Coach Firas Zahabi’s Method for Not Getting Nervous Fighting in Front of a Crowd

Coach Firas Zahabi’s Method for Not Getting Nervous Fighting in Front of a Crowd

How do you feel before a BJJ match, especially in front of a crowd? Nervous, anxious… Emotional and stressed out?
If that’s the case, then you’re probably thinking way too much. And you should start learning how to “empty your mind”.

Overcoming Nerves in Front of a Crowd: Coach Firas Zahabi’s Perspective

Navigating the Pressure of Fighting

Coach Firas Zahabi, an ultra respected figure in mixed martial arts and Ju-Jitsu, addresses the common challenge fighters face when competing in front of a crowd. Drawing from his extensive experience (GSP, Rory McDonald’s coach), Zahabi offers insights into the psychological aspects of fighting and how to overcome pre-fight jitters.

The Hype of Fight Night: Identifying the Real Challenge

Zahabi pinpoints the crux of pre-fight nerves, explaining, “It’s not the fighting [that scares you]; you’re doing it on a weekly basis. It’s all hype… all that hype, all that noise, all that attention is really what’s scaring you.” He contrasts the experience of sparring in a gym with the amplified atmosphere of a fight night, where the crowd, the announcers, and the overall spectacle can heighten anxiety.

The Misconception of Pain in Fighting

Interestingly, Zahabi downplays the role of physical pain in fighters’ fear. “Getting punched in the face doesn’t hurt; it just kind of like you might see a spark, you might get a little woozy, but it’s not a painful experience,” he explains. Instead, he emphasizes that the fear is more about the drama and attention surrounding the fight.

Focus on the Fight, Not the Drama

The key to overcoming this fear, according to Zahabi, is to focus solely on the fight and ignore the surrounding hype. “The best fighters… completely focus on the fight and completely ignore the hype,” he advises. This mindset allows fighters to concentrate on their techniques and strategies without getting overwhelmed by external factors.

Avoiding the Romance of Fighting

Zahabi cautions against getting emotionally involved in the pre-fight narrative. “You can fall into the romance; if you fall into the romance, I don’t know what’s going to happen with you,” he warns. Getting caught up in the drama can lead to emotional decisions and mistakes in the fight.

Roger Gracie started developing that skill when he reached his black belt. So, as he emphasized in a recent Lex Fridman Podcast episode, the fight for him starts way before the referee says “go”:

I think that it’s very important for me to start before… I almost walk [with my mind] blank to the mat.

Many times I passed my friends and I couldn’t see anyone who wanted to talk, because I’m 100% focused on my opponent and I cannot even see them in front of me.
So, it was always very important for me to clear my mind out from everything.