Fighters' Profiles Interviews

Roy Dakroub: Psychology and Future of Combat Sports

Roy Dakroub

Roy Dakroub represented 3 national teams for Lebanon including Muay Thai, Wrestling, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He had competed at the national level and internationally in 6 different combat sports. Roy Dakroub pursued his academic journey to secure a Ph.D. in Behavioral Psychology from France. Today, he theoretically explains to us the best application of psychology into combat sports.

During his fighting career, Roy Dakroub believed mental games do play a role to get him an edge over his opponents. Beyond the physical preparation, comes the psychological conditioning and warfare that can make or break a fighter. Successful fighters are well known to psychologically consume their opponents and wearing them off even before the fight begins. 

“Psychology, just like any martial art, is a science that needs practice and drilling to be mastered. Just like the small details that can also make a difference in your fighting techniques, understanding the theoretical framework of psychological events can help you be aware of what is going on, how to use it for your advantage and how not to fall into your mistakes again”.

Roy Dakroub

Dakroub believes that balancing his fighting career with academic pursuit helped him immensely. He was nurtured to develop the mentality to focus on specific goals and pursuit of knowledge was an undisputed asset that supplemented his passion for combat sports. Currently, he is a professor in Behavioral Economics and works as a User Experience Researcher. He is still competing in combat sports.

“The key to using psychology into martial arts needs the understanding of how and why you behave, and how and why others behave in a certain way. This can break down a lot of elements and puts logic into the situation. Why do we get stressed before our fights? Why do we sometimes get a mental blockage? Why do we set a certain belief about our opponents? All of these can be theoretically explained and used for your advantage and also bring you more business opportunities.”

Roy Dakroub

Dakroub believes a better understanding of psychology will be key during the next stage of evolution in combat sports where athletes will seek new branches of knowledge to gain an advantage over their opponents. Dakroub pinpoints on three major principles of psychology which makes an immediate difference in combat sports.

ANCHORING, which is setting in your mind a certain perception about someone, you prepare for a grappler and disregard his potential striking skills

“First, we have ANCHORING, which is setting in your mind a certain perception about someone and your thoughts will become fixed on this big picture and disregard other elements. For example, you prepare for a grappler and disregard his potential striking skills, which can put you into unexpected trouble since you framed him as a grappler. Taking that into consideration can avoid unpleasant surprises. Remember how Conor got punched hard by Khabib in the final rounds?

Roy Dakroub

Dakroub addresses the popular scenario of overconfidence which had been the downside of many great athletes in multiple combat sports over the years.

A second theory is the OVERCONFIDENCE bias, and this is a really dangerous one. The latest research showed that statistically, 86% of people in managerial roles think that they perform better than the average manager. Being confident is very important in life, but if overestimating your skills and underestimating your opponent, this could limit your growth onwards. This is what we call an ego in the fighting game.” 

Roy Dakroub

In the third theory, Dakroub explains Fitt’s Theory. This explains the necessity regarding drills and conditioning. This principle also explores the downside of ring rust which haunts fighters who make a return after an epic run in their careers.

A final example would be FITT’S THEORY. Anyone who has learned specific martial arts techniques, especially in BJJ, is effortful at first, but gradually their movement becomes more automatic over time. In the first stage, movements are slow, inconsistent, and inefficient, and large parts of the movement are controlled consciously. In the second stage, movements become more fluid, reliable, and efficient, and some parts of the movement are controlled automatically. That’s why drilling is key to success, it is mental conditioning.”

Roy Dakroub

About the author

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Zahi Ephrem is the founder of Arabs MMA. He is a pioneer in combat sports journalism in the Middle East covering every major Mixed Martial Arts promotion in the Middle East and Asia. He has also worked as an advisor during the launch phase of Mixed Martial Arts organizations in the Middle East.

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