Short Notice Fights; who really has the advantage?
When there is a short notice fight you always hear something along the lines of ‘He should win, he’s been in training longer’ or after fights the late step in gets extra credit such as ‘he won and he only had ‘x’ amount of time to train for it.’
It is usually assumed that the fighter of advantage is the one who has been training for a fight longer. Although to a certain extent this is true, there are far more factors to consider. Fighting is not as straight forward as the neutral fans think, and it gets more complicated the higher up the level you go. There are a lot more psychological battles that go on in a fighters mind than people think. You could write a book on the psychology behind fighting, however will stay on topic here.
In a sport such as MMA there are a lot of variables to prepare for when competing, so much that it is nearly impossible to prepare for every situation and be sharp in every area at once, you have to be smart with what areas you train depending on your opponent. I have been in both sides of short notice fights.
I prepared nearly 12 weeks for an opponent, where my game plan was to keep the fight standing, therefore I spent far more time drilling and conditioning my body to defend takedowns and land strikes than to score takedowns. My mind became programmed to do this, to the point I was doing it without thinking. Then 1 week before the fight, my opponent pulls out with a ridiculous excuse. I am then told to keep myself fit as they will find me a replacement, to keep it simple it is difficult to stay motivated when you do not have an opponent. Just 3 days before the show, I am then offered to fight someone who is a stronger striker than me. It is hard to turn down a fight after all that training and selling tickets to friends and family, so I accept. I now have to flip my entire game plan to take him down. I have to change all those weeks of programming to do something of the opposite, not only that, this opponent is a different height and build all together. I cannot do anymore physical training so all of this has to be done mentally, not easy. My takedown timing is not as good as it can be, I do not know how strong this guys takedown defence is, what if I cannot take him down, what back up plan should I have? Then I have everyone thinking I should win simply because I have trained for a fight longer, so I will be fitter and stronger. While there I am thinking what if he knocks me out in one round, all this fitness means nothing. In fact what if he has been keeping himself fit, I won’t even have that advantage.
These are the types of demons that all fighters face when accepting to fight a late step in; it builds a lot of pressure that the outside eyes do not see. It’s sometimes easier to fight a tougher opponent you have prepared for than a lesser opponent you have not prepared for. Luckily I did win that fight but it was a very tough split decision win, I actually gassed out more than ever, simply because of the repetitive takedowns I had to score that I did not train for.
On the other hand taking a short notice can sometimes be easier. When taking a short notice fight, the late step in knows their opponent better. They can do research before accepting the fight, and also know who the opponent has been preparing for all this time, so have a good indication on what type of training they have been doing. Also there is far less pressure for them to perform, if the fight does not go to plan, it is easy to use the old excuse ‘If I trained for it I would do better.’
My experience of taking short notice fights have been far more pleasant than accepting to fight a short notice step in. I once stepped in on 2weeks notice, to fight against then ranked no4 flyweight in the UK, I was unranked with only 2 pro fights. Now depending on how you look at it, I had more advantages than it seems. I was relatively unfit for what I usually am, but my opponent didn’t know that. I had a lot of footage of him to watch and analyse but he had none of me. I went into that fight feeling ‘if I win today I beat one of the best, if I lose today I lose to one of the best.’ There was very little pressure on me, I just had to go out there and try my best, there was not much to lose but a lot to gain, my motivation was sky high.
The effect of a short notice step in gets into more detail the higher up the level you go. At the top level it is not as simple as fighting a striker, grappler or wrestler. There are even more variables as all fighters are competent in all areas and it comes down to preparing for individual techniques and styles one is facing.
Most people will remember, UFC 151 getting cancelled after Dan Henderson was injured and Jon Jones refused the short notice fight against Chael Sonnen. This left Jones slated by most of the world, as everyone thought he should have taken it since Chael was an easy opponent for him and could have saved the show. However once you understand the variables that go on behind preparing for a fight, you can somewhat understand why he did not accept it in short notice but was happy to fight him later with time to prepare.
So to conclude, the next time you hear of a short notice fight, remember sometimes the late step in has more advantages than it seems.
By Shaj ‘Superman’ Haque
Made4TheCage Two Weight Champion and BAMMA Contender