It’s OK to Have Sex the Night Before a Fight, According to an MMA Champion

The "women weaken legs" argument is a myth, folks

A tired boxer standing in the corner of the ring.
Worry more about what you'll do in the ring than out of it.
Wade Austin Ellis/Unsplash

Former UFC champion Michael Bisping won 30 fights in his professional MMA career — and 18 by knockout. He reckons he had sex with his wife the night before a bunch of them.

In a recent video posted to his YouTube channel, the retired British fighter, who now works as an analyst and commentator, takes on the oft-repeated “women weaken legs” superstition, which compels most fighters to abstain from sex or masturbation the night before (and usually the week leading up to) a big fight.

The public is fairly familiar with this concept thanks to the Rocky franchise; way back in the original, Rocky’s trainer Mickey yells at him after a pair of female admirers try to get Rocky’s autograph during a training session. And in the series’ recent spinoff, Rocky passes the practice down to Adonis Creed, urging him to keep things PG with his girlfriend Bianca Taylor before the climactic match at the end of Creed.

Coaches outside of combat sports have been known to preach a similar message. If you played organized sports in high school or college you definitely heard it before. Meanwhile, managers at the professional level have no problem dropping abstinence edicts on their athletes, especially when traveling.

During the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, Mexican coach Miguel Herrera said, “I am thinking about soccer and I hope that the boys are thinking about soccer because nobody has died from practicing abstinence for 40 days.” Players from other nations — England and Ghana — were reportedly kept away from their wives and girlfriends during the tournament, to mixed results.

As Bisping points out, the whole concept is more or less a myth. It makes sense that its modern origins stem from the world of martial arts, where fighters are obsessed with gaining any minuscule advantage. Many have convinced themselves that retaining sperm will help them bring more testosterone and aggression into the ring or cage.

But the premise that sex or masturbation will tank testosterone levels is a misconception; the body releases hormones on its own in an effort to achieve homeostasis. In fact, letting loose the night before a big fight or game could be just what the doctor ordered, as an effective tool for calming the body down before sleep.

Trainer Jeff Cavaliere even recommends masturbating as a pre-bed activity. He imagines that this could help deliver you a better night’s sleep. Over time, this would actually improve your testosterone and fitness gains. Before an extremely important day, though, it would help you relax. Laser focus is admirable; and for some, perhaps, it’s the only way to get in the right mindset before a contest. But for others, a bit of fun could be the lifeline they need to calm the nerves.

As Bisping says: “It’s a great distraction from the fight. Actual science says that the more times you release, the more times you climax, it actually helps to increase the testosterone levels in you … You’ve thought of this day for months, you’ve trained your arse off for months, you’ve pushed yourself to the absolute limit … I’m just saying, having a little distraction will take your mind off that.”

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