Mixed martial arts is an unforgiving sport, but Frankie Saenz says the key is forgiving yourself.
The bantamweight fighter opened up about the highs and lows of MMA in a candid interview with Bloody Elbow. Mental coaches and sports psychologists are a growing trend in the sport and Saenz, 38, believes it is the foundation of his renewed success.
“Now I feel great, but like you said you get in the lowest of lows. What goes first is your confidence,” he admits. “Mentally, you’re always second guessing yourself. ‘Am I doing enough? Am I doing too much?’ The main thing for me was getting a mental coach, to get me thinking positive. That’s when I started making my turn around.”
“I just got back to thinking positive, being grateful for the opportunity that’s in front of me. It’s really elevated my career and I’m back on a win streak,” he continued. “A lot of the game is in your head. How you’re thinking and how you’re going about the day. I’m waking up every day and doing a gratitude app. You know, what am I grateful for today?”
Positive thinking is easier said than done, but Saenz insists a bright outlook rubs off on every other aspect of the fight game. “I’m starting my day with positive thoughts in my head which leads to better workouts, better training, better recovery,” he notes. “I’m just in a better place mentally.”
Saenz was a hot prospect in the UFC’s 135-pound division, winning his first three fights. A decision loss to Uriah Faber was the start of an avalanche that some his lose three in a row. He turned things around at the end of 2017 and heads into UFC Nashville with back-to-back wins.
“When you fail in front of millions of people, you get that constant reminder,” said Saenz, reflecting on his UFC losses. “There were times in my career where I didn’t want to watch the fights I lost. I was at a low point. ... Those losses don’t define you, it’s just about getting past them and getting better.”
That lack of confidence can be tough to shake,” Saenz said. “There is always going to be that doubt. ... You just need to turn it off.”
Saenz fights Marlon “Chito” Vera at UFC Nashville on Saturday, March 23. The event is headlined by Stephen Thompson welcoming Anthony Pettis to the welterweight division.