When it comes to mentally preparing themselves to be locked inside the Octagon with another highly trained fighter, UFC stars have tried all kinds of weird and wonderful methods to get in the right frame of mind for the battle ahead.
In this article, we’ll look at 10 of the strangest pre-fight rituals adopted by MMA stars over the years; from those born out of superstition and habitual behavior, through to those undertaken just for the sheer hell of it!
Matt Lindland went to extreme lengths to try and gain an advantage over his opponents during both his wrestling and mixed martial arts career’s.
‘The Law’ would avoid showering in the week leading up to his fights in an attempt to repulse his opponents and make their lives misery whenever they got near to him in the cage.
Given that Lindland was an expert grappler who once won an Olympic wrestling silver medalist, that meant that a lot of fighters ended up being forced to get up close and personal with him over the years, whether they wanted to be or not.
Most competitors just grinned and bore it, silently suffering through the stench, but after earning a split decision victory over Lindland at WFA: King Of The Streets in 2006, Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson couldn’t resist calling out the wrestler over his hygiene, or lack thereof.
”Man, that was like fighting a big-*** smelly skunk,” Rampage declared in his post-fight interview. “Matt you need to take a shower man.”
Jon Jones made a startling confession on The Joe Rogan Experience podcast back in 2016 when he revealed his worryingly self-destructive pre-fight ritual.
“I had this crazy thing that I would do where I would party one week before every fight,” Jones told Rogan.
“And I did it throughout my whole career. And it was stupid, but it was this mental crutch that I had. I literally would, one week before every fight. I would go out and I would get blacked out wasted.
“And my logic was, if this guy were to beat me somehow, I can look myself in the mirror and say, the reason I lost is because I got hammered the week before the fight.”
However, Jones claimed he finally kicked that bad habit, though by the sounds of things he’s not convinced that that did him any favors.
”My Ovince Saint Preux fight was the first that I did not do that and it was my worst performance.”
Earlier in his career, St-Pierre began a bizarre pre-fight ritual in the Octagon before his fights where he could be seen tweaking his own nipples.
’Rush’ proved to be a trendsetter as soon most of his teammates at Jackson’s MMA started doing the same thing, including the likes of Rashad Evans, Nate Marquardt, Keith Jardine and David Loiseau.
Fans soon started to speculate as to what the real reason behind it was, but the fighter’s head coach Greg Jackson was eager to expose the truth of the matter.
”I’ve been asked, ‘does it stimulate electricity through your body?’” Jackson told CagePotato.com at the time. “No. No, it doesn’t. They’re just a bunch of big dorks. That’s the answer to that question.”
For the record though, St-Pierre apparently first came up with the idea after reading some ancient fighting myths that suggested that tweaking your nipples was supposed to bring good luck.
His teammates didn’t take that seriously, but went along with it anyway as an inside joke, much to the bemusement of the long-suffering Jackson.
Few fighters get more fired up in the Octagon than Clay Guida, and he partly puts that down to the bizarre pre-fight ritual he goes through with his brother, Jason, immediately before he steps into the cage.
After reaching the prep point outside the Octagon, Guida turns to his elder brother, a fighter himself who outweighs ‘The Carpenter’ by well over 60 pounds, and proceeds to get repeatedly slapped hard in the face by him.
”He started doing it in the smaller shows, it just kinda stuck, and I tell you what, I’ve never been hit so hard in a fight,” Guida told UFC.com.
”I know I ain’t gonna get hit as hard as my brother hits me, and that gets me so amped up and excited, and the whole crowd is like ‘what the hell is wrong with these guys,’ and it gets them jacked up. We’re almost peaking. That’s just a reminder to go out there and have fun. That’s the way my brother is, he’s the one that got me here, and I’m gonna take it the rest of the way.”
Former UFC light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida has a ritual that would make your stomach churn, and worse still, he doesn’t just do it before a fight – it’s part of his daily routine.
It all began when Machida had a persistent cough that he was struggling to get rid of, so he consulted his father for advice, and the solution he received in return turned out to be rather unorthodox.
Yoshizo Machida recommended that his son try drinking his own urine, claiming that it had health benefits and was almost like a vaccine that would help flush out his system.
Machida took his advice and sure enough a few days later his cough cleared up, and he’s been drinking his own urine every day since.
For the record, ‘urine therapy’ has been around for many years, but many medical experts are skeptical at best about its healing properties.
In fact, in some cases, it’s considered to be detrimental to do so, such as in a survival situation where a person drinks their own pee to quench their thirst, as urine contains a high sodium content that will actually increase their level of dehydration.
With all that being said, given that Machida is a former champion, it doesn’t seem to have done him any harm, although if he ever offers you a tasty home-brewed beverage you might want to think twice before chugging it down.
Longtime vet Castillo’s pre-fight ritual sounds suspiciously like being just an excuse to have a good time during fight week.
In 2012 during an interview for Bloody Elbow, Castillo revealed that he had made it a point to go to a strip club before every fight, and he was convinced it was working as back then he’d gone 8-0 since he first started doing it.
”That’s a fun superstition and a routine that I have so I plan to make it nine,” Castillo claimed with a big smile on his face.
“My girlfriend’s not too happy about it but she understands. I’m 8-0 when I go to the strip club before the fight so she doesn’t mind too much.”
Former UFC lightweight champion Ben Henderson has courted controversy over the years by often being spotted with a toothpick in his mouth while he’s fighting.
When quizzed about it, Henderson revealed that it wasn’t there for good luck, but rather it was just a bad habit that he’d developed since he was 9 or 10 years old after seeing his dad with a toothpick in his mouth.
Many observers have suggested that Henderson was putting himself in danger by doing this while he’s fighting, and the star himself admits that it’s caused him problems in the past.
For instance, in his younger days he once played a practical joke on his mom and after bursting out laughing he then proceeded to choke on his toothpick.
”It was bad, but I lived,” Henderson told mmafighting.com. “I was able to tell the story.”
These days Henderson is doing his best to kick his bad habit due to the fact that he worries that his own young son might one day try to emulate it.
Judging by Rousey’s enthusiasm for her pre-fight ritual, her husband, Travis Browne must have been gutted when ‘Rowdy’ decided to step away from fighting.
You see, the thing Rousey always liked to do in the lead up to every fight was to have copious amounts of sex.
”I mean for girls it raises your testosterone, so I try to have as much sex as possible before a fight, actually (laughs),” Rousey said on The Jim Rome Show.
“Not with like everybody. I don’t put out Craigslist ads or anything, but you know, if I got a steady, I’m going to be like, “Yo. Fight time’s coming up.”
As one of the UFC’s most unassuming champions, it’s perhaps fitting that Demetrious Johnson’s pre-fight ritual is rather understated.
The one thing ‘Mighty Mouse’ always makes sure that he does before a big fight is to tidy up his hotel room and pack his bags, which might seem mundane, but there is a good reason for it.
”In my first WEC fight, I broke my hand in the first round, and I didn’t clean my room, and so after the fight was done, I get to my room and I’m like ‘Sh*t, I gotta pack everything with one hand.’” Johnson explains.
“And so, from now on, I make sure to pack my bags and clean my hotel room, that way if I end up with a broken arm or a broken leg, everything’s packed.”
During the peak of his career, the fact that Liddell stepped into the Octagon with his toenails painted became a subject of fascination for fans, who were eager the learn the reason behind it.
One theory was that he was painting them so they were stronger and wouldn’t break when he was kicking his opponents in the Octagon, but it turns out the real reason was a lot simpler than that.
It actually all started with Liddell’s longtime coach John Hackleman, whose girlfriend took it upon herself to paint his toenails one night while he was watching TV.
He struggled to wash it off the next day before he went to the gym and so he decided to just go with it and showed up in his flip-flops, which gained enough attention that he decided to start doing it regularly.
Liddell was one of the first fighters at the gym to follow suit, starting a trend, but he also decided to up the ante.
”The manicurist was going to do all black, then I told her to make the big toe pink, just to f*ck with people and see what kind of reaction I got,” Liddell recalled in an interview for Random House.
Though Liddell started to do this for all his fights, he also began doing it in everyday life at times too, letting his kids paint them for him, and as one of the toughest men walking the face of the planet, nobody was in a hurry to tell him it was a bad idea.
”One guy looked at my toes, looked up at me and said, ‘Hey, if anyone can pull it off, you can,’” Liddell recalled after showing up to a baseball game in his flip-flops.