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Complain or Complete

In the fight world, we need to have very short memories. Within fight sports, generally speaking, we try to avoid making as many mistakes as possible. Some of the best fighters earn this title due to the limited number of mistakes made during their performances. In saying that though, it is a very difficult task, and this often results in a series of obvious mistakes. However, if we think about what just went wrong for too long, then the chances are you’re about to be drowning in a sea full of mistakes.

In the world of sports, they call it ‘complain or complete’. That is, if something happens, you can either complain about it, or get over it and complete it. Most people, after making a mistake – like dropping a ball in a game for example – will dwell on it for a decent amount of time. While this is a natural response, athletes have had to train themselves out of this. For example, top sports people might dwell on a mistake for about 30 seconds. Then you have the elite of the top sports people – they will dwell on a mistake for 10 seconds. The legends take 5 seconds to get over it, and the greats, 1 second. When I think of the greats, I am thinking the likes of Wayne Gretzky, Michael Jordan, Don Bradman and Pele. When they make a mistake, or have a bad start to the game, they would just move on and keep playing; they do not let that mistake affect their performance.

Martial arts are great for letting you know if you got something right or not. If you were hit, then you got it wrong – instant feedback. When striking, things are moving fast, and it seems you don’t have time to dwell on your mistakes until the end of the round. After analysing your mistakes, you can come out for the next round with your changes and see if you can incorporate them. However, in grappling and wrestling, it’s a different story. In wrestling, if you get taken down, the first thought is usually a swear word – then it’s figuring out what went wrong. In wrestling, you have to get on your feet for the restart. If you don’t have a short memory, all you are thinking about is the last takedown, how you got caught and how it will not happen this time. You see your opponent go for the previous set up and you think hell no and defend with everything. Your opponent takes this gift and gets you with something else – now you are pissed off. Once you are grumpy, things unravel really fast and that is how training, or a match can go downward. This is even worse in BJJ as once someone is caught in a submission, they do not want to tap again, so they tend to defend that limb (or neck) with everything they have. This usually means they give up position, which, usually, if the opponent is good enough, opens up for other submissions and the cycle repeats.

For the rest of us that do not fit into the category of the ‘greats’, we have to keep our minds in the moment (Thank you Bruce Lee). Think about the times when you are performing well. You’re not necessarily thinking anything good, or bad for that matter, you are just doing. There is no “watch out for this” or “go for that” thoughts in your head. You’re just doing. Going for what is available and defending what needs defending. Compare that to when things go badly. All you can think about is avoiding that move and making sure it doesn’t happen again. This takes your focus away from everything else you’re trying to do and gives you are very narrow focus. Of course, there are times for a narrow focus, but you don’t want this to dominate your thoughts. If I could give you the formula for keeping the flow I would, but you know how it feels when you are just doing it all subconsciously – it feels good.

The short memory is also relevant when you have success; get over it and move on. This situation has happened to me a few times. In striking for example, landing a punch and admiring it, then getting caught with a counter shot. The same occurs in wrestling when you admire a takedown before securing positon and missing the switch. Then BJJ, getting the sweep and relaxing as your opponent scrambles and betters his/her position. This is why the flow seems to happen against someone roughly your ability. If you are better than the person, everything is happening slowly, and you start thinking and trying/playing. Then against people that are better, you are just trying to survive. When you are against that person who is your level, their moves and counters happen at a pace that your brain can keep up with – if they were faster, they would be better. A faster fight brain has nothing to do with muscle speed – it is all about position, timing and being able to pick up the transitions. People with faster fight brains are frustrating to go against as it feels like they are always one step ahead. They always seem to find a way out of bad situations (that is everyone when you a starting). It seems you need an opponent with a fight brain speed that is close to yours in comparison to the slower or faster fight brain in order to have the best rounds.

Thoughts are very hard to control, but in the fight world you can’t get too up or too down. If something doesn’t go right, then deal with it and move on. If something goes right, don’t get too excited and then move on. Keep the process and the plan in your head and stick to that. One thing that makes all of this a lot harder in the fight world is the pain – if you miss a shot in basketball it doesn’t physically hurt… but a punch does. Making mistakes in the fight world hurt and as humans we try to avoid pain. In your fight training, work on completing moves and not complaining if you miss a move – it happens, move on, no excuses. Also practice success and don’t get caught up with it, complete and move on. In training try to get the flow as often as you can and your progress will be very visible and rather enjoyable.

Gareth Lewis
Head MMA Instructor

3 and Out

Over the years I have noticed something interesting in sparring. People will try a move three times and if there is no success then they will give up on that move. Turns out that this trait is hard wired in to our mammal DNA.

Dr Jaak Pankseep a famous neuro scientist who studied how they brain affects behaviour, as in what part of the brain affects what. In one of his studies he observed that rats would box and wrestle as part of play. They rats would stand up and swat and grab with their front legs while trying to get the other rat on their back. Being on their back is a submissive behaviour as with all mammals, so it would mean a loss. There would also be some playfull biting on the ‘defeated opponent’. The main objective in the game was to get the other rat on their back. Sometimes the smaller rats would ‘play’ with the bigger rats, as size is a factor in these matches the smaller rats would almost always lose. The bigger rats would sometimes let the smaller rats win and this would motivate the smaller rats to keep trying, thus giving more practice / play to both the bigger and smaller rats. However if the big rats did not let the little rats win more than 30% of the time the little rats would give up and stop playing. This means that given a little success the rat will keep trying, but take that little success away and they will stop. Interestingly this is what poker players do as well, they let a weaker player win every now and then so they are more likely to stay in the game and make more money out of them.

Now we are not rats and I have not wrestled a rat but that success ratio seems to be alive and well in us humans. Think the last time you wrestled and you shot for a double and get sprawled on, you think that is not so bad. You go for another double leg take down and get sprawled on again now you are really thinking about your set up and that seed of doubt shows itself. You work your set up go for the third double leg and get sprawled on again you are now second guessing yourself and will likely switch to something else. One part of it is missing the double leg, another is getting sprawled on as that sucks, that there is getting out from underneath the sprawl and that takes a lot of energy. The chances are you will not go for more than 3 double legs in a round with out success, this lack of confidence will flow on to the other rounds. There are some might be who are able to rise above it but most go to plan B and find another way.

In sparring the system I have seen used to great effect is get someone up against the cage wall and take them down then they try to get back up so you take them down and punch them. They usually try second time so you take then down again and punch them. Then comes the final attempt for this I give my biggest effort on the takedown and really try to punish them after the takedown. At the point you will see most people stop trying to stand back up and they will instead try to improve their position on the ground, or to put it bluntly stop getting punched. At first I thought this was a fitness / effort equation, as in they can’t keep giving all this effort for no reward as they will run out of gas. However there are plenty of people out there with massive engines that I have seen stop and stall in this situation. Then I wondered if it was a belief thing, as in this guy is better I want be able to get out so I will just stay here (as in on the ground). But it turns out that it runs a lot deeper than that. If we as mammals don’t succeed 30% of the time we don’t want to play any more.

There will be a bunch of fighters thinking I will never quit, you could take me down all day and I will try and get back up and so on. With this it goes a little more than that, in terms that once you have failed on three attempts it doesn’t mean you quit, all it means is that you stop trying that particular move and look for something else. That is after the 3 efforts people don’t just roll on their back and give up. However it seems that after three efforts you do not try the big move any more, rather most will try to establish a better position through smaller efforts to a position from where they can work. The fighters that say they will not quit you are right, all that happens is you change your effort in to something that could work rather than something that did not work.

This effect does not happen in striking, maybe because it is easier to try different things and the effect of missing a punch isn’t so bad at all (unless you get countered). That is compared to wrestling where you miss a takedown you can get sprawled or get taken down yourself. Also in BJJ where an escape attempt can open you up to be submitted or risk of your opponent upgrading their position. In striking where the negative outcome is in milli seconds the risk of repeating that behaviour is going to be high as nothing really bad happens. The lack of success is defintly more in wrestling and BJJ as the effects are more pronounced and last longer than in striking (in general terms). Next time you are grappling or wrestling and you have an opponent in a bad spot count how many times they try to escape before they give up and try something else to get a better position – I am betting it is 3

Gareth Lewis
Head MMA Instructor


Over the weekend, Georges St-Pierre (GSP) officially retired from MMA competition. GSP was one of my favourite fighters and always a joy for me to watch, but I am very happy to see him call it quits after having such a great career. Within his pro MMA career, he achieved much, defending his belt multiple times and taking on challenger after challenger, able to overcome unique challenges while managing to make it look relatively easy.

GSP had his first fight on 25th Jan 2002 and his last on 4th Nov 2017. In that time, he had 28 fights with only 2 defeats; both of which he avenged. Early in his career he would finish fights quickly – so quickly in fact, that people said he looked like he was in a rush to go somewhere. And so, GSP gained his fight name: ‘Rush’. As he progressed through the ranks, he would dominate his opponents and, in my opinion, was given a title shot he wasn’t mentally ready for. The champion at the time was Matt Hughes. Hughes was a dominant champ and at that time, looked unbeatable. GSP was scared of him, so scared in fact, that Georges managed to look everywhere but at Hughes during their stare-down. While GSP put up a good fight, he got caught in an armbar and lost the fight. However, he had lost the fight long before he got in the cage; he was intimidated by his hero, consequently unable to fight as he normally would. GSP vowed to come back – he had a couple more fights then got his rematch against Hughes. This was a different GSP, he was not intimated… he was on a mission for the title. GSP won the fight via TKO, he was very dominant and looked to be on a level above everyone at the time. After that fight, GSP had everyone telling him how good he was – he was told he was too good, too fast and too athletic to lose. This would prove to be his downfall when he fought Matt Serra, who had earned the title shot by winning the Ultimate Fighter. To say Serra was an underdog would be an understatement, think more Tyson v Douglas level of under-doggery. With GSP’s confidence swelling, he believed that he would steamroll Serra and earn an easy victory. However, GSP got caught with a good punch early, and in his words “instead of trying to recover I was too proud and tried to fight back” this allowed Serra to land some more punches and get the win via TKO in one of the biggest upsets the sport has seen. Following this loss, a quest to regain the title culminated in a third fight with Matt Hughes. This fight proved to be a one-sided affair; GSP was so dominant that you couldn’t believe Hughes was ever a dominant fighter, GSP rag dolled Hughes, finishing him with an armbar that earned St-Pierre a submission of the night award. GSP would then rematch Serra for the welterweight belt. This fight went according to plan; St-Pierre made Serra look average and proved to himself and critics that this is the GSP who was meant to turn up for the first fight.

To me, GSP is the best MMA fighter. Yes, there are people with better knockouts and have more ‘exciting’ fights, but in terms of doing it right, GSP is the best. GSP made 3 mistakes in his 28 fights 1. Being intimidated by Hughes 2. Not respecting Serra 3. Getting caught with a head kick by Condit (from which he recovered and went on to win). Other than that, the guy did everything right in his fights. He had some close fights – namely the first fight against BJ Penn and against Hendricks. In his fights, GSP decided how the fight was going to go. He would decide where the fight would take place, whether it was standing or on the ground. The timing of his takedowns is the best the sport has seen. When one says he made a fighter look average, it’s because he had the ability to understand his opponents’ strengths and keep them in an area where he was stronger, or where they were relatively weaker. He employed this simple strategy and chased it with enthusiastic vigour, consequently taking his opponents to uncomfortable places. Despite not competing or training in wrestling prior to MMA, GSP has amazing wrestling. He would use this ability to dictate the place and pace of the fight by either taking them down, avoiding the takedown or using top control on the ground. His striking was top level as seen when he destroyed Koscheck’s orbital bone and he had a very good ground game. So regardless of where the fight is, you have to be very careful because GSP poses problems in all areas.

GSP is also a great athlete who would try through non-traditional methods to get better at his craft. Of course, he used top BJJ people to improve his BJJ, trained with the Canadian national Wrestling team and boxed with pros to improve. It was the additional training that made him so good – he used an athletics coach to help him with explosiveness and gymnastics to help his coordination and strength. GSP said he it was fear that drove him to improve… well, it worked. His main BJJ coach is John Danaher, who is highly respected, MMA coach was Faris Zahabi, who is the top guy at Tri Star Gym and has a genius level IQ for fighting. GSP also employed the help of kickboxing great and coach Phil Nurse. St-Pierre was always looking to improve so he managed to train with the best, always open to learning, even if information came from strange sources. This was demonstrated when GSP was a coach on the ultimate fighter. He brought in an unorthodox French kickboxer named Jean-Charles Skarbowsky. Skarbowsky boasts some amazing kickboxing accolades which includes being a three-time European Muay Thai champion. Skarbowsky however, drinks and smokes a lot. GSP said that he did not agree with his lifestyle but be careful when sparring him, if he thinks you have disrespected him then you are in trouble. GSP was telling pro fighters to be careful against this striking guy, who quite frankly does not look like much. Well in the sparring, Jean-Charles dropped every one of them with kicks to the body, liver punches and foot trips; he just made them look silly. The guy had some serious skill, just didn’t seem to worry about his health too much.

GSP was bullied when he was younger and he has talked about how fear has been with him his entire life; interestingly enough though, he never hid it but rather embraced it and used it. When a GSP fight was announced, he would say how this opponent is a very dangerous and then list the concerns he would have about that opponent. Especially after the Matt Serra fight, GSP would always give his opponents the respect they deserved, regardless if he liked them or not (He did not like the Diaz brothers, and they did not like him). The press was not accustomed to this approach and neither were the public; both were used to the boxing style of insults and fights at press conferences. GSP would always be dressed in a suit and well spoken, even with a French-Canadian accent. He treats fans with respect as he saw some people treat their fans badly and he said that if he became famous, he would never do that.

I am glad that we don’t get to see GSP fight Khabib, or any other fighter in fact, as we have seen too many legends take a few fights too many and get destroyed. GSP has retired on top and will be remembered as one of the greatest fighters the sport has ever seen. To this day, I watch his highlights and try to see just how he sets up his takedowns as he just makes them look effortless. GSP is so systematic with his fights and so technical that he was just the best fighter to watch. Khabib has taken that mantle now. GSP has said he will continue to train as he is a lifelong martial artist. Thanks to GSP for the memories and making a very difficult sport look rather easy.

Gareth Lewis
Head MMA Instructor

What Does It Mean?

In a great fight that boasted some very nice technical striking from two of the best strikers in MMA, Israel Adesanya came out victorious against MMA great Anderson Silva. Although Adesanya won by unanimous decision, both competitors displayed a high level of fighting. Before the fight though, people said Silva would lose to the younger opponent – but what does that mean?

When I speak about age being a factor, I am referring to age being an issue generally, not specifically to this fight. So, in the build-up to this fight, there were many who mentioned that Silva would lose to the younger opponent. If you were lucky, you’d hear people speak of Silva losing to a younger, faster and stronger opponent, but consistently, the variable of age was always brought into the conversation. This got me thinking…

I will be the first to admit that age is a factor in physical sports. However, the youngest competitors are not always the best, and the older players are not the worst. This is partly due to the fact that you usually have to be damn good to have a long career that spans into the later years for many sports. A few years back, I wrote a blog about how statistically, the younger fighter is more likely to win in a given fight. At the time, there was only one UFC champ over the age of 30, however, little did I know that it was a changing of the guard. In that year, 12 of the 14 UFC title fights were won by the younger fighter. However, that is not the full story as you had 3 people that could be argued to be among the best; these fighters were Cain Velasquez, Jon Jones and Ronda Rousey. That small sample gave a misrepresentation of the ‘younger fighter’. As these were exceptional fighters there was a lot more than just age that caused them to win the fight. Jon Jones for example was the youngest UFC champion in history and fought a few legends at the end of their career (Shogun, Vitro Belfort). This was a situation of new breed of fighter coming through rather than just some younger fighters.

When does age start being a factor? Is it 5 years older, is 10 years older? Is it a bit more complicated than just how many times you have been on earth for a complete orbit of the sun? Where I believe this misconception came from is boxing (and other fight sports). This is where you have the former great fighter who gets brought back, with the incentive of money, to get destroyed by a younger and hungrier fighter. These older fighters have had long careers with many battles and are only fighting for money. Whereas the younger fighter is fighting for much more. They want a place in history, they want a name, they want to put themselves on the map by beating a great. For me, it’s not so much about the age of the fighter but rather how many fights they have had, or how many miles their fight engine has done. As an example, Randy Couture did not get into MMA until he was 32 and was very competitive in to his early 40’s; he even won the heavyweight title at 43. As most fighters start young, they are done by their mid-30’s… if that. When you see Shogun or Big Nog, they look 10 years older than they are due to the wear and tear on their bodies after many hard fights. The body can only take so much and at some point it just does not work as well. Yes, this is an age thing, but you can have your first fight at 19 and be a wreck before you hit 30. Or in some cases you can be an athlete in another sport and cross over to MMA being a bit older and be very effective (Jacare, who is 40 this year).

It seems that when people mention the younger fighter, they think that they are faster, stronger and more powerful. Then in other cases they say that the older fighter will win as they are more experienced. So, there are more variables than just age. For age to be a factor, you need one of the fighters to have had a long career with a lot more fights than the opponent. Where it really seems to be telling is when the younger fighter is on his way up while the older fighter is on the way down (one more run at the title). Sometimes these fights are a trial by fire for the younger fighter and the experience of the older fighter comes out and they put on a great fight (Joshua v Klitchsko). Although more often than not, the less experienced fighter wins and wins big. As a fighter gets more successful it must be harder to stay hungry as the more money you have, the more comfortable you are, and a satisfied fighter is not as dangerous as a hungry fighter. The guy that is fighting to put food on the table and survive is not going to need any motivational speeches to get him to training.

Just because you are younger doesn’t mean you are going to win. In fight sports, going against someone 10 years your junior is going to be tough. That is assuming that they have the same skill as you and are just younger. Being older you may not be able to lift as much as the younger guys, you may not recover as fast but you do have experience, knowledge and technique, and that makes up for a lot. Knowing more, or having more experience counts for a lot and can more than make up for any physical advantages someone younger may have. So, let’s not right these experienced fighters off just yet as there is a lot more than just age to account for in the fight game.

Gareth Lewis
Head MMA Instructor

Amanda Who?

Amanda Nunes has beaten two of MMA’s biggest names. Yet, if you ask the average person or even some fight fans, they have no idea who she is.

Amanda Nunes did fly under the radar for a while as she was working her way up through the ranks. This was partly due to the fact she was working her way up during Ronda Rousey’s reign; the era of Rousey. Even before Rousey had her first loss, Nunes was considered a very bad match for her stylistically. Rousey was very good with takedowns and armbars (most of her opponents had lost via armbar in the first round). To this potential fight, Nunes brought with her good striking and a lot of skill on the ground, holding a black belt in BJJ. In theory, this meant that Rousey would have a tough time closing the distance to take her down, and if this situation eventuated, Rousey would struggle to control Nunes on the ground.

I am not sure if the UFC suggested Holly Holm as an opponent to Rousey’s team or if Rousey’s team suggested Holm to the UFC, either way, Rousey v Holm was matched. On paper, in a classic striker v grappler match up, if it stayed standing, Holm wins and if it went to the ground, Rousey wins. I assume both the UFC and Rousey thought this would be a safe match for Rousey, and she would take Holm down and armbar her. However, in the fight we got to see Rousey in trouble for the first time in her career. Holm would allow Rousey to just get in range, then punch and move, Holm’s footwork was the key to victory as Rousey could not get near her while taking punches as her striking ability was well below Holm’s. Then in round two, Holm landed the head kick and gave Rousey her first loss. After much crying and looking like a poor loser, Rousey got back in the ring about a year later, this time against Nunes. To me, this was a very dangerous comeback fight due to the stylistic match-up mentioned earlier. From the second the fight was announced, Nunes said she would win and did not waver in her belief. She believed she would beat and possibly finish Rousey; Nunes brought nothing but 100% confidence in her abilities to this fight. She was confident during the entire fight build up and when she stepped in the cage the belief was there. Rousey tried to close the distance for the takedown and Nunes just started punching her in the face at will, and 50 odd seconds later the fight was over. That would be the last time Rousey would fight in MMA, Nunes put the “most dangerous woman in the world” away in 50 seconds.

(Sorry about quality)

The next big name Nunes was to scratch off the list was Cyborg. Cris Cyborg had not lost in ten years and had demolished all in her path, she would literally walk through her opponents punches and knock them out. Cyborg is without doubt one of the scariest fighters in MMA history (male or female). To make what happened in this fight even scarier, Nunes was moving up a weight division to fight her (bantamweight to featherweight). Again, in the build-up, Nunes was 100% confident and said she would knock Cyborg out. When the fight came around, Nunes showed no signs of ‘respect’ in the Octagon. Nunes came right out at Cyborg and attacked her head, which is usually suicide against Cyborg as this is where she flourishes, managing to walk through punches and KO her opponents. They were both trying to destroy each other, but Nunes landed the punches and gave Cyborg a massive over-hand right to end her night in just under a minute.

At the conclusion of this fight, Nunes had beaten two of the biggest names in MMA history. She is also the first woman to be a multi-division champion in the UFC (bantamweight and featherweight). Even with the best CV in women’s MMA at the moment, her name is not well known. What is the reason for this? Is it because she is not American? I don’t think this is the case as some of the biggest names have come out of other countries (Anderson Silva -Brazil, Conor McGregor- Ireland). What is it that makes the UFC push one fighter more than another? Let’s use Stipe Miocic as an example. Miocic was the heavyweight champ but it just never seemed like the UFC were behind him and there was no good reason as to why. With Nunes, she is gay and not the dolled up looking fighter stereotype the UFC seem to like, is this what the UFC want? They pushed Rousey like you wouldn’t believe and they tried to name Holly Holm ‘Hot’ Holly Holm. She didn’t want a bar of it and called herself the ‘preacher’s daughter’. Do the UFC feel they need a certain look for the champions? Nunes has everything you could want in the cage, she is highly skilled and goes for the kill producing exciting fights. Or do the champions need to be ‘more’ outside the cage? Do the UFC want all champions to be like Connor McGregor and be able to talk the talk? As a fan I get frustrated as the best fighters seem to be looked over for either people who are better at talking or people who are better looking. The UFC wanted Francis Ngannou to beat Miocic as he was a ‘marketing dream’. Right now, the champions in the UFC are all amazing fighters but do not have the draw that the names of few years ago had (Silva, GSP, Rousey, McGregor).

It seems the UFC are trying to create a formula for a successful fighter and anyone who does not fit the mould does not get the UFC machine behind them. This is crap and it shows the up-and-coming fighters that they need to be more like WWE wrestlers than just a good fighter. Conor McGregor did a lot to change this and I realise the $$ that he made for the UFC, but a dangerous fighter should always be easy to market for a championship belt regardless of how they look or how good their trash talk is (Khabib Nurmagomedov). Nunes will go down as one of the greatest female UFC fighters of all time and I hope she gets her dues while she is still fighting.

Gareth Lewis
Head MMA Instructor

Do or Die

When a ref decides to stop a fight, it is a big decision which can often lead to a mixed response of criticism and praise. Often times however, the stoppage is made for one reason only; and that is to protect the fighter. Fighters do not like losing and they do not want to be protected, but sometimes the job of a referee is to protect the fighter from themselves.

Recently, the UFC had their first fight night on ESPN (who has taken over from Fox with broadcasting the UFC Fight Nights.) The main event featured a flyweight bout between flyweight camp Henry Cejudo and bantamweight champ TJ Dillashaw. The fight was stopped 32 seconds into the first round which saw many complaints of an early referee stoppage.

To me, this is not an early stoppage. Dillashaw was being mauled and had been knocked down multiple times before the fight was stopped, I think the ref made the right call. It is on the fighter if the fight gets called off, so they should not complain. If the fighter is in trouble, then it is the ref’s job to prevent them from taking more unnecessary damage or to stop the potential for serious injury. Most people who get in the ring will not quit as fighters are not wired that way; most fighters I know will keep fighting and feel disheartened by quitting or giving up. However, they all have lives outside the ring and there is no point risking serious injury when a fighter is in trouble in the ring.

Here is a video that I am sure will change your opinion on fight stoppages, this video has had a lasting effect on me:

After watching the video there are a lot of things to think about. Firstly, what was the doctor doing? He is a medical professional and I would have thought he’d have been more proactive. The doctor was paid for and relied upon to pick these sorts of things up. His job at an event like this is to view the fight through a medical lens, one which the average spectator does not possess. For me, the onus is on the doctor, with everything in the media about head injuries (and considering his profession) I would like to think that the possibility of head trauma occurred to him before the event. The doctor is the most impartial decision maker involved in the fight as the fighters’ cornermen are doing everything they can to get their fighter to win. The ref loves fighting and probably is a former fighter, so he is giving the guy every chance. The doctor would have some serious questions to answer about his actions that night. Ask yourself, if one of your loved ones were in the ring would you want that doctor ringside? The second major issue that occurred to me following this video is that I think the ref should’ve stopped that fight. The guy wasn’t throwing any punches and was not ‘intelligently defending’ himself. No offence and not intelligently defending yourself is a guideline to stop any fight as where else is that fight going to go outside of a loss for him? The fight is only heading in direction and if you are not attacking and your defence sucks then why take more damage? The cornerman, he should know his fighter and should’ve known that he was way out of character and that something was up. However, if I put myself in his situation, I have to admit I would have done what he did. I would be trying to wake my fighter up, trying to motivate him and get him going. Leading up to a fight you dig a trench and go through the grind with your fighter and as cheesy as it sounds, you build a bond. This bond makes you emotional on the night of the fight rather than rational and this can mean you are one eyed, wanting success for your fighter over much else.

For me, seeing this video is very concerning. Seeing the fighter stagger around with his feet dragging, and even though there are people who are paid to pick up these signs, there was no one helping him. Yes, he was in there fighting and a fighter excepts a certain level of risk but not at that high of a price.

When you look at a situation with hindsight your vision is 20/20, so these decisions seem so easy when you know what the outcome is. We cannot know for sure what would’ve happened if the doctor called the fight off in the first minute and got him on a backboard with neck support and gave him oxygen. He still might’ve died, or he might still be alive, either way we do not know. This doctor could’ve been at 100 fight nights and was only ever called on to check a concussion after a knock out, stitch a cut, and other general things like that. In his mind, while the fight is going on, the ref is controlling the action and he will only act when asked for his opinion from the ref. In all the doctor’s previous events this is the formula he was working with and it worked until then. Referees get a lot of grief if they stop a fight early, just like the ref that stopped Dillashaw. In that case, Dillashaw had a few choice words for the referee and in addition, Dana White called him out in the post-fight press conference. Now that ref will be less likely to call a stop to a fight due to the post fight behaviour. This means that some poor fighter could take more of beating than they need due to the pressure put on refs to make sure it’s a good fight. Sadly, using the UFC’s fight guide, good fight is ones that are considered the best brawls, with damage and a lot of action. The fights where two people stand toe to toe and swing for the fences, it also helps if there is blood. A fight where GSP or Nurmagomedov do everything technically right and shut down their opponent will never be considered a great fight (according to the UFC standard).

If I have a fighter in the ring and they are in trouble and the ref stops it, I am not going to have a go at the ref as they are just doing their job. At the level that most people fight, they have a family and job, both of which require them to be fully functional. A few bruises, cuts, even a broken bone will heal but that damage to the brain is something that can affect them long term and this can impact their day-to-day lives. If you had a loved one in the ring and you are ring side watching, would you rather see an early stoppage after taking some damage or would you rather see them take some damage survive, take some damage, come out for another round of damage then get beaten to the point of submission before the ref stops the fight? It seems obvious right? But as a culture we still hold the gladiator in high regard. The fighter that takes a beating and doesn’t give up is called tough and has heart (Rocky Balboa). Then the fighter who beats everyone with skill is not considered entertaining (Floyd Mayweather Jr). As much as people don’t like to admit it, people pay for the blood and ko’s and until this mindset is adjusted there is going to be pressure on refs to keep fights going longer than they should. I just hope that the doctors are skilled and brave enough to make sure no long-lasting damage happens to the young fighters in the ring. Don’t get me wrong, I still want to see good hard fights but this is when the fights are even. When a fight becomes one sided from a beat-them-up perspective, then they are not entertaining. I do not want to see a fighter take a beating for 5 rounds then get commended on their courage. As a combat sport, we need to learn to be smarter in our approach to toughness, damage and longevity in the sport.

Gareth Lewis
Head MMA Instructor

Dana vs Oscar

Lately there has been a war of words between Oscar De la Hoya and Dana White. These two promoters have big personalities and consequently may not appreciate it if the other comments on the way they do things and recently, the fight between Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz kicked off an ill feeling.

Personally, I am not a big fan of Dana White and how the UFC treat fighters. So, I am glad that someone is looking to upset the silverback of the MMA world. Other organisations have been made to tip toe around the UFC in fear the organisation will squash them. In both the Bellator and WSOF promotions, they have an ‘out clause’ within contracts allowing fighters to leave if they get an offer from the UFC. This more-or-less makes their shows a second division where former UFC fighters go to finish their careers. What makes De La Hoya different is that he formed the promotion company ‘Golden Boy Boxing’, named for his nickname during his boxing glory days. In his career, De La Hoya won multiple titles in 6 different weight divisions – so ‘Golden Boy’ seems to fit. Golden Boy Boxing has been going since the early 2000’s and has become a true powerhouse in the boxing world. As De La Hoya was a former fighter, he is all about looking after the fighters and has done very well in this regard. De La Hoya has now stated he plans to add MMA fights to his promotional experience; the first being Liddell v Ortiz. This is where the war of words with Dana White started as White criticised De La Hoya for allowing Liddell to fight again. Dana stated that Chuck Liddell should not fight again as he has been knocked out too many times, De La Hoya replied by stating that if White paid his fighters more then they wouldn’t have to keep fighting.

Liddell v Ortiz II had 929,000 pay per view buys. In the US, they pay $49.99 per view x 929,000 = $46,440,710.00. If you look at how much fighters got paid around that time, around $200,000 per fight for the top people. You do have to ask yourself, if you are headlining a pay per view that sells over $46 million then why would you only get paid $200,000. I am sure putting on a UFC show is expensive but $15million would safely cover the overheads (at a guess) so what happened to the other $30 million? Does it go in to Dana White and the other owners’ pockets? What seems sure is that is does not go back to the fighters. From my standpoint it looks like the fighters could have been paid ten times more for the main event fight ($2,000,000).

Think of a fight world where the fighters choose between the UFC and Golden Boy (for example) and each company is competing to bring the fighter into their ranks. This can only make the conditions better for the fighters in terms of how they are treated and how they are paid. As of right now, fighters will give up a lot for a chance at UFC glory, as it is the name in MMA. There are some people who even think the sport is called UFC and not MMA. The UFC have done wonders for the sport and deserve all their success, but they do treat fighters badly. A recent example is Mighty Mouse, one of the best fighters on the planet who was the undefeated flyweight champion for years, has one loss and the UFC trade him. Jose Aldo was champion and undefeated for 10 years then lost to Conor McGregor and never got a rematch as it was financially better to have the belt around McGregor’s waist – the list goes on with how they treat fighters. In defence of Dana White however, he did show that he has paid Chuck Liddell nearly $2 million dollars since he left the UFC, the payments ranged between $250,000 – $400,000 a year – so there is a lot more to this story.

I would like to see the fighters have some of the bargaining power, not just the UFC. All going well, Golden Boy Promotions will shake things up a bit. In the short term it could get messy with verbal warfare and other games. However in the long run if there are more top level organisations for MMA fighters to make a living then that has to be good for the sport and more importantly the fighters.

Gareth Lewis
Head MMA Instructor

Good Day vs Bad Day

What determines a good day or a bad day at training? Is it caused by your day at work? An argument with your partner or how you slept? What you ate, or didn’t eat? What is the cause of a good or bad session? Since MMA comprises largely of three different disciplines, all of which can be practiced individually, it is easy to have a good or bad session within these disciplines which make up MMA.

A good night of striking usually involves avoiding your opponent’s strikes, reading them well and generally just enjoying yourself. When you get hit you don’t really notice as everything else is going so well. Mostly, you are relaxed and not forcing anything – just going through the process with success. In opposition to this, however, is a bad night; everything you try just does not seem to work. Your head movement seems to be letting you down as you find yourself moving into more punches than avoiding, you have a metal head and they have magnets in their gloves. You see a jab coming so you move your head to the right, the jab is actually a left hook and you move right into it. At some point you get angry and try to force things and throw harder, but all that happens is you get tired and get hit more often.

On a good night, you are moving well, your feet feel light, your hips are heavy, and your timing is on point. When you go for a move it doesn’t seem to matter if you get it or not as you automatically move on to the second phase and eventually get the takedown. Or at worst, end up in a stalemate position where you can start again. On a bad night, your feet are stuck in mud, when your opponent attacks, you see it, but your feet don’t seem to move. When you defend a move, you go for a transition and get caught and get caught in moves that you never get caught with. When attacking, you slide off the leg when going for a single legs, slide off arms with under hooks and hit your head on their shoulder when they do a fake double leg.

On a good night, you roll, and your opponent just falls into submissions. If you don’t get a submission, you win most of your transitions – it is easy to get a high percentage of your sweeps. When rolling, you just seem to be doing the right move at the right time and end up in good positions. On a bad night you are tapping more than Fred Astaire. You are being controlled by people you usually beat then when you do escape, they do something that puts you back in another bad spot. Then you get tapped out by that person on the mat who you just hate tapping to.

On a good night your level changes are on point, you’re dictating where the fight goes while getting takedowns at will and defending takedown attempts well. You control the rounds while dictating the positions and distance that you want; nothing is forced. On a bad night however, you are getting hit with small gloves by people you usually beat, so you go for the takedown and they defend it. This makes you a little confused and angry, so you force the takedown and try something different which does not go well. You lose position and you start over again, just with more frustration.

Over the years I have had many good nights and even more bad nights. There doesn’t seem to be a common factor that causes it either. I have been in a great mood with good energy and had a shocker, I have been in a bad mood with energy as flat as a pancake which turned out to be a good session. Therefore, energy and mood, in my experience, haven’t affected my sessions dramatically, so other factors play into this. From a technical point of view, how do you go from one night picking up transitions, avoiding attacks, getting a lot of success to a night where you are missing transitions, getting caught and getting owned against the same people that you were against 24hrs earlier? Is it simply the fact that your opponent is having the opposite to you (your good night against their bad night and vice versa?). To get some kind of control over good and bad sessions, I try to set the tone and get a good warm up round. For example, one thing that can work for me is going against someone I can trust in the first round, whether that be in wrestling, striking or BJJ. This allows me to warm up and work things without the worry of the other person being a dick. I find if I go against a beginner for a first round in sparring, sometimes they feel they have something to prove and because I am just getting into things, I usually get hit a lot then get angry and frustrated. As they are a beginner you can’t just fire back as that is a dick move on my part. On the flip side, if I go against one of the good guys that wants to go hard, I get hit and try to fire back but as I am not warmed up (sparring mentality wise) this fails as well. Both of these will get me in a bad mood. Therefore I am looking for my first round guy to just get the work in, then after that I am fine. Lately there has been a change in my mentality with bad nights, they used to really get to me down and I would ruminate on what I did wrong (to put it politely). Now, after a bad session I look back on what I did and what I can change. The most important thing when you are having a bad session is to understand what it is – a bad night. A bad session is nothing other than a bad session, it just happens sometimes, so when it does, look at what you can control and place your effort there. Anyone can keep pushing when things are going well, but think how much you will improve when you give it everything for every round when you are having a bad session rather than sit out rounds. On the flip side, think about a good night, make the most of it and work your skills as much as you can. If you are really dominating against people then back off a little and let them have some good positions and work your defence/escapes as on a good night you are not going to have many problems, and if you do have problems, they don’t seem to bother you as much on a good night. These thoughts are all doubled when training for a fight, the highs are higher (I am the champion of the world) and the lows are lower (I am the worst fighter in the world). Keep your head level and your effort up no matter how the session is going.

Gareth Lewis
Head MMA Instructor

A Different Sandpit

At Lockdown, I always recommend that people train at other clubs and get perspectives from other trainers (in addition to Lockdown) as I believe it can only help them improve. If you train only with one coach, you tend to only get one perspective and no matter how good they are, it is still just one point of view. Training with others gives you another set of eyes, often a fresh set of eyes, different perspectives, opinions and approaches. Trainers, like everyone else, have specific biases, different body-types and strategies developed through years of training and in most cases, this is very helpful. Therefore, I recently went to different club for BJJ; it was a one-off and it was just to do some rolling. I thought it would be good to play in someone else’s sandpit, and I was right.

I am also a personal trainer and one of my clients who I get along with really well who also trains in BJJ but at a different club. During our sessions we often talk BJJ and one day he said I should come to his club for a roll. I made the usual bullsh**t excuses. But then thought “come on, let’s do it” – practice what I preach and all that. Since I’ve only recently gotten back into rolling with a gi, I said to give me a couple of weeks and it’s on. I wanted to feel a little bit better about my rolling with a gi after having a few weeks off due to school holiday parental duty. I also had to put some stupid/arrogant thoughts aside; thoughts like they might know me because I am an MMA instructor (I had a disagreement with one of their instructors), more-or-less, my worries were mostly about rumours and reputation. As the date got closer, my approach to it changed to “just go along and let them make their minds up about me”. The agreed day arrived, and we walked to the club. We turned up and in the changing room a couple of people were in there with the ‘new guy’ look, I then put my belt around my waist and more assumptions were made. The guy I went with introduced me to the instructor, we both knew each other by name but was good to have a face to face meeting. He was very welcoming and pleasant, he asked some questions just to get a feel, like anyone does with someone new. He got the class going and let me know that we would be rolling together first. I began thinking “oh great, is this going to be a point-proving roll?” I was not sure how hard to go, intensity wise, as you don’t want to make a bad impression. We started rolling and it definitely picked up as the roll went on, but nothing crazy, just a good roll. The instructor was a skilled black belt, so I had my hands full to say the least, but it was fun. There was no point-proving of any kind, just a good roll. I then rolled with the fellow who invited me to the club, another black belt, a brown belt, a blue belt and finally a purple belt. They were all good rolls, some more skilled than others but the attitudes were all very good and no one did anything dumb or dangerous (including myself) – just like a normal BJJ club, go figure. At the end of the session I went and thanked the instructor who welcomed me back. Everyone I rolled with had a little chat which all made me feel welcome. I plan on going back for another roll just to keep things fresh.

What did I get out of it? The club I usually go to has some very good guys who tie me up in knots. However, as good as they are, it is the same people week after week and the club has an overall feel/style (just like any other club). Therefore, it was great for me to roll with some different people in a different environment who presented different challenges. The feel of the rolling was different, not better, not worse, just different. They had other escapes to one of my favourite positions which added a new challenge, they favoured other submissions and most importantly, the experience was filled with varying styles and approaches; something that I was hoping to encounter there.

Putting aside my silly concerns, I found it was great rolling at another club. You always have doubts if your belt will hold up against other clubs, especially if you have had a big break from gi rolling. But at the end of the day who cares? Everyone has two arms and two legs; some will be better, and some will be worse so make the most of these opportunities to train with different people as it works out for the best (most of the time).

Gareth Lewis
Head MMA Instructor

43 v 48

Tito Ortiz and Chuck Liddell had their trilogy fight over the weekend. While conventional wisdom indicates that one should be excited about two legends clashing fists again, the age of these two men brought up some serious concerns. Ortiz is 43 and Liddell 48; their fight demonstrated why most pro-fighters retire before 40.

It should be stated however, that the number of birthdays you’ve had is not the main indicator of success, for example, Randy Couture was kicking ass into his 40’s. The real problem is the time spent as a pro fighter. I have said this a few times before, but it seems that you have ten years of high-level MMA success, then your performance really drops off. While Randy Couture had fought successfully in to his 40’s, this was assisted by him only starting a pro MMA career in his 30’s. Most pro fighters start in their 20’s so by the time they are mid-to-late 30’s, it comes time to hang up the gloves.

Using Bas Rutten as an example; Rutten was on a 20-fight win streak when he retired at age 33 in 1999. He retired due to constant pain and various injuries received from training and competing. Then in 2006 he had a comeback fight at 43 years of age. His logic was that he had 7 years away from fighting so surely the injuries would’ve gone away, or at least, affect him less. When he started training for his fight however, the injuries came back with a vengeance and he picked up a few new ones along the way. Rutten is a fighter through and through so there was no way he was going to pull out of a fight, so he went through with it and got the win. However, he would tell anyone of that age looking at a comeback to rethink it, after all, the body can only take so much damage.

Chuck Liddell is one of the UFC’s legends; he was one of the fighters that helped the sport go mainstream. Liddell had his last fight 8 years ago after a horror end to his career. He was on the receiving of one of the nastiest knockouts I have seen thanks to Rashad Evans. He then got knocked out by Shogun and following that, by Rich Franklin. The most troubling part of the loss to Rich Franklin was that Liddell didn’t take a big hit, rather his brain just seemed to shut down; probably a consequence of taking so many punches over the years. It was a sad end to a popular career. After having his career end in such devastating fashion, Liddell decided it was a good idea, at the age of 48, to get back in the cage against Tito Ortiz for their third fight (Liddell had won the 2 previous fights). At the peak of his career Liddell was a feared striker with huge knockout ability. Liddell has fast punches, which he threw from weird angles, great reflexes and good movement and footwork. However, all these attributes fade with age; speed, reflexes and movement all seem to dissipate with time. So what we saw in the cage was merely a shadow of his former self. His left hip looked damaged and walking looked uncomfortable for him. Additionally, in the training leading up to this fight, I never saw him throw a kick with his left leg. Liddell couldn’t rotate in to punches like he used to so his punches were shorter, less powerful and slower. His hip also made his movement very sluggish and awkward.

Tito Ortiz is also a UFC legend. Throughout his time in the UFC, he received huge popularity and success. He has continued to fight, however, with mixed results. In regard to this recent fight though, he didn’t have a big lay off like Liddell. Ortiz’s style usually consisted of securing a takedown and then moving to ground and pound; he was one of the people that took GnP to the next level. Ortiz was well known for his effective and brutal attack, especially from inside guard. He had two fights against Liddell and lost both via ko. Going in to this fight, I thought Ortiz would win. This was based on the fact that Ortiz’s style was more likely to still be effective rather than Liddell’s. When I say this, I mean that wrestling and control is easier to do as you get older, compared to striking. Whereas Liddell’s striking is hard to maintain, as speed and power decrease with age.

Despite knowing each man’s history and attempting to view the fight as a high-level competition… the fight was terrible. Liddell moved back the entire time with his right hand cocked for a punch he never threw. Ortiz stalked him, taunted him and Liddell didn’t do anything about it. Ortiz pressured Liddell up against the fence and threw straight while Liddell looked for counters, trying to see anything that could land but nothing did. Ortiz landed the fight ending right hand and it was lights out for Liddell.

For me, it was sad to see two former champs fighting like this, Oscar De La Hoya promoted the event, (his first MMA bout). It was a sideshow fight, everyone was happy when Liddell retired 8 years ago, and we all hope that he finds something to do outside of the cage because his fighting career is definitely over. What is it that brings these fighters back? Is it the only thing that gives them worth in life? Do they need the attention? Perhaps they don’t know how to do anything else or they are just competitive. For Liddell, I don’t think he has anything else in his life outside of fighting. They might just want the money and attention again (perhaps nostalgic of their glory days) or just the money. Once their fighting days are over, couldn’t they find something else to put their competitiveness in to like BJJ, car racing, darts anything apart fighting? BJ Penn has a fight coming up and it sucks seeing these once great fighters looking well past their best and getting knocked out. I realise promoters like these fights for the money, but for the rest of us who would rather see the top fighters in the world against each other, it sends the wrong image. To all the top retired fighters out there please stay retired, it is not pleasant seeing a legend getting whooped.

Gareth Lewis
Head MMA Instructor