Pre-Fight Psychology Routine

In the weeks before a fight

Try and familiarise yourself with the sights, sounds and even the smells that you may encounter before and during a fight.

From the noise of the crowd, the walk in, the vaseline on the eyebrows, even the smell of beer! (that’s what hit me once during a walk in to a fight).

Replicate everything as much as possibly during training – a walk in, get people to watch sparring, use vaseline and have someone wrap your hands etc.

Visualise everything as well. Spend ten minutes a day visualising the walk in, know what music you will have, visualise the referee giving instructions, then all the possible ways the fight will go.
Visualise your hand being raised at the end of the fight.

Fight Day

Heart Rate Variability

Physiology underpins emotional states, feelings and performance.

High Rate Variability is the important metric to control.


High heart rate can lead to passion and determination if it is ‘smooth’ and regular

High heart rate can lead to anxiety and fear if it is erratic.

Control Heart Rate Variability with Smooth, Rhythmic Breathing.

See video below for an outline of breathing’s effect on heart rate:

For example – Breathe 5 seconds in, pause, then breathe for 5 seconds out.
Be consistent and smooth with your breathing.

It’s not too important how long your breathe in and out for, just make it consistent.This will, in turn, keep your heart rate more consistent.

Muscular Tension

Muscular tension can cause all kinds of problems during a fight, as it will negatively impact the ‘kinetic chain’ in terms of technique, especially when it comes to striking – punching and kicking, as relaxation is required to produce maximum force.

The shoulder, jaw and psoas muscle will tend to tense up when you are anxious.

Keep the jaw relaxed and use Jacobson’s Release Technique to minimise tension.

Focus on enjoying the fight and sticking to a game plan; rather than thinking aggressive/emotional thoughts about destroying your opponent, as this will create more tension.

On fight day it can also help to listen to relaxing music, and/or binaural beats up to an hour before the fight.


Binaural beats have been around for ages, and research back in the 90s stated that they may have positive applications for human performance.

Learn to control your Emotional State

Do this by:
– Visualising positive outcomes
– Visualising success in the past
– Repeat positive mantras and self-talk

Use positive self-talk whenever necessary.

A short, calming but positive mantra can help during the warm up.  You don’t want too much ‘internal chatter’ however, as this can interrupt with flow-state.


Have a routine and Stick to it

Ever noticed how Usain Bolt, Colin Jackson and Linford Christie all have/had signature warm ups and last-minute movements before a race?

A pre-fight routine should be familiar, and practised.  Practice your routine before sparring sessions  and visualise your pre-fight preparations in your visualisation/meditation sessions in the weeks leading up to a fight.

This routine from Mindsmash’s Youtube channel may also prove helpful and informative:


What NOT to do As a Coach
Shout and insult fighters.
This will result in anxiety, low confidence.

I’ve literally witnessed a coach during an MMA fight, shouting at his fighter and calling him “shit” whilst he was stuck in side-control.

Shouting is sometimes appropriate, but only if there is no effort. If someone is just performing badly, then don’t shout; offer technical advice.

Some of the reasons why people perform and fight badly:

  • They find it more difficult to visualise success
  • Their self-talk becomes full of doubt.
  • Heart rate variability goes up and is more erratic

Coaches traditionally shout and criticise athletes, just because they are frustrated themselves.

Between rounds feedback, should give clear and concise actions.  But only one or two, as otherwise it is too much to focus on, and will take the athlete out of ‘flow state’.