What is ring rust in combat sports and how to deal with it

There is an argument whether the ring rust in combat sports is a real thing or not. From my experience I can say it indeed exists from boxing to mixed martial arts, moreover, one can say in all sports, including Muay Thai. Although for those watching the fights it is impossible to fully understand what it actually is, the fighters know it quite well.

One of the frequently asked questions would be “why did the fighter looked ring rusty if he trained really hard, sparred dozens of rounds and stated being a hundred per cent ready for the fight right before it? As a result it is likely that ring rust is mostly a mental thing rather than physical.

Making a comeback, you are certainly training the hardest you can in order to get back to at least that level where you were before the time off. So, since the physical component of preparation is there, the mental part is the one to look at.

What is the actual reason of comeback being made in first place? The most common for competitors would be a desire to again experience the feeling of winning, being a champion (for some it could be money, of course).

From what I see the keyword would be “feeling”, which leads to other feelings and emotions. As a result, commonly when a fighter is making a comeback, he asks himself a “what if” question quite often, instead of simply being focused on how to beat their opponent up. This includes “what if I lose”, “what happens next”, and so on. In simple words: caring and thinking too much trying to predict the outcome, might not be the best idea.

From what I’ve seen, generally it takes one round to shake off ring rust. Yet, it can take a whole fight, with the “couldn’t get off the first gear” saying heard from a fighter afterwards.

The featured video is the seventh fight of Misagh Norouzi this past June (watch vlog). This was his first outing in more than two years, following the previous bout which was held in March 2016 (video can be found below).

We are talking about Muay Thai fights among novices, so there is a bit of “sloppiness” in both bouts which is quite normal. It indeed took him a round to “wake up” and stop “trying”. Yes, the idea is to not try doing something but do it, if it makes sense.

However his previous outing in October, which was four months later, is a completely different story. The video can be found here.

If you have just started learning and competing in Muay Thai, you might find useful one of my previous posts covering “payback” and how to stay calm in a fight. In addition, earlier this year we have filmed several videos dedicated to training techniques which can be found on YouTube.