We athletes have, hopefully, all been in the weightroom and done some heavy lifting. Moving major iron often means making noise – the glorious clangs of racking dumbbells and plates, the thumps of dropping weights at the end of strenuous sets, the grunts and laborious breathing that signify good ol’ hard work, etc. So noise is not always a bad thing. But then there are those people who make a racket simply for the sake of making a racket – for the sake of putting on a show.
My husband and I were in the gym the other day, wincing every time this one guy would throw his dumbbells down on the rack with an ear-piercing clamor. All the noise would have made more sense if he was using some big weights, but the weights he was using certainly didn’t call for this: He really had to strive to create such a loud ruckus. And he is not the only one at the gym putting on a show. Raymond, my husband, wants to tell some of these guys, “Dude, my wife lifts heavier weight than that!”
Were these guys putting on a show to compensate for a lack of ability? More than likely, and this behavior is all too common in the gym, in the workplace, in sports, and in the world in general. Is it very effective? Not really. Even if you deceive some people at first, they will eventually catch on to the truth. You usually just end up looking like a fool…with your pants on the ground.
Before relating this concept to my MMA experience, let me take this opportunity to tell one more weightroom story. As I was spotting Ray doing bench presses a few weeks ago, I noticed a younger fellow attempting to perform the same exercise at the station next to us. Several times, I almost had to abandon my husband and rush over there to help that guy. He was trying to bench about 135 pounds for high repetitions for several sets, but he could not even get two good reps out of it; however, that didn’t stop him from pushing out about ten more each time. This is what it looked like: As this nineteen or twenty year-old man struggled to push the barbell, one hand was several inches higher than the other and at the center of his chest with the other hand all the way out in the other hemisphere somewhere. It looked scary. I told him twice that if he needed a spotter, then I would be more than glad to assist. His smiling response: “Oh, no thank you. I’m just doing my light set.” I thank God that he never actually did a heavy set because he might’ve ended up needing reconstructive surgery when it was all said and done!
In an attempt to compete with my husband, who was doing sets with about twice that amount at the time, that guy could have seriously injured himself. And that’s what can come of pride and false shows. Not to mention, instead of impressing Ray, it accomplished the opposite. He said, “I would’ve been more impressed by proper form.” I reasoned that he was just young and still had time to learn that, but that hopefully he wouldn’t have to learn the hard way.
We see this in sports all the time, especially combative sports – boxing, wrestling, mixed martial arts, and such. For the most part (and there are some exceptions to the rule), the fighters who make a lot of noise – talk themselves up and/or talk others down – do so to get the attention that they cannot otherwise get with their skills. The most skilled fighters do not have to talk a lot of smack because their abilities can do all the talking for them, and they can sell tickets on those alone.
Consider the second GSP-Koscheck bout. GSP is one of those guys who could be mute and still sell shows because he is an extremely dominant welterweight, arguably the best wrestler in the UFC, and a better striker than people usually give him credit for these days. It was quite obvious from the get-go that Josh Koscheck was not going to have the wrestling, footwork, speed, explosiveness, or strength to match his opponent. (Not that Koscheck doesn’t have a reputable amount of these qualities or that he can’t be a formidable fighter, but he is just nowhere near the caliber of the current champ.) Why did this fight happen? Because GSP had wiped his division clean and needed an opponent, even if it was a rematch. So, how was Koscheck going to do his part in getting people to tune into his beating? By making the bout seem more competitive than it actually was – by talking smack. Really, it’s what he does best. It helps that Koscheck was given a huge outlet for all his talk as a coach on The Ultimate Fighter. (Plus, in a perverse desire for drama, many fans love the trash-talk. I’ve had to resist getting drawn in as well.) And what did it accomplish? Yeah, he might have sold some more Pay-Per-Views. But GSP also made him look like a tool for five rounds for not living up to all his hype. I don’t know if that would have been worth it for me.
Don’t get me wrong: It’s not like I’ve never put my foot in my mouth or allowed myself to fall victim to vanity and pride. We mortals have all made mistakes upon occasion. But I would much rather strive to be quiet, hardworking, disciplined, wise, and of good character. (Notice I say “strive,” as in I’m definitely a work in progress and not deluded into thinking myself superior in all these qualities.) I trust that improving these attributes will eventually pay off in the cage, rewarding me with the wins I seek. In the end, I can at least say that I did not set out to behave like a fool.
But I still see it all the time at MMA shows – fighters swaggering around and getting into people’s faces to try and intimidate them. And maybe some people do find this intimidating, but it just makes me laugh on the inside. It looks so ridiculous and reeks of insecurity. You see, human beings are fragile: They can so easily lose their lives in a car accident, or by cancer, or whatever. Yet some people walk around as if they could conquer the whole world by themselves, despite the fact that they know one small mistake might result in their opponents’ hands getting raised instead of their own. So if you really analyze it, it usually just goes back to insecurity. We all have to deal with and overcome insecurity issues in one way or another, but how we deal with them can make a significant difference in our lives. I’m still trying to perfect this myself – nobody said it was easy.
My help and motivation comes from God. I know that Christ calls His followers to set good examples – “the light and salt of the world” – rather than be “a stumbling block unto others.” Whether a believer or non-believer, do you feel called to try and be a good role model? For example: Ladies, as mixed martial artists or other athletes reading or featured on this site, you probably have other women or young girls look up to you as a strong female figure. Do you not feel a sort of honor and responsibility in that position to not let them down or lead them astray? And it’s not always about pleasing people – it’s more about doing right by them. (Sometimes the two are very different!) My personal suggestion: Don’t talk a lot of smack, act rude, or walk around like a punk; instead, speak carefully and wisely, behave humbly, and respectfully walk with quiet confidence. Let your abilities (and, more so, your integrity) do most of the talking. That’s what the best champions do.