Paul Craig recently scored his fourth win in a row when he submitted Nikita Krylov with a triangle choke in the first round at UFC London. The win moved Craig into the UFC’s light heavyweight top 10 and now puts him on the cusp of title contention, a remarkable turnaround for a man who began his UFC career 2-3 and at one point looked close to being dropped from the promotion.
It’s a resurgence that the 34-year old Craig says began when he started seeing a sports psychologist.
” It’s all about adding small bits to your game, it’s also about adding little bit to your camp like working alongside a nutritionist or my conditioning coach. It’s just about dealing with all these people. Like, a sports psychologist made a huge difference to my self-belief,” Craig said on The MMA Hour. “But then it’s adding all them together. One of them on their own didn’t make me better, it was a whole host of things.
“Once the mindset changed, then it was about bringing in other people in my camp. Because right at the start, we were very, very secretive. We didn’t want to have anyone else that wasn’t a part of the team in the camp. Also, I did not have a conditioning coach or a nutritionist. I also didn’t know a sports psychologist. Once we had the sports psychologist on board, and he kind of opened up my mind and opened up my attitude, and then I allowed loads more people in to try and help me.
” I was determined to make it happen on my own, Craig said. I don’t need anybody else.’ In this sport, you can’t be like that. Positive people are important. You must have lots of people in your life. This was also not the case. People will change along your path, you will meet and lose friends, but it is about keeping in touch with the people who are best for you. It was a whole host of things.”
Craig mentioned that one of his first tasks he and his psychologist did was to improve his striking. He said that before he felt like “a rabbit under the headlights” while fighting but now feels ready on the feet to face anyone. And that was not a one-time thing. Craig mentions that Craig still visits his psychologist every week and believes the practice is an important part of Craig’s fight camps.
” “It’s not one thing that I have to improve on,” Craig stated. Craig said that there was an area that needed improvement and that we discussed it. We then worked together to fix that. This is an ongoing process. You don’t have to do it all at once. Weekly sit-downs are held where we talk about what might happen at camp and look back on the past to see how we can move forward.
“It’s about them all working together, because they’ve all got the same goal: Everybody wants me to win in my camp.”
Craig is not the first fighter to work with a sports psychologist. After his defeat to Matt Serra in the first round, Georges St-Pierre started working with a sports psychologist and says it changed his whole mentality about fighting.
Craig is delighted to hear that this sentiment has been more widely accepted.
” From a child to today, there have been barriers. These barriers will always be there to stop you from doing the things you want in your life. It’s good to talk about this kind of stuff,” Craig said. When we were kids, there was no way we could talk about any topic.
” Men have bottled up everything and are now able to talk and share freely. It’s not a negative thing to express your emotions. It was a common belief that men didn’t talk about their emotions for long. That was seen as quite a wimpy thing to do, and I think it’s totally changed and I’m glad it’s changed, because it’s definitely improved my game by speaking.”