After Paddy “The Hooligan” Holohan suffered a back injury in the elimination rounds of The Ultimate Fighter: Team Rousey vs Team Tate he had one of his greatest pleasures taken away from him, his training.
Having trained through whole camps with broken limbs in the past, such was the gravity of the injury and its subsequent surgery that the Irishman was forced to the side lines where he lay inactive as his teammates Conor McGregor and Gunnar Nelson broke into the MMA mainstream.
Even when the UFC’s Dublin return had been announced it seemed that Holohan may have just missed out on getting a call-up due to his fitness. An extremely motivated person and a proponent of positive thinking, the SBG man outlined how once he had set the UFC as his goal in his head it didn’t matter what happened along the way, he was always going to make it.
The Dubliner also described how he has always spent more time on his mental preparation and how he uses it to prepare him for each opponent and the journey from regional cards to UFC.
“The mental aspect is a big part of this game,” explained Holohan. “I put my emphasis on preparation. I’m in the Octagon every day in my head. I’ve already fought them all.”
As for readying for each opponent, Holohan focuses on each individual situation that can occur during the contest by utilizing a tool championed by a lot of his teammates, visualization.
“It’s like anything, say you’re going on a cross country road trip. Without you knowing it, you’re going to do that journey in your head before you even go. You’ll start picturing little things—I’ll put this in the car, I’m going to take this route, I hope that road isn’t blocked—that’s where you’re going wrong.
“When you start thinking about what’s going to go wrong in between you starting off and getting to your destination, that’s where a lot of people go wrong. You should only think of the destination itself and then let your mind massage through the different situations that might pop up and how you will react.
“Rather than thinking of how shit it’ll be if you get a flat tyre, think about how you will react. You think of all of the things that might happen and that prepares you for it. When you bring it to MMA you’re thinking—I have someone in my guard and they’re beating on me—what am I going to do?"
“I’m practicing all the time. The same thing goes for when you start a fight. In my head I’ll start off thinking that I get hit and I get dropped. I’ll go from that to thinking about what happens if the bell rings and I drop my opponent. It’s all preparation."
“I’m giving the situation a dry run in my mind. I do it so much I start thinking of gaps where I could use new techniques, then I try them in the gym and they might work.”
One of the most outstanding things that has surfaced from UFC Fight Night: McGregor vs Brandao is that despite people being unsure of whether Holohan would get a place on the card, the Dubliner never gave up hope even in the darkest of his injury days and even predicted his placement on the card—the opening bout of the night.
“When I knew they were coming back I start thinking about who could get on the card. Then I start thinking that they could put me on the card and how it would probably be a good idea to put me on first. Once the date was set I just worked towards it."
“They know what I’m like, I love to fight and because I’m from Dublin they knew that I could get the crowd going. I just knew it and I think the fact that I was the first fight on the card on the night made it special. Every seat had an ass in it, you don’t get that usually,” he said.
With McGregor having already shown the power of the mental aspect of the game through his various premonitions and steely determination, Paddy Holohan could be another Irishman who scales his division’s rankings given the affirmation of his ability witnessed on July 19 with his first round submission win over Josh Sampo.
Follow the author on twitter.
Check out these related stories:
The Mixed Martial Arts of Victorian London
Before BJJ, there was Bartitsu.
Jonathan Maicelo: The Last Inca
Peru's up-and-coming boxing star.
Kron Gracie on Jiu-Jitsu, Skateboarding, Older Brothers, and Famous Fathers
The ties that bind are strong.
Joel Tudor on the Art of Surfing, Fighting, and Style
A surf icon helps MMA keep its sense of tradition.
Japan's Karate Kid: Kyoji Horiguchi
Japan's brightest MMA prospect.