Fear won't be a factor against Sonnen
Fear is often the thing that separates professional fighters from those who simply dream of one day stepping inside the Octagon.
There are many types of fear — fear of failure, fear of being hurt, fear of being knocked out or choked out, fear of a broken nose or broken limb and fear of being dominated. Fighters are able to overcome these mental hurdles and push fear to the back of their mind. Experience reduces these fears. The fighters at the highest level rarely fear injury, rather the damage done to our pride after losing is what we fear the most.
My time in the military obviously introduced me to very extreme situations that make losing a fight comparable to losing a game of pick-up basketball. I've never feared a fighter or a fight, and have only ever been concerned with whether I was truly good enough to get to the places I want to reach in this great sport of mixed martial arts. That comes from the pressure of providing for a family.
Fear was strongly introduced into my life when I became a father, and there is only one thing in this world that will make the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end — something happening to my wife or two daughters. I wasn't afraid of being a father, but I was afraid of the fact that fear had now entered my life. I feared the illness that might one day afflict my daughter, I feared driving lessons, I feared college and I feared her leaving home and going out into the big, bad world. I experienced all the sudden fears I'm sure all fathers must feel on that special day. The fear of something bad happening to one of your children is the worst fear for any parent. So, believe me, it's a lot scarier being a parent than it is being a professional fighter or Marine.
Fear will not be a factor in my bout with Chael Sonnen on Oct. 8. Both of us are experienced fighters and we both know what the other is capable of doing. We are also focused and dedicated professionals, keen to transfer our skills from the gym into the Octagon.
When I defeated Mike Massenzio a little over a year ago, a part of me wondered whether I was chasing an unrealistic dream and whether I would be better served pursuing a career in business and advancing more in that direction. I wasn't sure if it was wise to do half and half and balance the two — business and mixed martial arts — as it didn't seem as though I was progressing at the rate I would have liked to in either.
After I won that fight against Massenzio I sat down with my coaches and talked a little about the position I was in and shared my thoughts on the matter. They assured me I had the athleticism and fundamentals to not only improve as a fighter, but to eventually become one of the best in the middleweight division.
Believe it or not, I've actually worked a full-time job for pretty much my whole mixed martial arts career. This next fight with Sonnen on Oct. 8 will mark the first time where I haven't had to worry about working another job. I'm no longer running out of the cage after practice to multiple conference calls and meetings. I've got people around me who can help me lead the charity organization that I run, Hire Heroes USA, which helps US veterans find employment after discharge, and I've stopped doing my corporate real estate job — and it's been tremendous.
I now have more time to watch films of my opponent, do one-on-one sessions with my coaches, recover more, train more and just immerse myself in the lifestyle of a professional fighter. Rather than try and cram a 30-hour workday into 24 hours, I now enjoy a far more manageable schedule and I can really focus on being a professional athlete, preparing the right meals and living the right life. I feel like I have improved a great deal in the last year, and I am excited about how much more potential I have to fulfill.
The only issue with not having as many work responsibilities is that I am sometimes in the gym too much and am trying to do too much training-wise. My coaches get upset with me from time to time and are often trying to kick me out of the gym. I sometimes get into that dangerous cycle of getting tired and thinking it is best to train even harder, rather than allow my body to recover.
In the end, professional fighting is just an athletic competition. It is a game. What's the worst that can happen in a fight? You might get beaten, stopped, knocked out or submitted. I've been through all that already, and every other fighter in the world has been through that, either in a fight or in training. It comes with the territory. Nobody goes undefeated or unblemished in this sport.
The promise I always make to myself and those around me is that I will fight to the absolute best of my ability — which is actually all we can control in there. We cannot control what our opponent does, only our own actions. Stepping into the Octagon with doubts or concerns about the fight or your opponent will only hold you back and prevent you from being the best fighter you can be at that moment. It really isn't about who the best fighter is, it is about who fights best in that moment. Knowing that keeps me focused on exactly what I need to do to win my fight.
Former First Lieutenant in the US Marine Corps and UFC contender Brian Stann meets fellow middleweight Chael Sonnen on Oct. 8 at UFC 136, live on pay-per-view from the Toyota Center in Houston.
Visit www.brianstann.com and @BrianStann for more information on Brian 'All American' Stann.