Enjoy 🙂


In the world of fight training pride is responsible for stalling progress and for causing injuries, but without pride you wouldn’t be a fighter.

Taking a step back and slowing things down is one of the best ways to improve skills. If you are working a new takedown in wrestling you need to drill that technique over and over before you try it in a live situation. When you go live with the takedown the chances are you will not have immediate success. This means that you’re giving your opponent the chance to get the upper hand. Some people just can’t handle giving their training partner that chance of a win. If losing a point or two at training hurts your pride too much then you are giving up the chance to improve. By missing a takedown a few times you are shown the defence and in turn what you need to work on to make that move work. In BJJ pride is the most common reason for lack of progress. The tap out is the mortal enemy of pride. When you start out grappling your main aim is to not be tapped out, not to improve, not to learn escapes but rather just not tap. Just think how much faster you would’ve improved in BJJ if you had gone in with the mind set that tapping doesn’t matter and you focussed on improving one thing a week / month.

This leads to your pride causing injuries. In sparring you get hit, some people hit you more often than others. Everyone has that person at the club who is very close to you in talent and skill and when you spar it goes up a notch as neither is willing to take a step back. You kick each other in the legs, punch each other in the head and body. Straight after training your head is fuzzy from all the head shots and by the time you have gone home you have trouble getting out of the car due to your sore leg from the leg kicks. I have been in that situation on many occasions. Also when you are sparring hard and you get hit with a good headshot you get rocked, not enough to drop or buckle your legs, just enough for your vision to become blurred for a few seconds. This means that you have had a concussion. If we were sensible we would stop the round and stop training to rest the brain. Sometimes we are not sensible, we pretend that we are not hurt (fighters are good at that), walk forward and keep throwing. Then at the end of the round we look for someone else to spar with, even though we have had a thump on the brain all thanks to pride. We can’t take a few rounds off pride says no.

If you walked in to BJJ, Wrestling or Kickboxing club and don’t mind coming second, don’t mind being hit, submitted, taken down then you might not have the best mindset for these sports. Having pride that you can beat the person in front of you is what these sports are based on. Is your technique, preparation and will to win better than your opponents? Obviously this is a dilemma, to improve you are meant to put pride on the shelf, but to compete and win then you need pride and belief so how can we make that work?

For me there is a place for both, in 95% of your training you can leave the pride on the shelf and not worry about the win or loss rather the improvements on specific parts of your game. You are working the process that is how to make your move more effective. When your move doesn’t go as planned you have trained the process to avoid going to a worse position.
In the other 5% of your training this is when you are up against that person at the gym who just always throws down against you, this is when you give it your best and nothing experimental. This is also called the A-game, you save this for just a few people that are roughly your level. If someone is better or if someone is worse they are the people to improve with – leaving pride on the shelf. If you are against someone better they are going to beat you anyway so why not learn and try things. If your opponent is worse than you will gain a lot more by working positions and new skills rather than smashing them.

To me the quicker someone can figure this out the quicker they will improve. Every time you train have a plan on what you want to improve on and work that skill. Having a plan makes it a lot easier to put pride on the shelf then if you get beaten it doesn’t matter as you are just working the process and finding out more of the fine details. If you are improving then you are getting better and is all that matters not the win or loss in training.

Gareth Lewis
Head MMA Instructor

Failure is my Fuel

In the movie Money Ball Brad Pitt’s character says ‘I hate losing more than I love winning’ and I feel the same. Failure got me in to MMA, years ago I did karate and trained in kickboxing for a full contact karate tournament. At kickboxing I got my ass kicked which made me want to learn it. Then I grappled with BJJ guy and got wasted, so I had to learn that. Then I went up against a wrestler and got my ass whopped again and had to learn that. Overall because I failed at all of them it drove me to get better at them as I did not want to get my ass kicked.

First off I am not saying this is an ideal mind set, rather just how I am motivated. For as long as I can remember I have always been a little frustrated with fight sports as they seem so simple. In fight sports you have two arms and two legs against your opponents’ two arms and two legs, with all being equal, there is no reason why your opponent should be better. If your opponent throws a left hand it can be blocked with your right, they throw a right kick it can be blocked with your left leg or arm. This seems very easy and is what I try and do to this day with striking. With wrestling you goal is to get to the legs, so if your hips stay the same height as your opponents they are going have trouble getting to your legs. Keeping hips at the same height means if your opponent bends their knees to lower their hips you do the same thing to keep your hips at the same level. Then grappling, it is the same, you have two arms and legs so there is no reason why anyone should be better. You can see why I get frustrated as obviously it is not that easy.

Grappling / BJJ is the most obvious as athleticism and strength help but are not the force that they are in striking or wrestling. When I would get tapped out, or just mauled in terms of position I would first get angry then get frustrated then I would watch. I would watch as they had to be doing something that I was missing to get me. BJJ is slow in comparison to striking and wrestling which makes it perfect to watch. I would watch to see what these people were doing to set up the move and I would look until I could see a pattern, which can take time. Then when I rolled with them again I would wait for the set up and look to defend it. I would get the defence from asking the instructor or watch what others would do against the set up. My entire mind set was to not get caught in the submission from that particular set up. I might get caught with that submission but as long as it was not from that one particular set up I would consider it a victory. Then next time I would try and avoid that submission from all positions. This would progress to be against different people with different submissions. Once I’m doing alright with submissions then it comes down to avoiding bad positions and to be honest I am still in that battle with a number of people.

Striking to this day is the most frustrating as for me to not to get hit all I have to do is put hands up and move my hands or feet. How hard is it to keep hands up and move, turns out it is damn hard. The good thing with striking is you get immediate feedback if you get it wrong, as you get punched and it hurts. I always get hit when sparring but I do my best to not get caught with the same shot from the same set up in a round. It has taken me years to get this part (almost) right. I still get hit with shots, but if you land a clean shot on me, a few times, from a specific set up that is not poor technique that’s me not being aware and there is no excuse. I still get frustrated to this day, I was sparring the other night did some hard rounds and over two rounds I got hit with two very clean, solid right hands. I have been going over in my head what I did wrong. It is like I have a 3 second loop going on in my head showing what I did wrong to get hit. Now I may get hit with other shots next time I spar but I will not make that mistake and get hit with that straight right.

When you get me clean in training, takedown, submission, punch or kick I will be going over and over it my head to figure out what I did wrong and then try and plug that hole for the next session. In all the years I have been doing this I have not come across a tough fix yet. Moves are easy to do however it’s the timing placement and awareness are all things that make it very difficult. Add to the fact that some people are just better, which makes it very difficult. Against these people you may figure out that one solution to the problem this causes your opponent to change their attack as you have changed your response. This is a circular response that always evolves and is why training partners can cancel each other out regardless of talent.

I hate getting things wrong and look for the process to get it right, as there are always people better who make improving a certainty. Don’t get me wrong here, I do not get down on myself this is just what I need to show me where I am going wrong and I enjoy the challenge of defending the attack or landing the attack the next time. As it stands my sprawl is something that I am working on as I have got lazy with it. I may get taken down the next time I wrestle but it will not be from a double leg. I am not sure what motivates others but I have yet to meet a fighter who doesn’t mind getting moves wrong as it hurts and you get punished when you get it wrong.

Gareth Lewis
Head MMA Instructor

Not in the Face

At Lockdown we’ve been working on how to take better care of our new people. I’ve noticed that when new people get punched in the face they don’t like it and many wouldn’t come back to train – so we made some changes.

I’m always confused when people who wrestle, grapple, kickbox or box try out MMA and decide it’s not for them. So I did some reading and discovered that this was a recurring theme for others in my position too. People who practise fight sports don’t always last or like training in MMA. The biggest reason stated was that ‘MMA was too intense’ and this surprised me greatly. Wrestling feels like it is 100% all of the time, even when drilling it’s always hard and there is no such thing as slow. Then in BJJ when you start you’re constantly getting squished and tapped out which is not easy to deal with. Then in boxing or kickboxing you’re getting hit and bashed for the first year of training. When I trained boxing I would leave with a ‘fuzzy head’ from the sparring, then in kickboxing I was sore in the ribs and lead thigh from the sparring. You’d think that the people who can put up with any of these styles should be fine for MMA, but it just does not work like that.

So what have we done at Lockdown to make it a little easier?

We made it a three step process…….
1) When sparring no contact with the face of any kind, even lightly
2) New people do not spar against each other
3) Repeat rule 1-2 until they are ready to progress to sparring.

What I’ve noticed when doing this has been rather surprising. Before they even get on the mat new people are told to relax and keep all power out of their strikes and so on. The experienced people are told to take them through all the MMA levels, stand up takedowns, ground work and letting them back up. New people are usually a bit awkward and tense when they start sparring but now it’s only taking them a couple of sessions to relax, gain more confidence and start asking the questions I want to hear. This leads to them sparring without getting gassed and more importantly they stay relaxed and are less likely to make dumb moves

So far with the current new crop of students it seems that the system works well, they are working the usual MMA systems in sparring. That is level changes and attempts at takedowns and submissions. Obviously as they are new their skills are yet to be developed but they are willing to give them a go as they have not learned that fear from being hit hard – YET.

Going back to why people don’t stay at MMA, I do believe it is a pressure thing. In fight sports there is pressure in all of them but it only comes in a specific way. For Boxing / Kickboxing it’s the pressure of being hit. Wrestling it’s the pressure of the takedown battle. BJJ it’s the pressure of the submission and escapes. When you get a striker in MMA and they get taken down they get frustrated about not being able to get back to their feet. Then they get beaten and angry. They know they can beat you on their feet but people will not stand with them and they get taken down and frustrated. Wrestlers seem to have trouble with the range and don’t like being hit, but love slamming people. BJJ people seem too frustrated when being hit on the ground but love the top game. Overall most people seem to find the pressure of MMA hard to deal with. The pressure is things coming at you all the time, strikes and takedowns when standing and the constant transitions and strikes on the ground. When they move an MMA person moves and hits them, or punishes them for moving. They try moving on the ground a few times and it doesn’t go well. Then when they try and get up they get taken right back down again, especially if they are a good striker. Against anyone I find that if you take them down give them some pressure, either through position or strikes, then give them to space to get up then take them back down and continue a few more times that they give up trying to move and just go to survival mode. I’ve trained and competed in Kickboxing, BJJ and wrestling and have not had the same pressure put on me as I felt in MMA. With MMA it feels like it’s coming from everywhere and you’re powerless to stop it. However it must be said that there are people from each of these fight sports that have trained at Lockdown and have had no problems adapting and succeeding. It seems in general that most people don’t like going from a sport where they are good to a sport that they are not that good at.

This is not just a Lockdown problem but a MMA problem, according to google. There are some very successful clubs out there that have some great ways to introduce people in MMA. There just has to be a nice steady introduction on sparring as getting hit with those little gloves hurts. The changes have made a difference at Lockdown and for all new people they go through the 3 steps. I think it was time for me to understand that getting punched in the face is a big deal for most people and as fighters we take getting hit for granted. Compared to ‘normal’ people we get hit a lot and forget what it is like and how scary it can be for a new person. So now we take it very slowly with the new people.

Gareth Lewis
Head MMA Instructor

Decrease my Meat

Lately I have decreased my meat intake as it was getting very difficult to ignore the health reasons behind eating less meat. There is a number of top athletes who have decreased their meat intake as well, this is why.

My partner is vegan. A vegan does not eat any food from animals as in meat, dairy and honey etc or to put it simply vegans only eat only plants. She never pushed any of her thoughts on me. In fact she would cook me meat and would never mind when I would order the meat lover’s pizza and other meat things. But I did start to pick up on the health benefits on what she was doing and it got me thinking. The first change I made was milk. Only mammal’s drink milk as it is a high calorie drink designed for an infant to put on size so they are in less danger from predators. Once infants are big enough, which takes months not years, the mother stops producing milk and the young animal eats solid food. Humans are the only species that drink milk from another animal and continue to do so past infancy. When you think about milk that way it does not make much sense to continue drinking it – so I stopped.

If I go back 5 years I would’ve been very happy to eat steak every night, actually I thought that was living the dream. My grandparents had a farm and meat was always a big part of social occasions. Then a few months ago I went to an all you can eat meat restaurant, the meat was tasty as anything I ate a lot of meat. The next few days my stomach felt so heavy it was like it was working twice as hard, I woke up dehydrated and felt sluggish and heavy during the days. Then my partner made a vegan meal and the next morning my stomach felt lighter and I felt a lot better for it. That was about 18 months ago but little did I know but that wheels had started turning in my head about decreasing my meat intake.

One of the thoughts I had about vegan, or plant based, meals was that the plate would just have different vegetables on it and it look like rabbit food, more or less. However little did I know that there are many options, many of which are tasty, and most I would not know are plant based meals. They meals have different tastes and textures just like a meat based meal. Some of my favourite plant based meals are fajitas, hotdogs, jungle curry and some very tasty sandwiches. There are some very good and tasty meat substitutes so you don’t know that you are eating plants.

This is all very interesting but how does this relate to MMA, well athletes are starting to shift towards this way of eating as well. Most people think that you can’t perform strength or power sports from a plant based diet as ‘where do you get your protein’. The lack of protein is another misconception, like milk, have you ever known or heard of anyone that has had a protein deficiency? No you haven’t because it doesn’t happen. The animals that we eat to get protein all get their protein from plants, so in a way it is second hand protein. And the kicker is that cancer feeds off the protein from animals not plant protein. In short we can get everything when need from a plant based diet. There are MMA fighters who are plant based or vegan Nick and Nate Diaz, Mac Danzig and Jake Shields, and they all perform very well physically with plenty of energy and muscle. Then there are athletes like Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers who they 2 best quarter backs in the NFL. Here are some other names:
Cam Awesome – 8 x USA national boxing champ
Patrik Baboumian – won Germany Strongest Man
Mike Tyson – All time great boxer
Lewis Hamilton – 4 x F1 world champion
Carl Lewis – 9 Olympic medals.

So you can see that having a plant based diet doesn’t not limit you as an athlete. For me I am decreasing my meat intake as I could not ignore the health benefits from it. I am not ready to go vegetarian or vegan yet as I like my meat lover’s pizza, chocolate and M&M’s. For me I have three to four meet free days a week. I would not go back to having meat every night of the week. The health options are too great to ignore and I recommend to anyone to decrease meat in their diet to help their digestion, check out Brock Lesnar’s illness that took him out of competition for the best part of 12 months to confirm that one. As well as aiding digestion there is plenty of research out there that shows that cancer sufferers have had massive health benefits from cutting out meat and have even reversed cancer. Do some reading try some meat free meals and see how it feels.

Gareth Lewis
Head MMA Instructor

Just Because it is Legal Doesn’t Make it Right

This does have an MMA focus but for starters we are looking at the New Zealand trans gender weight lifter and my views on it.

As it stands the Australian weight lifting team is trying to ban Laurel Hubbard from competing at the Common Wealth Games in the women’s 90kg+ weight lifting. Laurel was a man for 35 years of her life who completed in weightlifting, she identified as women as took the steps in order to become a women. With the concern of opening a can of worms, what determines a woman? Is it how you feel, how you were born, how you look or medical guidelines? For the sake of weight lifting there are biological markers, such as testosterone that need be below a certain level for the athlete to compete as a female. Athletes are tested once a month to make sure that they are below a certain level if testosterone, they do not need to have had a sex change operation in order to compete. So Laurel has the appropriate biological levels to allow her to compete as female – case closed right?

First I would like to say that I can’t imagine how hard it would be to be born in a body that you didn’t identify with and to go through life with that massive challenge. However does that mean that someone who has lived as man for 35 years can compete as a female? It turns out yes it does. Laurel has done nothing wrong, she is following the rules and has been very successful as she is the first athlete from NZ to win a medal at the weightlifting world champs. As she has followed all the rules then what is the problem, is this ethical or biological debate?

Where I have the problem is that during puberty males get a big dose of testosterone, which develops muscle, deeper voice hairy chest and leads on to going bald. The testosterone is the key to developing more muscle and becoming physically stronger than females (that is why they use testosterone for performance enhancement). Males in general have denser stronger bones, tendons and ligaments. Therefore if you have been a man for 35 years you have a stronger base than a woman of comparative age. When you decrease the testosterone is that all of a sudden meant to make it equal? As one person said ‘this is an event to test women weightlifters not people who have a certain level of testosterone. Then when you add in the mental side, when Laurel was a man she was lifting heavier than what she lifts now. When she has to lift to get the win it will be weight that she has lifted before, compared to a competitor who might be lifting a weight that she has not lifted before or has only lifted once. If you know you can do something then you have such a big mental advantage.

This happens in MMA as well Fallon Fox is a transgender MMA fighter. She destroyed a female opponent, broke her orbital bone. The opponent said after the fight ‘I have never felt so over powered before and I am an abnormally strong women’. I can’t see how it is fair for someone who has been a man to compete against women in MMA. In general men are 30% stronger in the upper body (pound for pound). When I am sparring 60kg women and you hit them it affects them differently than a 60kg guy. There are weight divisions for a reason, strength and weight make a hell of a difference in a fight. If two fighters are equal in ability and fitness then the bigger stronger fighter has an advantage and will most likely win. It must be said that that is where the differences end, both technically and in terms of toughness there is no difference between male and female fighters.

In weight lifting it is all about technique, power and strength, to have natural advantages in two of those areas makes it unfair. This is not Laurel’s fault as she is just following the rules and will win the gold at the Commonwealth games and will be very close to the gold at the Olympics.

Transgender athletes competing will happen more and more and as they do the rules will change, they will need to change as it just does not seem fair. You don’t seem to have men who are now women athletes compete against women in pool, snooker, darts, archery which are skill based not strength based sports. I have had this discussion with a number of people and most people think it is unfair that a transgender athlete can compete as a woman especially in strength / power based sports. So it seems that just because it is legal doesn’t mean that it is right.

Gareth Lewis
Head MMA Instructor

Thank You Facebook

Facebook put up a memory on my page form 8 years ago and it was Lockdown MMA’s first two fights, that got me thinking.

At the time Lockdown had been going a little while, we had talented people but no one who was ready to step in the cage. Then two of the guys thought stuff it I want to fight. I promptly put their names in for a fight night in Auckland. They got matched and it was game on. Both guys where fit and good athletes, but had very different styles. The best thing was both of these guys are very competitive and do not take a step back against anyone. You can teach technique but not attitude and attitude is the most important thing in the cage. They trained very hard and at the time we had the cage. Training in the cage was great it helped so much as the fights where in a cage. Not that they needed it but as an incentive to train hard I did tell them if they didn’t train hard then they would get some terrible fight names: Scott Lyons ‘Heart’ and Brad ‘to the bone’ Hendra. Luckily neither name was used.

We all went up to Auckland. One of the fighters had trained in Thailand and got along with one of the elite grapplers on the planet (at the time) Tony Eduardo and we met up with him. One side note Tony went and got face to face with an alleged fake BJJ black belt in Auckland. The details of that meeting have been lost to time, but I do remember the look on the guys face and his body language, he was not happy that Tony was there. Tony came to the fights and worked the corner with me. I was intimidated to have someone so experienced next to me in the corner as I was the ‘head coach’ and the first real time that I was the go to person in the corner.

On fight night we did what would become the usual Lockdown fight prep which was laughter and joking until it is time to switch on, then a little more laughter mixed in with serious time. I was nervous as hell and this was the first fight as a trainer, I knew how to do things as a fighter but being in the corner is a lot different. Scott was up first and going in to the fight Scott’s grappling was better than his striking so we had trained the takedowns. The fight starts and Scott is trading hands with Craig Kolitevo  and landed a good right and then got on top and worked a few transitions until he got the finish via GnP.

We obviously celebrated then started getting Brad ready. A fighter in the changing room who was up two fights before Brad’s lost and came back in to the change room and brought all this negative energy with him. We did what we could to get away from that energy and the negative talk. We talked tactics for the fight and Tony was instructed to talk when the fight went to the ground as he is a BJJ expert. I don’t remember much from the first round, but in the second round  Brad picked up Ben Gorzeman and slammed him right by our corner and Tony was giving him very clear and brilliant instruction. Brad got the win via Guilotine in the 3rd round.

It was great night that validated our training and that we were doing the right thing. I have not watched the fights since and have written this from memory so any mistakes you can see in the few details from the fights is all down to my memory from 2010.

Times have changed a lot in terms of MMA, as a sport, and how Lockdown operates. We go in to fights a lot different these days, I am very comfortable working the corner and get a big kick out the fighters doing well. One downside that I have not really thought about is that MMA NZ is a lot weaker position now than what I would’ve thought it would be 8 years ago. Back them it seemed like the norm for us to fight in Auckland, to fight in a cage and have an entire card filled with MMA fights. Even though MMA worldwide has got a lot stronger it seems that in NZ it is not growing at the same rate. Auckland is doing well and there is a MMA scene in the South Island but in Wellington it is surprisingly quiet. I have not promoted an event and it is not something that I have any desire to do, but for the last few years Lockdown has only fought in Wellington in a ring on kickboxing shows. Some of this is my fault as maybe I should be promoting MMA fight nights. Should I be more aggressive in looking for fights in other regions? We have fought in Auckland a few times since these fights, with one event in a cage but nothing in the last 5 years – Which has got me thinking so I promote an MMA fight night?

Looking back over the time at Lockdown MMA it is a good feeling as there are lots of great memories, lots of ups and downs and so many memorable people that have left their mark on Lockdown and have been part of what makes Lockdown unique. I am really looking forward to see what the next few years have in store and to see the continued growth in MMA NZ.
Gareth Lewis

Head MMA Instructor

Keep It Up or Going Down

Watching the main fights of UFC 221 it just added more fuel to my already roaring fire about how wrestling controls MMA fights.

The co-main event was Mark Hunt vs Curtis Blades. Mark Hunt is arguably the most dangerous striker in the UFC, he had a granite chin, amazing timing and huge power. Hunt usually fights people with a lot more reach but that doesn’t seem to matter as his defence and movement, which are both very underrated, allow him to set up his counter punches and knock people out. In the fight Blades decided to keep it standing and was doing great as he was keeping at range with a long jab and didn’t let Hunt settle. Then Blades felt comfortable and started planting his feet and throwing more punches. This is where Mark Hunt loves to fight and sure enough Hunt slipped a right hand and landed one of his own. Once this punch landed Blades was wobbly and Hunt was going for the kill he just missed the next left hook, then knocked him down with another right hand and missed the left hand once again and Blades got back to his feet. Hunt was still going for the kill so Blades did a level change and went for the double leg when Hunt threw a left hook and Blades got the takedown. Hunt got back up but was taken back down to the ground rather quickly. Going in to round two Blades came out and went straight for the take down and the rest of the fight was Hunt either on his back or being taken down, Blades got 10 takedowns in the fight and won a big fight against a very dangerous opponent using wrestling.

In the Main Event it was Yoel Romero v Luke Rockhold. Romero is a Olympic and World Championship medallist in wrestling and arguably the best athlete in MMA. Luke Rockhold is not a standout in any of the disciplines but is arguably the most well rounded fighter in the UFC he is the guy can do everything. So this fight was for the interim championship. Romero’s issue is fitness as he so explosive he can run out of energy quickly. The fight starts and Romero is taking it easy and they circle each other and keep it standing there are not take downs attempted, it was a boring round. Round 2 Romero comes out and explodes with strikes and wobbles Rockhold, Rockhold survives. Romero backs it off and then has another couple of flurries in the round that do damage, but Rockhold survives and walks back to his corner at the end of the round. Round 3 is more of the same until Romero throws a big over hand left to flatten Rockhold and then a short right hand to the downed opponent and got the finish. So how did wrestling affect that fight? Easy Rockhold did not go for a takedown against Romero as he knew the chances of getting Romero down are very low to say the least. Therefore this kept the fight on the feet which ended up suiting Romero down to a T.

Wrestling dictates where the fight goes, if you can out wrestle your opponent then you can either keep it standing or take it to the ground whatever you decide. Both the main fights of UFC 221 were dictated, in contrasting styles, by wrestling. One fight was 10 takedowns and a grinding win, which is a traditional wrestling style win. Then there was the – I can not take this guy down, I don’t want to get stuck underneath him with a failed takedown attempt.  Rockhold had to keep it standing and by taking that option away all he could do was strike and that did not go well for him. If you haven’t experienced the wrestling grind, which it take you down and keep you there for 5mins you can’t understand how much you will do to avoid it. These two fights where great example of what strong wrestlers can do in MMA.

Gareth Lewis

Head MMA Instructor

Heat and Rust

As this is the first article for this year, welcome to 2018 it is going to be a big year. Training has started at Lockdown and it has been a testing time. It feels that I am yet to get the ball rolling in terms of training and tried using the heat and rust as an excuse.

There was four of at training one night, yes just 4, and all of us had fought and competed in wrestling. It was during the heat wave, it was hot enough that we were sweating after a couple of mins just standing in the training room. We decided to drill single legs, then do live drills, then wrestle. At the end of the session we were all dripping with sweat and feeling great after a hard workout. The next day my neck was stiff and my legs, glutes and back were rather sore.

For me this was a wakeup call, I had been training with everyone at Lockdown but was have a hard round then easy round, in terms of the skill level, which always gave me a rest and false sense of where I was at. When we had the hard training there was no easy round and everyone was trying to win all the time which was great. As the instructor a lot of people think they can’t beat me so I play on that. However the people that fight are there to rip my head off and to get one up on me and I enjoy that challenge. Going back a few years I could train against most people and feel that I could beat them and still have 10% – 15% of talent / ability left over, then if I didn’t have the talent I could always rely on fitness or size (mostly size in hindsight). In the session with the other fighters when we went live I felt like I was going 105% just to keep up with intensity and fitness as it was a very competitive group. We were all quite well matched and from memory we all got success at times from both takedowns and takedown defence.

This really made me think about my ability and I had some questions (or excuses), was I getting old? (As out of the training group I was oldest by a minimum of 10 years). Was I just rusty? (As I have not trained at that level for a good while). Was it the heat? (Combination of being back at work, long hours and then a hard session in high temperatures). Once I processed these question (excuses) I came to this conclusion (justification). I have not pushed myself at training hard enough it was that simple. I can’t blame age I am 38 (nearly 39) and there are plenty of good years left in me. I might not be able to recover as well as I did when 20. For a one-off session bring it on, I can go hard as I always could, I just know that I will be sore the next day. The rust excuse doesn’t work either, as it was the first hard session of the year everyone so everyone was rusty, not just me. Then finally will the heat excuse save me, and again it is a no, two of the guys have outdoor jobs one of which is working on roofs. Both their jobs are both more physical than mine. Also it was the same temperature in there for everyone.

Although it is never fun to find these things out about yourself, I was very happy to have a wake-up call to light a fire under my ass. This has made me realize that people are getting better and I have to work to stay in front of them – challenge accepted. I am also under no illusion that there is a target on my back as these guys can smell blood and will be going in for the kill each and every time, as that is exactly what I would be doing in their position. This is going to give training an extra spark for 2018.

Gareth Lewis

Head MMA Instructor

Money or MMA

Conor McGregor is the biggest name in MMA, but I do not think he is not looking at fighting MMA anymore and I can’t say I blame him.

When I say the biggest name in MMA I am talking about the person who you could go up to a random person in the street and ask them to name an MMA fighter the most common name you would hear would be Conor McGregor. Conor McGregor is by no means the best fighter in the sport but he would’ve made more money than the top 10 earners in MMA combined. McGregor made over $100 million in his boxing match against Floyd Mayweather and has not fought since. Now there is word that he is in talks with Manny Pacquiao. If this fight against Pacquiao goes ahead I assume that McGregor would earn over $70 Million if the Mayweather is anything to go by.

As a fan of MMA and boxing I do not want to see McGregor v Pacquiao it is another irrelevant fight that does not matter to the history of boxing or MMA. This fight makes no real difference to either fighter except for their wallet as people will pay to watch this fight. This annoys me as there was Lomachenko v Rigondeaux on in the weekend. This was the first time in boxing history where 2 fighters who won 2 Olympic golds fought each other. If you went up to the random person in the street and asked about this fight chances are that they wouldn’t know either fighter and had no idea the fight was on. Those two fighters are two of the best amateur boxers in history (Lomachenko 296-1 , Rigondeaux 450-12) but no one knows them. Most people would not pay for this fight, but they will pay $50 to watch McGregor v Pacquio.

You can’t blame Conor McGregor for this, he is trying to earn as much as he can as he knows he has a short shelf life. McGregor knows that he can make a lot more money from fighting these big name boxers compared to MMA. For this reason alone I do not think that you will see McGregor fight in MMA again and that makes sense. Would you fight Pacquiao for $50 – $80 million of have a UFC fight and earn $1 – $5million. These numbers are an estimate as what they actually earn is questionable. After the Mayweather fight McGregor was already set for life, earning over $100 million, add another big payment and it would set his grandkids up.

I can’t understand that if you are set for life financially why you would risk your health and keep fighting, especially with all the concussion information. If you did not have worry about the day to day grind it would be hard to have that real desire to put your body on the line for a fight. Obviously it must be more than money that drives a lot of fighters which is great and they are fighting just to fight and that is great. That is until they run out of money and do a comeback fight and get destroyed.

I can’t see Conor McGregor fighting in the UFC again, and why would he. McGregor has become as much as a house hold name as any fighter on the planet right now and he is looking to make a buck. From a very solid source that talked to McGregor a few years ago McGregor said ‘I will not stay undefeated, so I have to make as much noise and money until I lose then get out’. Even though that has slightly changed you see that McGregor is chasing the money and has been very good at it. If he fights Pacquio I think that will be the last we will see him fight, he has a young kid and will be set for life – what would you do?

Gareth Lewis

Head MMA Instructor

Do you Wear Lycra?

It is no secret that I think that wrestling is the most important element of MMA, but what are the differences in wrestling in against wrestlers and wrestling in MMA.
The wrestling I am talking about is Olympic Freestyle wrestling, which in a nutshell means you can do both upper body and lower body attacks ie you can grab the legs. That is compared to Greco Roman wrestling where you can only grab the upper body. When drilling wrestling you are very close to your opponent as most of the time you have your head six inches or closer to your opponent. Almost all the takedowns are set up form inside that six inch distance. You are either looking to clear your opponents arms out of the way or unbalance your opponent in the hope of getting to their legs or back to get a takedown.

You are now going to MMA and trying to execute take downs from striking range which is going to cause some serious problems. Therefore we are going to be looking at this from two separate angles with the first being from a striker who has adopted wrestling and then wrestlers who have moved in to MMA.

As I was a kickboxer with some BJJ who picked up wrestling later this is more or less me. The biggest change is firstly the distance it was very hard to let someone get in that close without lifting your hands to protect your head from a striking instinct. Instead of protecting you head you had to drop your hands to protect your legs from the takedowns. So all it took for a wrestler to take down a striker is to fake a neck grab, or go for a neck grab, so they would lift their hands from instinct where the wrestler would shoot under and get the legs or single leg to get the takedown. Then if you are lucky your BJJ brain would came in and you fall to my back, which the exact wrong thing to do as in Wrestling if you are on your back you lose via pin. So once you have clicked to that little trick it is all about keeping up with the level changes. Once you have some wrestling defence then you can strike with some confidence. Then with confidence you can keep distance more effectively and against a wrestler and that distance is a life line. From a technical standpoint the biggest struggle is changing what foot you had forward. In wrestling you constantly changing stance to set up both defence and offence and to counter your opponents movement. However most strikers w only feel comfortable with one foot forward depending if they are orthodox or southpaw depends on the foot. This means that if you have your right leg forward you do not have to worry about a double leg from an orthodox striker. In MMA this is not such an issue as a lot of take downs are set you using strikes. Using striking to set up takedowns is all about selling a punch or a move to make your opponent react in a certain way to create the opening that you want. To use striking to keep wrestlers away is all about maintaining distance and making the wrestler make the first move. That is you want to wrestler to try and step forwards so you can change your distance and keep them on the end of your punches until they get frustrated and do something silly and then make them pay. However keeping distance is difficult as there is only a limited distance to work in and you get tired which both limit your mobility. This means that sooner or later you are going to have to defend some wrestling sooner or later no matter what.

To make a wrestler an absolute beast all they need to learn is to deal with punches and submissions then they are a nightmare. If you can’t stop the takedown down and then being underneath a wrestler is insane as wrestlers are next to impossible to sweep and their scramble is top class. If you have a wrestler in your guard and they avoid your submissions then you are not going to have a good night. The fundamental skills and mind set in wrestling transition really well to MMA they have an absolute desire to win, which to me is greater than in other sports I have done. It is not easy to deal with strikes and submissions but if they can do it – Watch Out.

When I was competing in wrestling I would focus on my wrestling at all times, even while doing MMA training / sparring and I enjoyed the change and the challenge. Firstly the specific wrestling training was great and the intensity is like nothing else. The reactions you gain and how quickly you can drop your hips was surprising. Then changing the way you spared in MMA was fun. The stance drops drastically and movement is minimised as all you are looking at doing is closing the distance. This is done in two ways either going to them or making them come to you. Working off the jab is the easiest way for both, when going in you use your back hand to parry the jab and you slide and feet in to get close where you usually end up in the clinch. To make them close the distance you need to drag them in by doing something along these lines. They throw a jab you parry it and take an exaggerated step backwards, then you repeat, there is something you see in their body language and you now they are thinking ‘I am going to get you this time’ and they put more on the jab so your drop down for the double leg and they get very frustrated. Once you are comfortable with your wrestling and you can avoid being hit then something great happens. That is you start wearing your opponents down both mentally and physically, once you get hold of them you find yourself going from one takedown to another until you get them down and this is all done subconsciously. Then once you get them down you just smother them, you may even let them get up so you get work the process again. One thing is for sure this takes the heart from your opponent and the fight leaves them like nothing else I have seen in MMA. The other fun thing that happens with the wrestling training is the desire for the takedown, the effort just does not stop until you get the takedown or you are completely stuffed. There is no such thing as too hard in wrestling. Then with the defence you become very hard to takedown as you have wrestling hips. Wrestling hips are very heavy and stay horizontal. By staying horizontal you can’t get rolled over or taken down. Then your scramble becomes better so if you do get taken down you can flatten out your hips (horizontal) and get back to feet which then deflates your opponent. Having this confidence in your wrestling allows you to decide how you want the fight to go as you are comfortable with both your attack and defence.

Overall the range for pure wrestling is closer than in MMA as you have less to worry about, and also less to attack with. Unless you have wrestled a pure wrestler then you have not wrestled as they just have another level that only wrestling training gives you. A good athlete will be able to transition in to most sports it just seems that wrestling transitions in to MMA very very well.

Gareth Lewis
Head MMA Instructor