Fighting Is Like…Texas Hold’em

By Dave Madden @DMaddenMMA

There are few things that capture my eye more than an MMA fight. I’m a self-proclaimed MMA rubbernecker; I see a cage, a ref, and fighters in action, and the world passes me by until the round ends or the referee has halted action. With my years of fanaticism, hours of screen time, and thousands and thousands of Internet clicks and searches, I agree with Sam Sheridan in his autobiography: A Fighter’s Heart (2010) when he postulated why fight fans have such a tight connection to their sport,

“You can learn so much about a person by watching him fight that you feel you know him.” (p. 130)

Photo provided by Justin Jaynes

MMA surrounds my being: there are MMA events calendared on my phone; gridlocks in traffic blare my favorite MMA podcasts; I read books about the history and people of MMA; the DVR’s memory is on limited life because so many MMA events are broadcasted, and apparently, I am expected to share the TV. As I’m watching these athletes lock horns, I wonder what it’s like to engage in war wrapped in wire fencing. Following his recent win in San Diego at Xplode Fight Series (XFS): Heat, Justin Jaynes (8-3-0), a lightweight out of Las Vegas’ Xtreme Couture MMA, compared the mentality required to be successful in the fight game to that of Texas Hold’em.


The cage welcomes everybody, but it’s only inviting to those who possess the necessary mindset for battle. Jaynes’ approach to mixed martial arts will continue the trend of the cage’s doors opening like welcoming arms. In the transition to either a card-shark or high-caliber cagefighter, heart versus ability is as age-old an argument as nature versus nurture. Jaynes explained why the cards he’s dealt finds him on top,

“No matter what hand you have, whether you have pocket aces, pocket kings, or seven deuce, just because you start with that hand doesn’t mean you’re going to win the hand. The best hand you can start with is pocket aces. Sometimes, that seven deuce will sneak up on you, and in the end, on the river, they end up getting the win.”

The notion of when one begins in contrast to where they can end resonated with Jaynes’ experience of fighters who launched their careers with phenomenal abilities, only to freeze in their own tracks by not pushing the RPMs of their potential. Good enough is not necessarily always good enough.

“I see it all the time. There are lots of people who are blessed with natural talent, and they started so far above everyone. I look at some of the people who beat me as an amateur; I laugh because they have so much talent to be something in this sport, but they threw it all away.”

Why don’t these natural born wonders use their full reach of possibility? Why do they simply accept their lot? Jaynes would ascertain that fighters who cannot push will never hit the jackpot,

“You have to be all in or all out. The guy who is only in a little bit, who tries to chip away; we call you a loser. If they’re scared to gamble everything they have, it won’t work in MMA.”

Jaynes applied his masterful poker face when he shared the gamble he made on himself,

“I moved away from my family; I moved away from my son unfortunately; I moved away from my Mom, my friends, everything, and moved to Las Vegas to pursue a pipe dream-some might say. If you don’t have that kind of commitment, you aren’t going to go anywhere in the sport.”

In regards to poker, Jaynes might be on to something: chipping away slowly equaling loser. I rarely, if ever, push all-in, and I, more often than not, wind up filling out the “pay to order” line to the house. Since I’ll never discover myself in a cage standing across from another similarly weighted individual, it was enlightening to obtain Jaynes’ insight into the warrior spirit and drive harnessed to stamp your name as a mark on the sport.

Check out other articles related to Jaynes’ bout at XFS: Heat on July 11, 2015:



2 thoughts

    1. Their mindset to perform at a high level is incredibly intense and focused. I constantly see connections between mixed martial artists’ mentality and writing, learning, and the list goes on and on. Thanks for taking the time to read and respond:)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s