10 Keys To Becoming A Great Full Contact Fighter as told to Critical Bench by Christian Walsh Wellisch - UFC Full Contact Fighter
1. Confidence. I think this is the most important asset all good fighters must have. Fighting is a mental game more than physical, and being mentally stronger than your opponent is the key to victory. But of course confidence in a fight comes from knowing that you've done everything to prepare for it. It's hard to be confident on fight day if you haven't put your work in during training. The greatest value of training is not the physical preparation but the mental. It gives you the confidence you need to know that you deserve to win. Tito Ortiz, for example exudes confidence every time he steps in the octagon.
2. Relaxation. Again, the mental attitude is more important than a fighter's physical attributes. You have to be able to relax enough so that you can concentrate on the task at hand. If you tense up you will gas out, and you will not be able to strike quickly and effectively. Getting too psyched up or not psyched enough can be equally disadvantageous. The key is to find that happy medium that allows you to fully concentrate on the fight, and get the job done. I think Fedor is a perfect example of this.
3. The "killer instinct." Although you must relax, you have to seize your opportunities and go for the finish when appropriate. Mike Swick has great instinct to know when he's got his opponent ready to finish. He then steps in and doesn't let up until the fight is over. Fighters have to be careful about this, it only comes with experience. Being too eager to go for the "kill" can get you set up for a counter, and maybe end up on the wrong end of the decision.
4. Cardio. If you don't have anything left in your gas tank, you can kiss all of your techniques goodbye. But, much like everything else in fighting, even cardio has a mental aspect. You have to know that you are in just slightly better shape than your opponent. Then you can keep pushing until he gets tired. Believe me, everyone gets tired sooner or later. But you have to have the mental strength to push through it. And this comes from the confidence and relaxation you develop through training. Fights are won in training, not in the cage. Diego Sanchez is a good example of excellent cardiovascular conditioning.
5. A solid game plan. This means you trust your corner to scout your opponent and come up with a winning strategy. Absolutely everyone can be beat, even Fedor. However, the odds are higher or lower depending on how you attack. Just like a good gambler, you bet high when the odds are in your favor and low when they are not. It may not work out every time, but in the long run you'll get the advantage. So come up with a strategy to maximize your odds in every position: top, bottom, and standing. This will mean different things depending on your opponent.
6. Quickness. This is a physical attribute that is very difficult to develop. Some athletes are blessed with natural quickness, others have to work at it or use whatever other talents they may have. But, as I mentioned above, if you are able to relax and watch your opponent you will be quicker. Many fighters concentrate so much on how they want to attack their opponent, they don't see everything he's doing. If you can relax, watch your opponent and see how he attacks or defends, your timing will be much better and you will be quicker because you will be able to anticipate his moves better. Working the focus mitts and defensive drills are one way to work on quickness. Fedor, Mike Swick, and BJ Penn have good quickness in their weight classes.
7. Leverage. You have to understand the most efficient way to apply your strength. This is the key to every submission. They all work on the same principle: isolate a joint and apply your strength in the most efficient way possible to force a tapout. Just as quickness and accuracy are essential to a good standup game, leverage is the key to a good ground game. This means lots of drilling and working on submissions so your body gets a feel for the best way to set up and apply each one. Everyone will have a slightly different way to set up and execute a submission, because we're all different physically. Noguiera is a submissions master and a well rounded fighter who no doubt understands the importance of leverage and efficiency.
8. Powerful hips. All power comes from the hips. Every punch, kick, takedown relies on core strength, and a good way to develop this is with good ol' fashioned weight training such as power cleans and squats, and also plyos and wrestling drills. Core strength and power can make your punches more powerful and your takedowns stronger, too. Quinton Jackson has some of the most powerful slams and takedowns I've ever seen, as well as Kevin Randleman. Watching their highlight reels will give you a good example of what powerful hips can do in a fight.
9. Strength. Yes, strength is an important factor but what you have to keep in mind is who is going to be stronger in the third round, after 14 minutes of fighting? A few guys are a class above the rest in terms of strength, and they have the endurance to be able to apply their strength in the later rounds as well. Matt Hughes is a good example, as well as Sean Sherk.
10. Sparring. You have to have good sparring partners, because you're only as good as the people you train with. MMA is a dangerous sport, and there are plenty of opportunities for injuries. You have to find people who are skilled enough to challenge you, but have the control not to hurt you. Sparring is very important to see how well you can apply your skills, and to work on your weaknesses. But you have to have good coaches and sparring partners so you can develop as a fighter, instead of just reinforcing bad habits, in which case sparring is actually counter-productive. Guys like Paul Buentello fine-tune their skills with plenty of sparring, working on weaknesses and analyzing their performance so that when its showtime, they are completely prepared.
"The Hungarian Nightmare"
Current UFC Fighter
Gracie Open champion
US Open BJJ Champion
CA State wrestling champion