How to overcome fear and gain confidence in MMA

Today’s topic is MMA Confidence. Is it normal to feel fear before every fight? Also, how important is to have confidence? We’re exploring these two related subjects.

First, let’s hear some words of fighting wisdom from one of my favorite fighters – George St-Pierre:

People sometimes say – “oh you’re afraid, that’s why you don’t want to fight this guy”. I would be afraid to fight everybody. Even if it’s a midget I would be afraid. What do I do if I fall? What happens if he’s stronger than I thought he is? I’m always afraid.

But being afraid is an irrelevant question. It is relevant for the normal, general public that doesn’t understand a mind of a fighter. But if you are a fighter and you know who you’re going to fight, the question of “are you afraid” is irrelevant.

Being afraid is something that can go bad or something that can go well for me. It could be bad if the fear makes me lack MMA confidence. However, if I’m very afraid it makes me more focused. That is so important. I need to be sharp, it makes me work harder and train with the fear that my opponent is training harder than me. Then the fear is a good thing.

So, when I fight, I know I’m afraid. And I always thought when I was younger that the fear will disappear at one point. I thought it would but it never did. The opposite happened. Every fight got bigger and bigger so I was more and more afraid. One thing that changed is that I’ve learned how to deal with it better with my experience. I know now that it is normal to be afraid.

I’m not afraid to admit that I’m afraid like a lot of fighters. No, I’m afraid. If I fight whoever, I’ll be afraid, but it’s irrelevant. Because no matter if I’m afraid or not, when it’s time to walk the walk and do my job I will do it regardless.

Knowledge is power- GSP

This is just one of the reasons he’s one of my most favorite fighters. Not only is he a great combat athlete, he is also very self-reflective which is so important if you want to improve in anything.

There are two takeaways here:

  1. It is normal being afraid and it can actually help you if you don’t let it overwhelm you.
  2. Fear never goes away. You just learn to deal with it in time.

GSP is one of the rare fighters who openly admits that he’s afraid, and that is one of his biggest strengths. More on that later.
Don’t worry if you’re afraid. Just learn how to deal with it. And how do we do that?

First, let’s hear what he has to say about confidence in MMA.

People ask me sometimes what is the most important thing for an athlete or a performer? For an athlete, confidence is very important.

One of my main coaches, John Danaher, said to me that confidence and skill are the two most important things. They go along with each other. If you have the skills but you don’t have the confidence, it’s like having money in your bank account and not be able to spend it. If you have the confidence buy you don’t have the skills is the same thing as having a dream, but never have the tools to be able to reach it. So, if you want to do something and be successful in life, and especially in sports, especially in a fighting sport, a full-contact sport, you need to have the confidence and the skills.

Skill is a combination of many things, you need to be born athletic, born a certain way. If I was born with a certain handicap, maybe I wouldn’t have been able to be a world champion. Genetically I’m a good athlete. I work hard, of course, I met the right people at the right time, I was dedicated so I learned my skills.

Sometimes people think that confidence is a natural thing. It is not. There are different ways of working on your confidence. Every time I go fight in the octagon, every title fight that I had I had many doubts, I was afraid, I had lack of confidence. But I found some tools to build up my own confidence.

And when you have confidence and the skills that’s when the magic can happen.

Confidence means fully trusting your abilities. If that is lacking, then your performance will not be optimal.
It is important to mention that confidence and abilities are not always separate. One of the ways you gain confidence is with the gradual development of your abilities. So true confidence comes from competence in something. If that is not enough, like in GSP’s case, then there are certain tools you can use to boost your confidence and manage fear.

That might mean working with a mental coach or reading books on this subject.

One of the most important books I can recommend is Psycho-Cybernetics by Dr. Maxwell Maltz. Check out the link in the description and you can also watch this video where I mention it.

The New Psycho CyberneticsPsycho-Cybernetics book by Dr. Maxwell Maltz:
Audio version:

I have put together an e-book called Mental Training for MMA 2.0 – A Fighter’s Guide to Mental Toughness and it can help you with your mental game. Currently, it is being updated so it’s not available at the time of making this video, but you can check back later to see if it’s out.

I have been GSP’s fan for a long time and I cannot praise this man enough. He openly talks about his vulnerabilities, and that’s one of his biggest strengths. MMA is often a world of adolescent strutting and chest-beating, so this is very refreshing.


One of the missing links that nobody talks about when it comes to confidence in MMA is accepting one’s own vulnerability or even showing it like GSP, and making peace with the possibility of loss which is always looming. That is true MMA confidence.

How do you deal with fear before a competition? Do you think you’re confident enough or you lack it? Let me know in the comments below.


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