Motivation For MMA: Extrinsic VS Intrinsic

In this video I explain the difference between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation and which one is better for MMA.

First, what motivates one person might not work for another. Some people are externally motivated while others are internally motivated. What’s the difference?

Extrinsic (or external) motivation occurs when we are motivated to perform a behavior or engage in an activity in order to earn a reward or avoid a punishment.

Examples are:

* Training a martial art in order to earn a black belt.
* Competing because of awards or money, acclaim, fame and status.
* Wanting to win in order to avoid criticism from a parent or a coach.

Intrinsic (or internal) motivation involves engaging in a behavior because it is personally rewarding; essentially, performing an activity for its own sake rather than the desire for some external reward.


* Participating in a sport because you find the activity enjoyable.
* Training and competing in order to become the best.
* Training to master an art. This is different than just wanting to earn a black belt which is extrinsic.

Several studies have shown that intrinsic motivation as a greater determinant of achieving success in sports. The athlete who is internally motivated will have a much easier time dealing with injuries, setbacks, losses and dips in form and confidence. The reason is simple, he loves what he does and would do it regardless of whether he’s getting paid or not.

Chuck Liddell said that he loves MMA so much that he would’ve even fought for free.

I’ve seen so many of what I call “facebook fighters”. Those are the ones that competed a few times in a local show just so they could put a facebook cover photo of them jumping on a cage wall with their hands raised after the fight. They thrive on being recognized as “fighters” and girls commenting on their pictures, but they don’t put serious effort into mastering the art.

Even though they dream of making it big, they often slack off in training. While there is nothing wrong in posting fight pictures of yourself on facebook, these guys are basically simulating a life of a fighter and not really living it.

Those kind of people mostly have extrinsic motivation and champions usually have intrinsic motivation or a combination of both. I’m not saying that extrinsic motivation is always bad. Sometimes external rewards can boost performance and creativity, but for the purpose of this video we will not go into it too deep. Intrinsic motivation is usually better for achieving success.

Conor Mcgregor said that he is motivated by money and movement which means he has both extrinsic motivation, which means money, and intrinsic because he likes learning all sorts of movement patterns.

There is nothing wrong in wanting to make money, but don’t lose sight of why you’re training and competing in the first place. Extrinsic factors like money can reduce intrinsic motivation if the individual already finds the activity intrinsically rewarding. It can also make the “play” activity seem more like “work”.

MMA is a very hard sport and you can count on setbacks happening. The intrinsic motivation will help you overcome those challenges and keep you on the right track.

The takeaway for today is to ask yourself what really motivates you to train and compete? What do you want out of your MMA training? You can let me know in the comments bellow or not, but try to be as honest with yourself as possible. If all you are motivated are extrinsic factors, perhaps it is time to re-think why you are doing this and maybe find an intrinsic motivation.

Motivation is just one of the subjects I cover in my ebook on Mental Game for MMA. If you find this topic interesting, check out the link to the ebook:

Mental Training For MMA 2.0: A Fighter’s Guide to Mental Toughness

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