this something UFC athletes need to be doing on a daily basis?
Sometimes fighters are wired differently and don’t see the bigger picture. They don’t think of future longevity. Some fighters may have a lot riding on a upcoming fight. They may feel the need to put in more hours at the gym in order to gain an extra edge. What if, for example, you don’t spar as hard as you normally would and lose? No one wants to feel like they could have done more to win a fight. Thus, A lot of fear and anxiety surrounds the prospect of ‘light’ sparring.
This is a mentality birthed through stubbornness; an unwillingness to change from old school practices that should evolve with time.
As more studies are done on aging fighters, and we increase our understanding of brain health, we should see the ‘Conor McGregor’ approach to training become more prevalent.
According to John Kavanagh, head coach of Conor McGregor, “Training sessions should be about upgrading your software without damaging your hardware.”
While this may seem fairly obvious, ‘practice’ and ‘theory’ are rarely in sync. And yet, you can’t have the former without first developing the latter. Here’s to those that heed this warning. Here’s to fighters that save their wars for the Octagon and keep them out of the gyms. Here’s to everyone who treats practice like practice and competition like competition. And here’s to those that are willing to evolve.
It’s an age old concept; one that is as important today as it ever was before.
Adapt and survive.