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SportsMixed Martial Arts

Fighting is 90 percent mental, huh?

UFC fighters Chris Weidman, left, and David Branch

UFC fighters Chris Weidman, left, and David Branch listen to and watch BJJ instructor John Danaher explain a new move at Renzo Gracie BJJ Academy in Manhattan. (May 27, 2013) Credit: Newsday/Mark La Monica

Every sport, in one way or another, touches on this timeless cliche: "[Insert sport here] is 90 percent mental."

Then there's John Danaher, a Renzo Gracie black belt and BJJ instructor at the Renzo Gracie Academy in Manhattan.

"I believe that’s a complete lie," said Danaher, who has a Master's Degree in philosophy from Columbia.

“Yes there is a very important part of fighting which is mental. I don’t believe it’s the most important. I still believe it’s a mostly physical sport.

"And I also believe that you can't divorce the two completely. When a man breaks physically, he’ll break mentally shortly afterwards so you can't really pull them apart the way people seem to do.

Danaher helped train Chris Weidman for his title fight this Saturday against Anderson Silva at UFC 162 in Las Vegas. He also works with UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre.

Where the mental aspect of MMA takes effect, Danaher believes, is in building a fighter's confidence.

“Confidence forms a bridge between a fighter's ability and knowledge that he expresses in the gym compared with what he expresses in front of an audience in a live show," Danaher said. "If the fighter lacks confidence, then he won't be able to form an effective bridge between the skills he knows he has in a gym and what he’s willing to do in front of a crowd.

"But when a fighter is confident, there will be very little difference between his gym performance and his live performance. So I would say confidence is the no. 1 mental attribute which differentiates successful from unsuccessful fighters. Confidence really has physical underpinnings and true confidence comes from success and hard training in the gym.”

New York Sports