In the Cage: MMA Fighters’ Experience of Competition

in The Sport Psychologist
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  • 1 University of Tennessee
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Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is a relatively new and rapidly growing sport within contemporary athletics yet, to date, it has received relatively little attention in the sport psychology literature. To shed more light on the sport, the aim of the current study was to examine the experiences of MMA fighters during sanctioned competitions. Audio-recorded phenomenological interviews were conducted with seven participants and the transcripts were qualitatively analyzed to identify emerging themes. The findings revealed that the most important aspect of fighters’ experience was the chaotic nature of MMA fights, which participants characterized as “cage reality.” The results also suggested that fighters’ arousal regulation skills are at least as important as their technical skills for performance success. Taken together, the present findings extend previous research on MMA and suggest several implications for sport psychology consultants interested in working with fighters.

Jensen, Roman, Shaft, and Wrisberg are with the Dept. of Kinesiology, Recreation, and Sport Studies, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN. Jensen is now with the Center for Enhanced Performance, United States Military Academy, West Point, NY. Shaft is now with the Dept. of Athletics, Bethune-Cookman University, Daytona Beach, FL.

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