"Most fighters get ready for a fight, some get ready for their fight, and a few get ready for their opponent"

Here I am trying to be clever again. I think the above statement is true for both self defense and combat sports. Most people who join a martial art do so because they hope to learn self defense, so in a sense they are fighters preparing for a fight, albeit poorly defined as this situation may be. They learn to hit targets, perhaps even each other, and some ritualized tradition that symbolizes fighting. Some people, thinking beyond this viewpoint seek out something more realistic choosing not a martial art but a self defense course or style. They usually learn techniques and concepts that will save their life if they react without mercy or pity. But they fail to realize that most attackers don't have labels and don't come from the direction they expect. For example, most rape victims know their attacker, so where they've been training on breaking the nose of their anonymous attacker or crushing his larynx, they haven't pictured the reality that they will have to do this to someone they like, care about, or know. They've prepared for a fight without conceiving of the opponent. It could be what they picture, the shabbily dressed, shifty eyed fellow, but it could also just as easily be the charming, groomed, underwear model.
Translating fighter back to the combat sports arena, the ones that do well, prepare. If they have a fight, "champ or chump" you put in your conditioning, technique, sparring, and mental preparation (among other things). They are getting ready for a fight, but they don't always get ready for their fight. Yes the physical and mental preparation is there, but is it specifically planned and targeted for the event they plan to compete at. A tournament is different from a single fight, a ring is not a cage, being in shape and being in fight shape are two completely different worlds, at home or away is not just a change in scenery. Any fight has Their Fighter and The Opponent, and most promoters want Their Fighter to win, know which one you are. More importantly, getting ready for your fight is not enough, you must be ready for your opponent. This means research, watching tape, and discussing what others see in your opponents game, stacking your strengths and weaknesses against their opponent's. A fighter has to beat their opponent to win the fight, not the other way around. Knowledge of your opponent leads to a sound game plan and mental state not only conducive but favoring victory. Getting ready for your opponent means leading with one arsenal, keeping if it works but being able to switch if it doesn't.

An example of preparing for my opponent is my MMA match in February 2006. As seen here, I laid out every contigency and then went about (badly) following this script. I won not based on this plan but in developing it with my opponent in mind and using it as a guideline for training. The fight had already been played many times in my head and then happened in a way I never imagined, but I had trained an answer despite not always knowing the "question".
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