Go back and listen to just about 95-percent of the interviews with fighters getting ready to step foot in the Octagon and this will almost be read verbatim by each and every one of them. It’s a pre-fight trope that goes back to the earliest days of MMA when fighters started building training camps to prepare for a fight.
Whether it’s the truth or not is an entirely separate debate, but the phrase is commonplace to ensure confidence in an upcoming performance or to keep their opponent from any inside knowledge of a shortcoming that could hinder them come fight night.
For his last bout against Lyoto Machida in February, Gegard Mousasi actually had the picture perfect training camp. His teammates were fierce in sparring, the coaches were brilliant in their techniques and Mousasi’s body was running like a finely tuned machine as he traveled to Brazil for the fight.
Then it all went wrong.
Every time I had a perfect training camp I did worse in the fights. The times that I had a bad training camp, I did very well, so maybe it’s a good thing
— Gegard Mousasi
Mousasi struggled to deal with some of the part of Machida’s game including his quickness and elusiveness and instead of changing and reacting, the former Strikeforce champion instead stayed the course and ended up losing a lopsided five-round decision.
There were two things he learned the hard way that day in Brazil — strategy is great, but he has to adapt to the situation and just having the best training camp possible doesn’t necessarily mean the fight is going to go your way.
So as he prepares for his bout this weekend in Germany against Mark Munoz in another five round main event, Mousasi and his coaches have a game plan in mind and even a back up plan if that doesn’t work. If all else fails and the fight still isn’t going his way, then Mousasi is going to fall back on what got him to the dance in the first place.
He’s going to try his damnedest to punch Munoz in the face really, really hard.
"I’m going to try to be more technical and take advantage of my standup. If that doesn’t work, we’re just going to go and fight," Mousasi said when talking to FOX Sports prior to traveling to Germany.
He also ‘fixed’ that whole best training camp of his life idea because things did not go the way he planned for his upcoming fight against Munoz. There were plenty of bumps in the road, minor injuries and just a general frustration as he worked hard to prepare for the showdown in Berlin.
Whether Mousasi believes in omens or not is unknown, but as it turns out, having the perfect training camp always seems to backfire on him whereas a rough and tumble time in preparation has always turned into success come fight night.
"Some bumps but it’s always like that," Mousasi said about his training for this fight. "Every time I had a perfect training camp I did worse in the fights. The times that I had a bad training camp, I did very well, so maybe it’s a good thing."
While Mousasi isn’t crazy enough to give away his strategy in specifics, he understands that anyone who knows his style should probably already understand what he’s going to do in the fight. The same can be said on some levels for Munoz as a high level wrestler who probably doesn’t want to test his standup against a striker as powerful as Mousasi.
The Dutch fighter can’t exactly predict what Munoz will do, but he has a good idea. The key isn’t knowing what he’s going to do — it’s knowing how to stop it.
"I know for sure he’s going to take me down," Mousasi said. "He’s going to probably feel like I’m going to keep the fight standing. I’m not going to be one-sided. I’ll go for the takedowns as much as he will do it. I’m going in with the mentality if he takes me down, I’m going to pop right back up. I’m not going to be worried if he takes me down. The fight isn’t finished because he takes me down. I’m going to fight completely. That’s a good way to start."
Following a lackluster showing in his last performance, Mousasi just wants to go out and show the UFC what he’s capable of doing inside the Octagon. For his first UFC bout, he had an opponent change during the week of the bout and while he was victorious, it wasn’t the introduction he wanted to make to a new audience. For his second bout, Mousasi just couldn’t pick up on Lyoto Machida’s speed and striking game and when he didn’t adapt, things just went south in a hurry.
Now in his third fight and third main event, Mousasi knows it’s time to show the UFC what he can do or there may not be a fourth headliner in his future.
"I think Mark is a tough competitor, he’s a good solid fighter. He has good stamina, he keeps coming. It’s a fight I have to take seriously," Mousasi said. "He’s definitely in the top 10 so it’s going to be a tough fight."