“Every difficulty in life presents us with an opportunity to turn inward and to invoke our own submerged inner resources. The trials we endure can and should introduce us to our strengths.” — Epictetus.
Ah MMA…we have all heard about this sport, and mostly (erroneously) think it’s all only about the UFC, but One Championship, and Bellator MMA are superb promotions too! Anyway, we all know how brutal and bloody this sport can be but in this article, we’d like to present a new point of view; as you know, fighters can often get brash, obnoxious, not to mention brutal.
Today however, we’re going to talk about a new type of fighter with a new philosophy, a new way of thinking and acting, something known as OctaZen, or Zen in a cage.
So, let’s get into this with 3 fighters, Cory Sandhagen, Jiří Procházka, and Israel Adesanya as examples and correlate this fresh mindset with their noteworthy (win-loss-draw) records!
From the USA, with a record of 14-4-0, Cory’s mentality changed after being submitted, when he woke up after being choked, he realized he wanted to be the one dancing and celebrating while his opponent was laying on the floor.
From that moment, he adopted the Japanese war style as his new mentality; this mentality focuses on knowing yourself before knowing the enemy.
Cory talks about his new habits like meditation, and how his mind shifted from one full of noise and doubts to a calm one. He mentions how connected he feels with himself and with the energies that surround him, and this is something we can see not only inside the octagon but outside of it too.
Even though he has lost some fights, his mentality keeps his head up, ready to keep learning and coming back.
From the Czech Republic, with a record of 29-3-1 and the current light-heavyweight champion, Jiří, like Cory, also adopted this mentality.
He mentions “The Book of Five Rings” by samurai legend Miyamoto Musashi and the book of the 4 elements as his guide to fight and live.
He is known for being calm and humble in victory and defeat; a clear example of this philosophy. Both of them share the habit of meditation to get in sync with their minds.
This Nigerian-born New Zealander, and UFC Middleweight Champion has a record of 23-1-0. He’s a bit different to the aforementioned fighters but his mindset and wisdom are worth learning.
During a podcast “Hotboxin’ with Mike Tyson” Israel talks about “breathwork training” a new technique that has shown incredible results; while other fighters are running out of oxygen, breathing through their mouths, he is breathing through his nose, he said: “I’m just standing up and (nasal breathing) and just bringing it down, just calming myself down.”
He compares this technique with pool workouts and training with the weighted vest, and how all these different exercises and protocols focus on the same thing, the breath.
In an interview with GQ Sport, he said he always brings a bag of colorful crystals with different names and meanings so that a piece of heart comes with him. He also mentioned how he needs time to connect with nature to regain energy in order to go back to “the office.”
He might be a little radical compared to Cory and Jiří, but we can hopefully understand why these fighters can’t simply be put in the same category as the other fighters.
What I’ve tried to show in this article is this new philosophy and mentality some fighters are beginning to adopt. What is fascinating about this, is the control and type of mind-body connection these fighters are developing.
These fighters are smarter, wiser, more evolved and perform better, and they’ve got a certain system and synergy governing their lives. What is even more important, is that we can see fighters becoming better persons, and dare I say it, on the verge of becoming real role models, both inside and outside the octagon.
To end, here’s a quote from Israel Adesanya: “I’ve lost in kickboxing, I’ve lost in boxing, I’ve lost in life, I’ve lost in love, I’ve lost in family, like… Life is, you know, you just don’t win all the time. It’s wins and losses so you just…you just roll with the punches.”