Risk Management Learned in the Cage


My 2nd fight. I had appendicitis and won by KO. He had 22 fights which is a lot of experience for your second pro fight.  Needless to say this was a HUGE Risk!

When you are in a fight there are a lot of risks both inside the cage and outside of it. You can be seriously injured or even killed (even though in a sanctioned fight this is more rare). You can be injured in the fight or over time through training. The longer you fight the larger the toll on your body.  More than physical injury in a fight you can be emotionally and mentally hurt as well. I have seen fighters loss and it completely crushes them mentally and they hardly recover.

Needless to say there is a lot of risk involved in MMA and combat sports.  Here is my lesson learned in the cage on risk management and analysis.

What is risk management? Risk is simply defined as the possibility of loss. That loss can be anything of value as it pertains to the one taking the risk. To manage risk you are essentially trying to reduce the negative outcome the risk has. The more you study the landscape the better prepared you will be navigating through it. 

In mixed martial arts even if you do not wish to fight in the cage and just enjoy training there is still a lot of risk. My most serious injuries have happened during practice and not in an actual fight. There are several things you have to look at in reducing risk around you. 

First thing I do is I identify all the risks involved. This is Risk Analysis. Next I take a look at how I can reduce the risks as I perform. This is Risk Management.  This is universal regardless of the field you are in.   


Right after my ACL Surgery had a phenomenal surgeon

So when I look at the risk I have to judge all the negative consequences from each risk and what is the probability of each thing happening. For example let me take the risk of injury. I list out each negative consequence from an injury. For my torn ACL (which I did not think would happen to me)  here were the negative impacts:


  • Financially set me back about $5,000
    • Luckily I have a salaried job and did not lose any hours of pay otherwise it would have been more
  • I was not going to be able to train for several months so my progression in the sport was halted
  • The amount of pain 3 days after surgery was terrible
  • I did not have the mobility which limited my day to day life
  • Added excess stress to my family
    • My wife was pregnant at the time
    • I had a toddler and could not play with her as much
  • Lead to more worry of reinjury/ new injuries when I did start training

Just as you can make a negative charge positive in science I believe with the right risk management you can turn a negative consequence from a risk into a positive. My ACL injury actually outside of the financial stress became a positive experience in my life. I relearned how to fight and was able to refocus my priorities. Overall I am a better fighter physically and mentally from over coming this injury so the reward outweighed the risk. 

So here is my process I have learned for risk management/analysis in MMA and how it applies to life and business.

When I get offered a fight first thing I do is a risk reward analysis. I look at the opponent, the pay and how a win/loss can impact me in the future. These are the major things to look at with a risk/reward analysis. It does not matter if it is business or a major life decision the following applies to it all.

63601219947324812046870680_risk-rewardI break my analysis down to four categories:

  1. High Risk  / High Reward
  2. High Risk / Low Reward
  3. Low Risk / Low Reward
  4. Low Risk / High Reward

Risk as it pertains to MMA is: losing, injury, opponent’s experience, location of fight, stresses I have in my life at the time, short notice.

Reward for me is: pay, winning, the impact of the win, good health,  knockouts and any new fans.

So when I get offered a fight I have to compare those risks to the rewards as I make a decision to take the offered fight/pay or come back with something to make it worth my time. I first consider the opponent and his skill level, then I look at what the pay is. Next I consider the promotion themselves and the coverage they get after that I consider the amount of time I am given to prepare for a fight. I take all those and a few other things into consideration then decide if I am going to take the fight. 

I am not opposed to fighting a tough opponent as long as the reward is worth it. It is the same way in business. Why would you launch a product that is expensive to produce and the profits are minimal? Or you know that a process will be dangerous and you reap little in gains. 

So I have planned out what the risk(s)  is and I decide to seek after the reward(s). Now what I have learned to do next is managing the risk. I make my plan and execute in order to reduce risks and deal with any negatives that come to make the most of it so I have a gain and not a loss.

If I have learned anything in fighting you cannot just have one plan and that is your ride or die. Your plan needs to be loose and flexible, to mold to whatever variables come your way.  The old adage “Roll with the punches” is very true when it comes to risk management. That is why it is so important to do a through risk analysis. Preparation is key. Just be wary of over analysis to paralysis (I have had this it is attributed to a few losses- More on this later).

So I try to plan out several things and I break it up into groups and then create my processes within those groups. For example with a fight I break out my groups into training, weight cut and the fight itself.  Each group has its own risks that must be managed to avoid the overarching risk of a loss in competition.

I have to identify all the variables and ways I can minimize each risk as it pertains to that group. In training the big risks are injury and lack of preparation.  I want my coach and I to be on the same page with my training and strategy leading up to the fight and I want training partners I can trust to give me good rounds and increase my odds of injury.  If My training is bad odds are the weight cut will be bad and so will the fight.  the result of each group can increase or decrease the odds of risk. My processes need to be positively correlated.  


A lot of risk involved in cutting weight always have a friend with you

For the weight cut the big risks are how much weight I lost through diet vs how much through dehydration. This plays a big factor in my health which plays a factor in my performance. Great fighters lose to lesser fighters because of bad weight cuts.  (I also have experienced loss from this failed risk)

Having a healthy weight cut leads to better performance on fight night which reduces risk of losing and injury during the fight. 

For the fight my big risks are a loss and injury. Now I have a general game plan going in but I need to stay flexible in the fight. If I know my guy is a wrestler or a grappler my loose game plan is to strike and force him in an area he is uncomfortable. 


My plan changed from striking to grappling in this fight because he would rather wrestle so I triangle choked him to reduce the risk of losing.

If my opponent is a striker even though I am a great striker why risk it? I am a better wrestler than he is so I plan to take him down and sub him.

Now in the actual fight there are so many variables and factors that change in a matter of seconds you have to be okay changing it up. Be flexible no matter what you are doing this helps reduce risk and can lead to success.


All in all, when I manage risk I reverse engineer the biggest risks and how to avoid them. Then I compartmentalize into groups and create processes that will help reduce my risks. I have to be prepared through analysis but flexible in execution to roll with any unforeseen circumstance. That is what I have learned  about risk management in the cage. 

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