What’s in a staredown? Everyone knows that it’s the fight that settles everything between pugilists but so much of the gamesmanship and anticipation happens before the first bell rings.
If you’re a big time fighter, say Australian kickboxer Nathan Corbett, and you fight in a major company like Glory, the promoters will do all they can to create public tension between you and your opponent. There are often press conferences, during which you are seated near one another and asked about one another.
Sometimes, fighters are brought together at the center of the ring by the presiding referee right before the fight’s start to go over final instructions. Most of all, however, there is the stare down, which occurs right after both fighters weigh in the day before the contest.
Both men have trained for weeks, singularly obsessed with one another, are often extra irritable from having just dropped a considerable amount of weight and now are made to stand inches from one another in a fight posture, but not to actually fight just yet – to simply pose for photos.
When you actually think about it, the ceremony is as strange as it is familiar to fight fans. However, the reason it persists is simple – we think we can see something in the fighters based on how they react to the awkward situation.
Fighters often think they can tell something about their opponent in those moments as well. Some fightersÂ huff and puff, some look anywhere but their opponent, others smile, and sometimes – if we’re lucky – a mini brawl breaks out right there on the stage.
Corbett has tried just about every approach throughout his career. “I’ve tried to look into the eyes of my opponent, other times I’ve looked away so I wouldn’t lose focus,” he recounts to Cagewriter shortly after weighing in to fight Gokhan Saki in Istanbul on Friday.
The two will fight one another in the semi-finals of the Glory light heavyweight tournament Saturday. Whoever wins will fight again that same night in the finals against the winner of Saulo Cavalari vs. Tyrone Spong.
Corbett has used different approaches to weigh-in face-offs in the past, but this time he did what came naturally. “This time I just smiled at him,” he chuckles.
“I’m in a good place and I wanted to stay there. I’m calm and ready to fight. [Saki] was trying to look like a mean, scary guy, and he is a mean scary guy, but I just wanted to keep myself in the good place I am.”
Focusing on himself in that moment is an extension of what Corbett has done throughout his training camp for this fight and tournament. He explains that focusing on one’s self is about the only thing a fighter can do when heading into an unpredictable tournament where you don’t precisely know how many times and everyone who you will fight.
“With a tournament, you just have to focus on the one fight in front of you because you don’t know what will happen after that. You have to focus on yourself, and what you need to sharpen, what your strengths are,” he says.
Corbett says that Saki is unpredictable himself as well. “[Saki] goes hard, is explosive, has power in both hands and switches his stances,” he details.
“So it’s difficult to plan too carefully for what a guy like that will do because you don’t know what he will do at any given moment.”
Corbett has also not allowed himself to think too much of what might happen should he beat Saki – specifically that he could face Spong in the finals. Years ago, Corbett knocked Spong out but hit him after the stoppage and the bout was changed to a no contest.
Last fall, Spong got his revenge and stopped the Australian. Corbett would surely like the chance to break the tie with Spong but is focused on Saki.
“I’m just focused on fighting Saki, not would could happen after him,” he insists.
Corbett will admit to needing the boost he received from a win in his home country two months after the last Spong fight. “I definitely needed that,” he says.
“The opponent they gave me [Henriques Zowa] was a good match up for me and I was fighting at home but it was good to get another win. I needed to get the last fight out of my mind.”
Corbett brings his surging confidence into hostile territory today against Saki – a Turkish fighter. Corbett has fought many times in his native Australia and knows that it won’t be easy fighting a home town hero on his own turf.
Similar to the weigh ins on Friday, however, Corbett plans to confidently be himself when faced with the pressure and smile back. Well, smile and hit back.
“I’m used to being the hero, fighting at home. I’ve thought about that a lot already. The last time, I thought about my opponent. Everyone was cheering for me and I thought about what it felt like to be him in that moment, because I knew it would be me some day,” Corbett says.
“The fans will get [Saki] more excited and he’ll come out even harder against me. That’s fine. Whatever type of energy it is, it is still energy, and I’ll take it in and use it as well.”
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