For an experienced combat sports athlete, getting into the cage for a mixed martial arts fight becomes increasingly more comfortable over time. The nervousness goes away, breathing normally gets easier and the ability to stick to a gameplan becomes second nature.
However, while MMA and boxing are both combat sports, they are very different.
Minnesota mixed martial artist Kenneth Glenn (@kennglenn) experienced that firsthand earlier in June when he stepped into the ring for his professional boxing debut. Glenn, 3-1 in his MMA career, battled Donny Tierney at the Hyatt hotel in Minneapolis.
“I felt nervous because, it just felt different than walking into the cage,” Glenn told Bleacher Report MMA. “It wasn’t my first combat sports fight, but at the same time, it was my first boxing fight, so it was a little weird.
"I didn’t know what to expect because it’s obviously different from MMA. It was kind of an eye-opening experience. But once you get in there, you feel it.”
Glenn appeared a bit nervous early in the fight, but was able to overcome his discomfort in the second round when he rocked Tierney, and later in the third round when he finally got the knockout victory.
While he doesn’t believe that he was quite as nervous as his first MMA fight, Glenn did admit that being in the boxing ring was different than the MMA cage.
“I didn’t have ‘first fight jitters,' but I didn’t have the MMA fight comfort,” he said. “It was kind of a mix of, ‘Should I be calm or should I be nervous?’ It ended up being kind of a bit of both.”
Glenn accepted the fight only a few weeks before it happened, leaving him little time to prepare for the MMA-to-boxing transition. Thankfully, he already had been working extensively on his boxing with one of the best rising stars in the sport.
“Robert Brant helped me out a lot. I owe a lot to him,” Glenn said. “We worked on foot movement, body alignment, not having such a wide base and not worrying about the takedown. In boxing, you don’t have to worry about fighting guys who like to shoot in for the takedown. It’s just much more focused on your opponent’s body position and your body position, especially the distance.”
Brant, who made his own professional debut on the same night, is a former Golden Gloves National champion and has been training with Glenn multiple times every week since October 2011.
“I would say I can pull over about 90% of what Robert teaches me into my MMA game,” Glenn said. “He understands that boxing isn’t the only part of MMA. He’s able to translate boxing into MMA, meaning he knows that I’m a strong wrestler, I’m a strong guy, I have a good base. So he incorporates that into everything we do. It enhances my whole standup game for mixed martial arts.”
Glenn does expect to continue boxing going forward, but MMA remains his first love. His next fight in the cage is already scheduled for August 4 in Onalaska, WI as part of Ironworks Training Center’s Three River Throwdown II event.
For more MMA news, fighter interviews and opinions, follow Nick Caron: @NicholasCaron.