Last weekend I watched the UFC 196 mixed martial arts (MMA) Championship and couldn’t stop thinking about the similarities between SUP racing and MMA. A choke-hold will not help in your next SUP race, nor am I proposing a literal ‘Battle of the Paddle’ (although it would be very entertaining!). However, there are a few important things stand up paddle racers can learn from mixed martial artists. So what does pounding someone’s face in have to do with SUP racing?
You are only as good as your weakest link.
The beauty of MMA is that it includes all styles of fighting. Athletes train in different fighting disciplines so they can use a variety of tools to defeat their opponents. The more proficient a fighter is in a variety of techniques, the greater their chance of success.
The same can be said of stand up paddle racers.
If you are a great flat water paddler, but can’t paddle in choppy water, you will struggle to reach maximum performance. Just as the MMA fighter who masters boxing, but pays little attention to wrestling techniques, risks getting choked out.
Work on all aspects of paddling (flatwater, downwind, turning, drafting, surfing, ect…) to become an all-around lethal stand up paddle racer.
Last weekends UFC event saw two well-rounded underdogs win championship titles. I am not a professional MMA analysts, but it seemed that the more complete fighter won in both instances.
It never hurts to work on your weakest stand up paddle skills. For example, perhaps your left shoulder buoy turns are a little rusty. End each SUP training session with five left shoulder buoy turns.
Never back down from a challenge.
No athlete is perfect or invincible. The champion almost always loses. However, it is through losses and setbacks that a true champion learns and improves the most.
If you are afraid of defeat then you may never get in the ring, let alone succeed and reach your goals. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable and set goals or accept challenges that may be a little daunting.
The winner of last weekend’s main event stepped up to a challenge presented to him. Nate Diaz took the championship fight only eleven days prior due to the original challenger breaking his foot. Nate saw an opportunity to fight in the biggest event of his career and he jumped on it.
The loser, Connor McGregor, also took a challenge in fighting Diaz at a weight class much higher than he had fought previously. Only one fighter prevailed, but both accepted challenges that will make them better.
The next time you’re hesitant to enter a longer race, or push out of your comfort zone, dig deep and don’t back down from the challenge. Read about setting goals to learn how to challenge yourself this SUP race season.
Fight with a plan.
A good fighter approaches a match with specific preparation for their opponent and a game plan to execute. A skilled fighter can lose a fight to a lesser opponent if they don’t stick to their plan. Fighting smart will often trump fighting recklessly, regardless of the skill level.
The same can be said for SUP racing. Race without a plan and you can be beat by slower paddlers. Approach each race with a proper SUP race strategy to give yourself the best chance of success. Learn the race course and understand the tides, wind and current.
What is your SUP race plan and goal? If you want to finish on the podium then you need to have a plan for how you will accomplish that. Who will you line up next to at the start so that you can easily enter the draft train? There are many details that go into SUP race preparation that should be planned and practiced during training. Don’t fight recklessly, form a plan.
Don’t burn out in the first round.
UFC fights last for five, five-minute rounds. A fighter who wastes all of their energy in the first couple of rounds risks getting knocked or choked-out in the back half of the fight. Athletes must pace themselves to avoid getting knocked out by pushing too hard, too early.
Pacing is a huge part of fighting and SUP racing. Part of forming a solid race strategy is executing a pacing strategy that will allow you to reach your goals. The more you race and train the better you will become at knowing when to push and when to hold off your pace. Read this SUP race pacing article for an in-depth look at how to pace properly.
These are just a few ways SUP racers can learn from mixed martial arts. Use these tips, keep your eye on the prize and be thankful we don’t look like this after a SUP race (this is the winner).