Some fighters will tell you it’s all a myth. The first time stepping foot inside the Octagon is no different than stepping into any other fight.
For a lot of fighters, maybe the majority of first-time UFC fighters, they do feel that sting of what it’s like to first stand under the bright lights, have the cameras on them, all the way to hearing Bruce Buffer calling their name.
Count James Head as a fighter who scoffed at the notion of Octagon jitters prior to his fight against Nick Ring at UFC 131. It was a different story, however, once he actually stood in the cage with his opponent across from him.
“My first fight in there, I just I made it bigger than what it was. At the end of the day, it’s still a fight, it’s what I train to do, it’s what I love to do, and I built it up to something bigger than it was,” Head admitted when speaking to MMAWeekly Radio.
“You hear guys talk about Octagon jitters. If you asked me the last time, and maybe you did ask me the last time what I thought about Octagon jitters, I thought they were bull (expletive). ”
What resulted was a third-round submission loss to Ring, ending James Head’s first night in the Octagon with his head down in defeat.
“They definitely got the best of me and I think that definitely affected my performance” said Head.
One benefit that Head was able to take away from that night in Vancouver was watching how other fighters in the UFC handled things. He may not have walked away with a win, but it was a learning experience on many different levels.
Head saw how the UFC ran things behind the scenes, but he also saw how other fighters conducted themselves when it came to cutting weight like professionals.
Throughout his career, Head had fought at 185 pounds because it was an easy weight class for him to fight at. He didn’t have to cut too much weight, and he was winning fights, so the plan for success seemed pretty easy.
That night in Vancouver he saw fighters like Kenny Florian cut down to make their weight class allowance, and then put everything and more right back on and look powerful, and much bigger on fight night. It was something he had never experienced before, but he wanted to try it.
It also didn’t hurt that Head saw some of the giants walking around in the middleweight division. He knew pretty quickly that it wouldn’t be long before he was at a decided disadvantage size wise.
“It was kind of an eye opening experience, and there’s some monsters in the division,” Head said. “Tim Boetsch, that guy I don’t know where he hides it. I don’t know how he makes weight. It’s amazing, so that was kind of the deciding factor.”
Head hired a dietician and got to work and right away he noticed a big difference. Being forced to give up junk food and eat a healthy, clean lifestyle put Head on the right track to not only cutting down to 170 pounds, but being a better fight all around.
“I’ve done a test cut down to weight and made it no problem,” said Head. “I rehydrated and simulated a fight the next day, and really performed great in the gym. I’m not looking forward to cutting the weight, I’m looking forward to getting back in the cage and performing at 170 pounds.”
For his fight at UFC on Fuel TV 2, Head will face Swedish based fighter Papy Abedi on the Facebook preliminary fights Saturday in Stockholm.
It’s always a tough spot to be in when you face a fighter in their home country, but Head has a plan that he hopes might bring a few of the Swedes to his side.
“Maybe I’ll wear a Viking helmet out to the ring and sway the crowd onto my side,” Head said with a laugh.
But one thing is for sure, Head is confident going into this fight. The butterflies are gone from his stomach, and the only thing he’s got on his mind this time is smashing Papy Abedi.
“This time it’s just a fight,” said Head. “Me and him are going to get in the cage, it’s going to be fun, I can’t wait.”