Ever get the intuition that something bad is about to happen? MMA fighters get it all the time.
Although I will say, when you’re locked inside a cage 10 feet away from a guy who’s trying to maul you, it’s probably already too late.
That gut feeling you have? It’s because you just got punched in the gut.
Going on a hunch? More like folded up or bent over against the cage like a human pretzel.
Intuition is our ability to know something without reasoning. In a sport built on chaos, a fighter’s intuition is every bit as important as skill or strength.
How then does intuition factor in a real time fight? Today, I’ll put back on my teacher’s hat and break it down.
Intuition Saves The Day and My Arm
UFC 83. The Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Franklin Vs. Lutter.
For anyone interested, I’ve actually made multiple references to this particular match as a career defining moment, even making it the focal point of my “How To Be A Loser” Tedx Talk.
Leading up to this fight, I underwent an endless variety of drills designed by my trainer Matt Hume to specifically game plan for Travis Lutter.
During our match, Lutter did exactly what Matt predicted. Only thing was, nothing went my way either.
Despite all that we had prepared for, I simply couldn’t turn the tide against Lutter.
- I’m looking good on my feet, but he angles and puts me against the cage.
- He is going to shoot in – we had trained especially against his takedowns – but he still takes me down.
- He’s going to be in guard – we had drilled sitting back up – but he is able to pass.
- We drilled re-establishing guard, but then he mounts me.
Trainers had warned me beforehand, if Lutter mounts you, game over. He’s that dangerous a grappler.
Stuck in the worst possible position against a BJJ specialist like Lutter, things were not looking good.
Though it rarely happens to me, if ever, this was the first time I felt mentally broken in a fight.
Fortunately, it lasted just a split second and I snapped myself right out of it.
Now, I’m at the bottom, and this happens almost intuitively, I start to think “No, I can get out from this, I’m going to feed him the arm and take a big risk here…”
And so, I do.
Miraculously, in just under a second and an inch shy from getting my arm broken, I roll out and turn the tables on Lutter. I go on to score the TKO win in the second round.
On this day, intuition saved the fight and my arm.
Intuition Lets Me Down
UFC 72. The Odyssey in Belfast, North Ireland. Main event, Franklin Vs. Okami.
Light on my feet and working my jab good, I was thoroughly in control the first two rounds against Okami.
With a decisive win putting me next in line to re-challenge Anderson Silva for the belt, I wasn’t about to let this one go to the judges.
So, mid-round break heading into the third and final stanza, I tell my boxing coach Rob Radford “Rob, I think I’mma try and take him down”.
“What!??” he exclaims.
I say to a nearly incredulous Rob, “I don’t think I’m going to be able to catch him, he’s ducking me in there man”.
“You listen to me, you stick to the game plan!” he growls and slaps me on the back of the head.
The bell rings and after several moments of us trying to maintain center control, Okami draws me into the clinch.
“Ok great”, I think to myself. At this point, my intuition tells me that if we were to end up on the ground, it’s not really my fault.
The next thing I know, Okami trips me, I stumble and fall back hard against the octagon floor.
This wasn’t a mere bad fall. It had severe implications for the remainder of the match because shortly after we scramble for position on the ground, Okami wraps my arm up in a nasty kimura.
Fortunately, I give him the ol’ switcheroo near the end and escape to get the unanimous decision.
Lucky as I was that night, intuition let me down and almost cost me the fight.
One way or the other, in most high-pressure situations, there’s little time to think or reason.
So, following your gut seems to be sound advice. However, as I’ve shown, our trusted intuition and sense can fail us at times.
What should we turn to before that happens?