VERY good question. Very thought provoking. Im sorry if this is too long of a post, i get started and...
The most deadly weapon a person has is their brain. People mention heart and brains as separate things but really it all comes from your brain. Your heart doesnt tell you to go on, it tells you to stop so it can catch up.
First and foremost to be a professional fighter, you need to have your mind trained. What I mean by this is both total knowledge of fight style(s) and the motivation to win, in that order. A quality skillset is by far the most important thing. I know some people will disagree, but i say you have to have good formal training of some type to be effective long term in this game. You have to know what to do in every possibile situation (fedor) and "heart" alone wont do that for you. You can want the win more than any fighter in the history of fighting but if the skillset isnt there, in the long term, you wont be sucessfull, youll just be a target.
That being said, determination and motivation to win are mentally very important, and you cant be a sucessfull fighter (or anything) if you truly dont want it. With fighting that means wanting to fight because it gives you inner strength and honor as opposed to money and fame. Take two fighters with the exact same skillset, and ill take the guy fighting for the fight, fighting for honor over the guy fighting for money 10 times out of 10. Everyone has their breaking point and the guy fighting for money will say "screw this, its not worth it" WAY before the guy fighting for honor will. (perfect example of fighting for honor is the gracie family - they are almost too extreme about it) A lot of fighters will die in the ring fighting, of course, but thats easy. The real question is how much torture (and fighting is in a way torture) can you handle before your motivations break?
The next mental aspect that i havent seen anyone mention is composure. To me, and this is just my opinion, you have to be calm enough so that you can think about whats going on in the fight. MMA is very much like human chess, and the most sucessfull fighters THINK during their fights. They adapt and overcome and its very hard to recognise what your opponent is doing or what he will do if you are in a fury. it also wastes energy despite the small power boost (youre hitting as hard as you can anyways, the amount of power fury adds is not worth, or equal to the amount of energy you spend) The flipside to that is that to even be in this game, much less make it, you have to have a certain amount of fury/passion, and if you are able to bring the fury out at the right times and calm it down at will, that makes you a lot more of a dangerous fighter just having the correct composure.
After that, mentally there all a bunch of smaller mental tweaks to learn once you start to get your game down. making your opponent use energy, learning not to waste energy, ring positioning, learning how to change your opponents mental state so you can exploit it, timing, etc.
The mental aspect of fighting is much harder to teach and learn, and imo its much more important. Thats not to say you can make it on brains alone. You have to have a body that can do what the brain tells it.
Physically, the 1st thing id say a fighter needs, and its the 1st thing i teach people, is that you must be able to make it the distance of your fight. if you can only last 2 rounds, eventually someone will take you to the 3rd. You can have the most badass skillset in the world and no one takes you past the 1st round, but eventually (maybe not until youre older) someone WILL for whatever reason, and you must be ready in every fight to go the full distance of what it can go. Once you are out of gas, you are automatically limited in skills.
Great fighters have quickness. This is different than speed. Quickness is the ability to capitalize on mistakes their opponents make. You might be given a 2 second window to get the knockout, and if you cant recognise, process, and execute your attack in 2 seconds, what good was the setup/exploit/mistake that gave you those 2 seconds?
There are other things physically that make fighters great, but this post is very long and im sure you get the point. in summary i value these things when i think about how good a fighter is:
Skillset/ability/knowledge of offense and defense in any position
intelligence to plan and execute a game plan that works
desire to win (If you quit easily, you will not be sucessfull)
ability to make it to the last round
composure (not getting excited when fury is not needed)
quickness so you can actually counter/react sucessfully when you need to
flexibility (makes you a more powerful striker, makes you hard to submit)
power (so you can stun, also to force your will on/out of whats going on)
i might have forgot something but this is enough. The two fighters that come to mind when i think of these qualities are fedor (altho we havent seen him in the cage) and frank shamrock (who seems to be great at everything)
Last edited by deadstealth; 12-31-2007 at 11:50 PM.