Mixed martial arts (MMA) is probably the toughest sport in the world. Top fighters need incredible discipline, spartan-level training regimens, strength, courage, and heart. So it’s fair to say that they deserve to spend any downtime they get in relaxation mode.
Boxing great Mike Tyson used to keep racing pigeons to help him relax, but most fighters have slightly more conventional hobbies. Some fighters prefer to spend their downtime gambling, while others like to unwind over some classic video games. And in some cases, the two pastimes have been practiced by both and even combined in online casino titles found at SuperSeven like Wild Fight and Street Fighter 2. These are online slots that have been influenced by popular fighting and martial arts titles. Let’s take a look at a few MMA notables who are a little more into games than the rest.
One of the biggest stars in the history of the UFC, Conor McGregor courts controversy both in and out of the ring. His most recent starring role in a Ukrainian betting company commercial, for example, drew much ridicule, although he’s no stranger to the practice of gambling, having made money off themed online slots in the past. He is also a major video gamer, describing himself as “addicted”, and in the same interview stating that he would stay up all night playing Call of Duty: Black Ops and the Electronic Arts UFC Series. Strangely enough, McGregor has now appeared in both games, as himself (of course) in UFC, and in Call of Duty: Infinite Wars as Captain Bradley Fillion, one of the villains. He has also starred in another game – Dystopia: Contest of Heroes, where he is the main character.
Emerging bantamweight star “Sugar” Sean O’Malley is a real millennial, with his own streaming channel where he discusses all kinds of things, including video games, the world of MMA and posts training videos. But he’s also a big gamer, with a preference for first-person shooters such as Fortnite and Call of Duty: Warzone. In fact, his love of video games goes back to his childhood, when he was three or four years old, taking in classic titles.
“I’ve been gaming since I can remember, I’ve been playing Zelda, all the Mario games, Donkey Kong,” O’Malley stated in an interview last year. Despite owning a glut of consoles, he has declared himself part of the PC Master Race, a tongue-in-cheek subculture glorifying gaming on PCs above all other platforms.
When it comes to obsessive dedication to gaming – or one game in particular – none can surpass New Zealand former UFC Middleweight Champion Robert Whittaker. The mild-mannered Kiwi told a UFC press conference that he spends a whopping 60% of his earnings on League of Legends. “They keep bringing out new stuff, and I keep thinking I need it,” he shrugged. He has been honored by the developers behind LoL – being added to The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – as a companion via a semi-official mod. There are multiple references to the game in several of his Instagram videos as well.
Another UFC fighter who has been a massive gamer since his childhood is “Wonderboy” Stephen Thompson. Fighting out of Simpsonville, South Carolina, at 38 years old Wonderboy is something of a veteran in MMA. However, after 23 fights with 16 victories, he’s still listed at #7 in the welterweight rankings and looks to have plenty left in the tank. He also holds a perfect 58-0 kickboxing record. Of all the games he’s played he cites Mortal Kombat as the biggest influence, prompting him to train harder and push himself to the limit. He also mentioned Dragonball Z as a motivating game earlier in his childhood. Thompson has been seen playing on various streams too, alongside other UFC fighters such as former UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic and his brother-in-law, former UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman.
A great success story for the sport and one of the best featherweights to ever grace the octagon, Max Holloway is known for his struggle from a deprived childhood to the elite level of MMA. But he is also known for occasionally employing “unusual” training strategies – without a striking coach for his training camp prior to the Jose Aldo fight, Holloway opted to play a lot of UFC by Electronic Arts. Facing the game’s version of Aldo he’d play for hours on end, and inspiration soon followed. As he says:
“I would play the video game and be like, oh look at this, I tried a combination, and I’d be like this kinda works, so let’s try it.”
And at the top of the bill at UFC 212 the strategy paid off – after some adversity early on in the unification title fight Holloway roared to a 3rd round TKO victory, punching Aldo into submission. Who says gaming is a waste of time?
There you have it, five elite MMA fighters from the UFC who enjoy relaxing with video games. If you’re playing in the same room as one of them it’s probably wise to let him win.