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MMA Psychologist James Barraclough talks McGregor`s mentality ahead of Diaz rematch

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McGregor

Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz will meet for the second time on August 20th at UFC 202 in the T-Mobile arena Las Vegas in what is being anticipated as the biggest fight of the year. McGregor has gained a reputation for his trash talking and bold predictions so much so he has been compared to the great Muhammad Ali on multiple occasions. McGregor has constantly talked about his mentality being bulletproof and how he approaches the game differently to every fighter on the roster. However after losing the first fight to Diaz last March how will McGregor approach the rematch mentally? We talked to sports MMA psychologist James Barraclough the author of the MMA Sport Psychology Manual to get his take on McGregor’s mental approach.

 

Barraclough believes the loss to Diaz will have a positive effect on McGregor’s mind-set and says McGregor possess traits familiar with some of the best athlete’s in the world.

It could definitely be a positive. Looking at his comments on BJ Penn’s website McGregor looks like he is demonstrating a sub-conscious trait that a lot of top athletes show called a self-serving bias. This means that these athletes will use what is essentially a defence mechanism by blaming something in the run up to their performance for their loss. In McGregor’s case this was linked to his pre-fight nutrition:

“I am forever, forever learning,” McGregor told ESPN. “I think in the last fight [against Nate Diaz in March], I mismanaged my weight. I was working with my nutritionist for the lightweight title fight to make 155 pounds. I was on track. Nine days out from the fight, I’m in phenomenal condition, and then the weight got changed [to 170] and all of a sudden I’m 10 pounds below and I’m like, I don’t need this diet because I need to eat up to the weight. So I threw that out. I disengaged from that. I started eating two steaks a day, two breakfasts. I’d have a coffee and some cookies with that, please, also. I’d be in the gym six to eight hours on fight week. I’ve got bags of energy. I can do this all day. But it came back and bit me in the ass. My body went into shock. I over trained and then mismanaged the weight, and it came back to bite me on the ass.”

This may look like he is making excuses, but from a psychological point of view this is most definitely a positive. He is refusing to blame any lack of ability on his part and is ‘attributing’ failure to external and unstable factors according to Weiner’s Attribution Theory (1985):

barra

 

This is essential to an athlete’s confidence. The first statement about “forever learning” also demonstrates what is known as a ‘growth mind-set’ (Dweck, 2006) and shows that he is using the experience as a positive learning opportunity instead of as a setback. This is also a huge factor in motivation and maintaining high self-confidence. In the short-term it may well have ‘brought him down to Earth’, but from the reports this was in a good way as it has helped him identify ways to improve and he has taken appropriate action to do so. The situation reminds me a little of Lennox Lewis’ two fights against Hasim Rahman, where in the first fight he was perhaps a little overconfident and perhaps even complacent. His loss gave him a ‘kick up the backside’ and huge motivation for revenge, which would have driven his efforts in training.

McGregor has also (allegedly) come under criticism from sparring partner Chris van Heerden for having a video of them training together “cut to make McGregor look good”. This may well be the case, but again this would be good for McGregor’s confidence. This is a visualisation technique used by sport psychologists known as ‘performance accomplishments’, otherwise known as a personal highlights reel to remind them of how good they can be. This is less about trying to make van Heerden look bad and more about enhancing McGregor’s belief; it would make no sense whatsoever in putting in bits where the former had the upper hand. It may have been useful to discuss any perceived mistakes/weaknesses in the post-mortem of the first fight (such as what went wrong –for example, how did McGregor get into the situation where Diaz got his back and choked him and how could this be prevented next time) for this to be used in the tactical approach to the next one. Then this would not be mentioned as the second fight comes around – any important tactical/psychological elements should have been covered in the training camp. Another visualisation technique (mental rehearsal) could then be used for McGregor to ‘practice his lines’ – his tactics for the upcoming fight.

 

Many people argue that Diaz will also have the upper hand in the rematch given the fact he only had eleven days’ notice for the fight but will the fact Diaz will have a full camp have any impact on McGregor`s mental preparation for the rematch?

I think this depends on how his coaching team handle the situation. Again, going back to Attribution theory, if they attribute McGregor’s loss to external/unstable factors then they can do the same with Diaz being victorious i.e. ‘he got lucky’.

So what will a second loss to Diaz do to affect McGregor`s confidence?

This could be an issue in the short-term as any top athlete is affected by losing. However, if he applies what I believe to be his approach to his initial loss to Diaz, then in the long-term it can make him an even better performer. He could also attribute a potential loss to external/unstable factors such as task difficulty (i.e. fighting out of his ‘normal’ weight), rather than ability.

Dana White has constantly said McGregor was obsessed with this rematch at the same weight. Why do you think that is? After the first fight he replayed the fight 20 times before attending the post-fight press conference. What does this show about his mentality? Is this obsession a positive mentality?

There is a good chance that McGregor has perfectionist tendencies (as many, many top athletes do). There are clearly documented links between perfectionism and obsessive behaviour. This may explain his drive to avenge his first loss and why he wants to do it at the same weight. Perfectionists have an inability to accept mistakes and will strive relentlessly to put them right. This can potentially be detrimental if it becomes all-consuming. Rugby union player Jonny Wilkinson has been noted as missing one or two kicks in training and then having to stay for hours to ‘put it right’. This can have negative effects in terms of potential overtraining leading to injury and possibly even burnout and retirement. On the other hand, it won England the Rugby World Cup in 2003! It really depends again on how he is managed by his team and most importantly how he manages himself.

Conor McGregor takes on Nate Diaz at UFC 202 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. For all the latest news in the world of MMA make sure to follow MMA Latest News on Facebook and Twitter.

 

 

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Stipe Miocic vs. Francis Ngannou Official for UFC 220

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UFC 220 in Boston, Massachusetts has its main event. Stipe Miocic (17-2) will put his belt on the line for the third time against rising heavyweight star, Francis Ngannou (11-1)

Rumors surrounded the match-up for UFC 220 after Ngannou’s first round knockout over Alistair Overeem, at UFC 218. The Cameroonian heavyweight called for the fight himself. In his octagon interview proceeding his most recent victory, Ngannou stated:

“I’m feeling good… I’m on my way to a title shot”.

The heavy handed Ngannou has finished all of his opponents in all of his six UFC bouts. A streak which includes a kimura submission over Anthony Hamilton and a TKO victory against former UFC heavyweight champion, Andrei Arlovski. Overall, he holds a ten fight win streak. His only defeat came by way of unanimous decision to Zoumana Cisse, in his second professional MMA fight.

If victorious, Ngannou would become the first African-born champion in UFC history.

Not to be diminished, Stipe Miocic rides his a streak of his own into the beantown match-up. Five consecutive wins, five knockouts and the past four of which, ended in the first round. A victory in Boston for the champ would make him the longest reigning heavyweight champion in UFC history. Currently, Miocic is one of three heavyweights, in the promotions entirety, whom has successfully defended the belt twice.

UFC 220 will be held at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts on January 20th, 2018. The pay-per-view (PPV) card will also feature light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier, as he faces challenger Volkan “No Time” Oezdemir.

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Ladies Fight Night 7: “Double Trouble” Preview

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Polish women’s federation Ladies Fight Night is going to celebrate their second birthday this year on the 15th to 17th of December. Two days, two events with a lot of great bouts.

LFN in Poland is being titled the new Invicta FC. The Polish owners created this federation to give European women a chance to fight on a big platform.

Hosting their first ever event in December 2015, LFN will hold two great cards next week, that will feature women who have fought under many prestigious promotions, such as the UFC, Invicta, Bellator, Glory, and Kunlun.

Two days of fantastic fights, intensified by a double dose of sports impressions. The name is not accidental, LFN 7 / LFN 8 combines two events, during which the best Polish fighters will be shown, as well as the best fighters from Europe (including France, Sweden, Italy, the Czech Republic and Romania)

The stakes are high, and we are electrified by the clashes between warriors such as Żaneta Cieśla vs Silvia La Notte and Patricia Axling vs. Cindy Silvestri. Mainly due to their vastness of their experience in the cage.

In the fight of the evening, the talented Romanian Cristina Stanciu will face Magdaléna Šormovádo. Stanciu fought twice in the UFC, but she was unfortunately cut from the promotion after suffering consecutive losses to Cortney Casey and Maryna Moroz.

Judyta Rymarzak vs Marta Waliczek is an amazing fight between two experienced kickboxers. Both making their pro MMA debuts on the night, we will witness a one-of-a-kind duel between two kickboxing perfectionists, as they look to transcend their skills into the MMA world.

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Invicta

Mackenzie Dern victorious in Invicta debut 

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Late Friday night, Mackenzie Dern (5-0, 1-0 Invicta FC) won her co-main event booking, defeating Kaline Medieros (8-6, 2-2 Invicta FC), at Invicta FC 26: Maia vs. Niedzwiedz, via submission (armbar) with only fifteen seconds remaining in the fight.

Much of the fight was controlled by Dern. The heralded prospect displayed her power, visibly damaging her opponent with multiple overhand rights. Striking is an under-developed aspect of her attack, only when compared to the twenty-four-year-olds black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Above all, she showed a progression of her striking skills. Dern looked to be bigger and physically stronger than her veteran opponent. She utilized forward pressure and found the proper timing for her overhand right throughout.

The veteran Medeiros showed her toughness throughout the fight. She defended and scrambled out of some bad positions during the grappling exchanges. Ultimately, she tapped when caught in a deeply planted armbar.  While Medeiros did earn a few hard trip takedowns, it factored minimally in the result as she refused to follow Dern to the mat. The Boston native suffered her second straight loss, Friday night. Her first was to, former Invicta strawweight champion, Angela Hill.

Dern made her professional debut in July of 2016 with Legacy Fighting Alliance (previously: Legacy Fighting Championship). In her debut, she defeated Kenia Rosas by unanimous decision. The Phoenix-born fighter won her next three bouts. Before her MMA career began, Dern won the ADCC (Abu Dhabi Combat Club) championship at 60 kg. She was the first American born female to become champion at the weight. Her grappling resume boasts many more incredible accomplishments. Justifiably, a growing spotlight now hangs over her, her skills, and potential in the sport of MMA.

Elsewhere on the Invicta 26 card, Jennifer Maia defeated Agnieszka Niedzweidz by unanimous decision. Maia retained her Invicta flyweight belt, defending it for the second time. Invicta FC 26: Maia vs. Niedzweidz, took place at the Scottish Rite Temple in Kansas City, Missouri.

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