Ah, there they are now, right on schedule: The usual performance-anxiety butterflies that hit me anywhere between 24 and 36 hours before the Friday tournament.
Last week, a friend IMed me as we each waited our turns in the ring: "Nervous?"
My truthful answer: "Always."
Really, who could blame anyone for a case of nerves? After all, in sparring, if you get knocked out of the practice ring and wind up kissing the row of lockers in the upstairs locker room, you might feel a little embarrassed, get some coaching when you get back within chat range, and, at worst, a little ribbing from your sparring partner if you happen to be friends (Kev Hastings and I engage in epic trash talk battles that far eclipse our efforts in the ring, and he ain't no slouch in that department, either).
But come Friday, it's your record. Not to mention the strangers in the stands expecting to see something from you, and the possibility of press and YouTube... hell, who wouldn't be nervous? It's the human condition. In my honest opinion, anybody who says they aren't nervous before a fight is either lying or seriously underestimating the other fighter.
So yeah, I understand nerves. That is, I understand right up to the point where nerves becomes the reason for not participating in the tournament at all.
I'm not here to name names, or put a gun to somebody's head and march them into the ring. If someone isn't feeling ready yet, I could write a blog post long enough to fill a Gutenberg Bible and it wouldn't make that person feel any readier. But when you get right down to it, in my opinion, Friday night at Averlast is what it's all about. This is where all of the sparring, all of the training, all of the advice and jokes and coping with lag is leading to: That time under the virtual lights and the simulated roar of the crowd, with your heart pounding in your ears and the sound of leather on flesh as you dodge and weave, putting in every ounce of your best effort.
It's been the lesson of my life that we don't regret the things we do nearly as much as the things we could have done, but didn't. And the people I've talked to after the matches, whether they were "done in one" or took it all the way to the main event more or less described the experience the same way: What a rush!
IM Hot Rockin or Karine Koba and let them know you're in, 'kay? 'Kay.