What is it that creates a champion? Why are some people high achievers in their field while others can never hope to do better than average?
The question is relevant to all walks of life and all aspects of human endeavor, but in the sport it is particularly pronounced. The lives and achievements of standout athletes are almost mythical in their quality.
Mythical they may be, but science lies behind it. The latest research indicates that there is a very definite physical factor separating the elite from the herd. It has to do with the brain and, more specifically the pre-frontal lobe.
This is one of the most important regions of the brain, with a huge impact on everything from personality, decision-making and social behavior to cognitive behavior and problem-solving. A high-functioning pre-frontal lobe makes for a high-functioning human, and vice-versa.
In essence it is the brain’s computer, or at least a key part thereof. The basic activity of this brain region is considered to be orchestration of thoughts and actions in accordance with internal goals.
Like all computers, processor speed is the key. And those of the human populace with the fastest processors – Intel Inside, if you will – are at a distinct advantage.
Research from the prestigious universities such as John Hopkins in Baltimore has shown that the highest-functioning examples can process information twice as fast as the average and often possess a working memory (‘hard drive’) bigger than the standard.
Individuals with a high-functioning pre-frontal lobe often display certain personality characteristics as well. They tend towards wanting to control their environment and activities, are very analytic, have a huge drive and a capacity to ‘think outside the box.’
You’re reading this on the GLORY website and so you might be wondering, ‘What does this have to do with kickboxing?’ The answer is ‘Performance.’
When you watch GLORY you are watching the best kickboxers in the world, generally fighters who have dominated their weight class in their homeland and have earned a call-up to what is the world’s premier league of stand-up striking.
What separates them from their fellow fighters is reaction time. This becomes particularly apparent if you ever see them fight lesser opposition. They are able to attack and evade so precisely that it appears to the onlooker that they have had advance notice of what the opponent intended to do or where he intended to be.
It looks this way because they process information so much faster than their opponent. This leads to an enhanced sense of timing, which, among other things, gives them the ability and confidence to execute those spectacular ‘out of the box’ techniques, which are the hallmarks of top martial artists and fan favorites.
When you watch the best fighters in the world, you are watching a very analytical, fast-processing human who combines that with a high degree of athleticism. Because of this, you’ll often hear them describe fighting as “easy” or find that they cannot explain the things they do. It’s because it comes naturally.
An obvious example is Giorgio Petrosyan. A winner of prestigious GLORY and K-1 tournaments, his record is 76-2-2. That is incredible, and even more so when you note that he has faced and beaten the best opposition his weight class has to offer, often more than once.
Known for a super-analytical fighting style, dozens of writers have likened Petrosyan to a computed. He often seems able to mind-read opponents – when they attack he isn’t there. When they adjust to his new position, he’s already gone again. Petrosyan seems nine steps ahead and he capitalizes on opportunities that most aren’t even capable of noticing.
One of Petrosyan’s best friends is the soccer player Mario Balotelli, another world-class athlete with a reputation for brilliance and innovation. This isn’t a coincidence. Exceptional people are drawn towards one another; Petrosyan and Balotelli have been firm friends since their first meeting and both are very appreciative of the other’s skillset.
GLORY’s roster is packed with fighters who are headline names in their own right and champions in their own country. The fascinating thing about GLORY is that we get to see top fighters face off and determine who really is the best of the best.
In April we might get to see that happen in the light-heavyweight division. Tyrone ‘King of the Ring’ Spong (73-6-1-1) and Gokhan ‘The Rebel’ Saki (79-17-0-1) are two outstanding talents and are on opposite sides of the tournament bracket. If they end up facing off in the final, fans worldwide are going to have their prayers answered.
Both are known for speed, creativity and an ability to ‘read the game’. They tend to dominate their opponents and have that ’mind-reading’ ability which marks out the top-tier. Both have been competing since their teenage years so by now they have it all: experience, dedicated training and natural skill.
Five years ago they met in a tournament for the first time. The fight was very close and went to an extra round, during which Saki managed to land a KO on Spong. But these days it is clear that Spong is in his absolute prime. So is Saki. If they meet at GLORY 15 ISTANBUL on Saturday April 12, that fight will be the true test.
And that isn’t forgetting Nathan ‘Carnage’ Corbett (Saki’s semi-final opponent), a champion in his native Australia, or Saulo Cavalari (Spong’s semi-final opponent), a champion in his native Brazil. All four are capable of winning the tournament.