Before he steps inside the ONE Championship Circle, Finnish mixed martial artist Aleksi “The Giant” Toivonen wears an emotionless expression.
Hidden underneath that calm exterior, however, a strong confidence quietly brews.
Despite being engulfed by the rapturous applause and cheers from the fans, “The Giant” dons his poker face with ease.
“I’m just not the nervous type overall,” he said. “I know this other guy, a friend of mine who’s a fighter too, and we are really similar. When we walk in, it kind of looks like we’re going to get a cup of coffee, but just a little bit angry, you know?”
Once in that mental state, Toivonen rids himself of self-doubt. But his confidence stems from the intense training camps leading up to match days.
“Before every fight, if I asked myself, ‘Have I done everything I can within my power so that I can perform well and win the fight and perform to the best of my abilities?’” he said.
“If I can honestly answer, ‘yes,’ then that’s all I really need.”
Pressure will always be part of competition, as Toivonen admits. So having more experience in different combative situations is critical to success.
“You get used to what you’re doing and that helps with the feeling and anticipation when you are fighting,” the 25-year-old said.
“If you’ve done everything, then you don’t have to do anything else. Just go and do what you do every day.”
By compartmentalizing each match like it were a part of his daily routine, Toivonen effectively eliminates the nerves and uncertainties that typically frazzle some athletes.
“I train twice a day to fight. Why should I be nervous?” he said. “It’s just like if you fix cars every day and one day your boss comes and watches you fix a car that you’ve been doing for years, twice a day.”
Toivonen also believes in putting faith in his preparation and just going with the flow on match day.
“You control what you can, but whatever you can’t control, it’s not up to you. We have to be able to let go of that and rely on preparing your best just like any match.”
Acceptance is not always easy, especially when dealing with losses, but the Finn has grown to see it as an opportunity for improvement.
“It’s also part of the game that you don’t win. So, you just have to realize that those things happen,” he said. “Like, sometimes you lose, sometimes the other guy is better, and it’s sometimes out of your control.”
Lastly, he believes challenges will only make you better with time.
“Get more experience from all your ups and downs,” Toivonen said. “Gradually get yourself into bigger competitions, and through better situations you [get] that confidence to handle anything.”
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