Competition anxiety in combat sports and the importance of mental toughness

Dara Mojtahedi*, Neil Dagnall, Andrew Denovan, Peter Clough, Stephen Dewhurst, Matthew Hillier, Kostas Papageorgiou, John Perry

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Downloads (Pure)


Combat sports require participants to engage in potentially dangerous forms of contact-based competition. Pressure to succeed, coupled with the risk of severe injury can induce significant levels of anxiety, which if uncontrolled, can negatively impact performance and possibly promote unsporting conduct. The present study examined competitive anxiety levels of combat sports athletes and determined whether self-reported scores were associated with mental toughness and Sportspersonship attitudes. A cross-sectional survey design was used whereby participants (N = 194) completed a battery of questionnaires measuring competitive combat sport experiences, demographic details, Sportspersonship traits (compliance towards rules, respect for opponents, and game perspective), and competition anxiety (somatic, cognitive, and self-confidence; reported retrospectively). Results suggest that mentally tough athletes experience lower levels of cognitive and somatic anxiety, and higher self-confidence, prior to competitions. Findings also found that athletes endorsing more altruistic and respectful attitudes in sport (Sportspersonship) reported higher levels of competition anxiety. The findings demonstrate that mental toughness is allied to positive attributes and could potentially be operationalized to improve both the retention and performance of combat sports athletes. Thus, the authors advocate the use of mental toughness coaching interventions within combat sports.
Original languageEnglish
Article number713
JournalBehavioral Sciences
Issue number9
Early online date28 Aug 2023
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2023


  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • General Psychology
  • Genetics
  • Development
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

Cite this