Interview with Alex Tui - 2004
This month we take a look at Alex Tui's mental preparation.
Alex surprised me somewhat here with his 'laid back' approach to mental toughness. He is the only fighter I have ever heard of who, in his pre-fight preparation, envisages himself being knocked down and losing, so that he's not pyschologically thrown by whatever happens in the fight!
But it's all part of a package, where Alex eschews fixed battle tactics in favour of an approach that simply responds to the style and ability of his opponent. He lets his opponent take the initiative, and monitors him round by round, waiting for his opportunity to take control.
Dave: Now, what about on the mental side. Now I know you’ve been a model for me in this regard in terms of your mental and emotional preparation.
Alex: Well, I’m flattered that you say that.
Dave: Well, I remember you saying it early on, when I heard Mike Tyson and some of these people talking about developing a hatred for their opponent, you said, ‘No, no, no, you have confidence in your work in the gym.’
Your confidence would be in your training, not in some emotional issue you had with the other guy. I’d say in that regard that you were a model for me as a spiritual fighter as well as a ring fighter - a man who can respect his opponent and still take him to pieces.
Alex: Actually, I’m pretty laid back to be honest. And I only ever sort of try and keep my focus by pushing myself and trying to concentrate a bit, which is hard for me.
But it’s easy once you get in the ring and the first bell goes. You know you’re right, but of course there’s a mental preparation before the fight you know that you need to maintain during training. Just getting up in the mornings, when you’re finding it hard, you try and picture that benefit.
Dave: Maintaining your discipline and your focus?
Dave: Would you envisage your fight beforehand, be thinking about it all the time. Seeing yourself going through all the moves?
Alex: Yeah I would. I mean of course you try and find out as much as you can. I try and read a little bit about…I try and read as much as I can about how other sports people prepare. I think it’s useful
Dave: What do you think? What would be the most useful thing you picked up for yourself?
Alex: For myself? I mean…I go through…and I try and visualise the fight. I always…I think for me, I suppose everybody, but for me I think its good to think about both ways. Like look at both sides. So you know…if something doesn’t go well then I need to think about what…
Dave: What you are going to do?
Alex: Yeah, to prepare myself for the situation where you know, or get knocked down.
Dave: So you’d be emotionally prepared for that as well?
Alex: Yeah…you need to be ready for that. Good to have the positive attitude, but at the same time you need to have something to back up a situation where things don’t go the way that you know.You don’t know what to expect.You never know what to expect. But keep positive. That’s got to be in the forefront of your mind. You know that. You’ve got to put everything into it.
I think I was, I was always ready for, not like expecting, but I was always prepared for things like, you know, things like losses I used to come across fighters who took a defeat really badly you know?
Dave: Where as I’ve seen you...
Alex: Where as to me, I wouldn’t understand it. That was something that wasn’t a problem with me.
Dave: So what are you thinking then? You’re not going in saying ‘I’m going to kill this guy’.You’re going in thinking what - ‘I’m going to my darndest here’ or what?
Alex: I don’t think…I mean…I go in, actually I go in…I go as hard as they go. I mean I expect, I look at myself and I say you know…focus.If I give him an opening he’ll knock me out, but at the same time I feel the fight, during the fights its like I’ll go as hard as he goes until we get to that level where you know its…
Dave: OK. So you let him determine the pace of the fight until what…he wears a little and you see an opening and then you’ll take advantage of it?
Alex: Yes.That’s normally how I start the fight. I’ll start a fight by letting him…
Dave: Set the pace?
Dave: Like runners do, where the guy tries to stay up with the leader and then eventually speeds past him.
Alex: Yeah, yeah. Then I…have my fight out and see what he’s got to do.
Dave: Where in the fight, like 2 or 3 rounds in or something? Or two-thirds through?
Alex: Oh whenever! Whenever I feel, you know ... I suppose when it feels right. It could be the first round, or it could be later.
Dave: Basically when you see there’s a weakness or an opening or a possibility to make that move?