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Answer by Nate Moore, fighter, trainer, entrepreneur, combatcircuit.com:
As you can imagine, it hurts like hell. Headaches, bumps, and bruises on the face and body, and sometimes broken hands, can make the day after the fight a real pain in the ass, in addition to the rest of the body. Any injuries can make simple tasks hard to accomplish. You never realize how much you use your ribs or hands until they are unusable.
Any part of your body may be hurt or injured, but there are a couple of spots that get more damage.
The leg or thigh can take considerable damage from just a few well-placed leg kicks. In some fights, you can see swelling and considerable bruising before the fight is even over. Just in practice, I've taken some leg kicks that made it hard to walk for weeks.
The ribs and torso can also take a beating and can make life difficult for a long while. Ribs are terrible injuries as they can make breathing, laughing, and even sleeping miserable. Rib injuries also take forever to heal since the damaged areas are usually made of slow healing cartilage.
And last but not least, the head is the area that receives the most attention from the opponent. Cuts and swelling around the eye, broken noses and jaws, and concussions are the most common injuries to the dome. Your face is inevitably going to take some abuse, so scrapes and bruising is common.
All of the above owies are usually made better with ice, drugs, and rest. A fighter should go home after a fight and ice his injuries (ice baths are great), drink plenty of water, take some anti-inflammatory meds (a fine line between pain killers and anti-inflammatory), and rest.
If a fighter wins, he's probably going to go out and celebrate by drinking alcohol and staying up late with his friends. Not exactly the best recovery regimen imaginable.
If he loses, he still might drink his sorrows away, but if he took considerable damage or if he has any significant injuries, he's usually going to stay up late in the hospital (athletic commissions can sometimes require this action for insurance purposes).
Most of the time, a fighter will be traveling home the day after a fight. If it's a big promotion like the UFC, you'll fly home. Traveling through an airport and sitting in coach for hours isn't exactly fun or easy, and it definitely doesn't do much good in the way of recovery.
In all likelihood, a fighter will spend the day after a fight doing the things that he couldn't do during the months before his fight. Examples may include eating a lot of food, substance abuse (I don't condone), and other recreational activities like sex.
Between the food, drugs, and sex, I'm sure a lot of fighters don't feel as terrible as you think they would, especially since the training camp can often be the hardest part of fighting. The actual fight itself is considered the fun part of being a fighter. The bumps and bruises you accumulate during the months of hard training makes the day after a fight easier to handle
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