How many times has a dude shaken your hand and squeezed really hard? (Not cool, huh?).
How’s this for irony: Guess who’s least likely to try and show off a gorilla grip when shaking your hand? Guess who’s almost definitely not going to crush your hand — nor even greet you with the firm handshake your father taught you was so essential?
A professional fighter. Yep. Or an avid jiu-jitsu player, or serious martial artist.
This is one of those little-noticed observations that I’ve made over the past 15 years dealing closely with professional boxers, MMA fighters and elite jiu-jitsu players. I’ve shaken the hand of Chael Sonnen, Anthony Pettis, Randy Couture, Chuck Liddell, Marcelo Garcia, Forrest Griffin, Joe “Jitsu” Benavidez, Roberty Drysdale, Evan Dunham and hundreds of other fighters and martial artists over the years … the number of times I recall a strong squeeze handshake from one of them: Zero. Not once.
Take someone like Floyd Mayweather Jr. — worth over a half billion dollars — or UFC featherweight Cub Swanson (who has suffered at least six broken hands) … do you really think they want you squeezing their hand?
In fact, even a firm handshake from an elite fighter or martial artist is relatively rare.
On Wall Street, a firm or hearty handshake may signify power and enthusiasm; in a fighter’s world it might instantly earn you “jerk” status.
Which begs the question, “Why are elite pro fighters such gentle hand-shakers?” One theory: A fighter’s hands are his livelihood. His or her moneymaker. A fighter’s hands, or an avid jiu-jitsu player’s hands, take a pounding over the years. Damaged ligaments and scar tissue are the norm. And so fighter’s become very conscious of their hands, much more than most. Under this way of thinking, empathy rules the day. A fighter doesn’t want other people squeezing his scar-tissued, sensitive hands — so he’s not going to squeeze yours.
Another theory for this passive and relaxed handshake: A lot of hand-squeezers are overcompensating for their underlying insecurities. They actually question their own power, so they go out of their way to portray power via a deathclutch greeting. Conversely, elite fighters — accustomed to staring down and conquering their fears — have less to prove to others because they know their own power.
Editor’s Note: The hand of the mangled finger in the pics belongs to my friend and top UFC flyweight fighter Joseph “JoeJitsu” Benavidez. Thanks Joe for sharing!