Enjoy 🙂

Bottom of the Food Chain

When most people begin MMA they are not very good and get easily beaten by the more experienced members. They stay at the bottom of the food chain until some new blood / new people turn up then, for the first time, they really have some fun.

The less experienced people are tentative with striking due to counter strikes from the better strikers and if they land a shot against a more experienced person they usually get punished for it. They get taken down and spend a lot of time on their back and can’t seem to escape, then when they do get top position they only keep it for as long as the more experienced person allows them too. As they are getting beaten all the time the defensive evolution is a lot faster than the offensive evolution of their game. The growth of the defensive side is just due to the fact that they are always defending then do not get rewarded for the offence as the more experienced guy just shut them down. We have all been there and it is great for motivation but not for confidence.

Then a beginner (noob) or the ‘new blood’ starts all of a sudden they are getting some success with their takedowns, striking and top control. Where this gets a little interesting is in the mind set as they have not had this success before they are not used to it. Every time they have landed a punch previously they got punished, so now when they land a punch their mind is all ready for the punishment and their intensity picks. With the increase in intensity it leads to more and harder punches at the new person who fires back harder and the cycle continues. Then when it goes to the ground they are not used to being in control so they are tense and hunting that elusive submission. When they get a sniff at a submission they go for it so hard, as they have always missed them previously, that it is close to causing an injury. Overall they try out and practice all their stuff on them as they love the success and have not felt it before.

For the less experienced people this goes against what the trainer and more experienced people keep saying – ‘relax’. When they are sparring the good people beat them easily and they feel under pressure the entire time. During this time they do not feel that the experienced person is relaxed due to the pressure. Then they go against a person they actually match up well against and they are booth tense as that is the person they can beat. Then they fight the new blood and neither of them are relaxed. As both the less experienced and new bloods always feel pressure or tension in sparring they are not being taught to relax from how they perceive the others are acting.

There downside to when you get the new blood in the door, with the how the less experienced people treat them is well outweighed by upside and is well worth it. The upside is when the less experienced students realise that they have learnt some new skills and they are surprised that the new [blood] people are doing ‘dumb things’. When you have a chat to them after the round and you tell them that this is the ‘dumb stuff’ you were doing when you started. They get success with their striking, takedowns and ground work. This leads to massive injection of enthusiasm to their training which leads to my favourite part – more questions. Prior to this time they have only have asked questions that have to do with something they saw on Youtube and UFC or what they keep getting caught with. Now they are asking specific questions about how to do improve things that are working for them and this is the start of system or a foundation of a game plan that they can really start to work with.

Once they have that foundation of some moves that they like then they sky is the limit. Up until that point they are unsure what they are good at or what they can actually do. Once the success happens then you really get a glimpse of their mind set and where their technique is heading.

Yes they bash up beginners and some don’t come back, but they are just repeating the cycle that happened to them. It just seems that this is what happens at fight gyms you start at the bottom of the food chain and try to work your way up. I still get a kick out of seeing that first session of success and seeing that spark get ignited and that wide eyed look that all this training is actually working as that is the real start of their MMA journey.

Gareth Lewis

Head MMA Instructor

Thrown To The Sharks

Over the years I have seen many people get thrown in to fights when they were not ready physically and/or mentally. If you have a bad experience in your first fight then the chances of having a second fight is decreased.

From what I have seen the trainer who puts them in the fight has had a number of fights themselves and thinks ‘it will be good for them’. What they have forgotten is how much of big deal a first fight is for most people. The trainers who I have seen with this mind set have been very blessed with talent, speed timing and power, they also seem to have a lot of confidence and belief in their ability. I am unsure if the belief comes from experience, as all the trainers who have done this have had 30 plus fights, or if they are just blessed with confidence. Either way the trainers have confidence in spades and a loss did not so to affect them much. Therefore they assume that everyone has the same mind set and they put people in the ring that are just not ready ‘It will be good for them’. The poor fighter gets told to fight, which makes them feel good, they train hard then get in the ring and reality sets in and it does not go well. I have seen this situation a number of times and vowed to never do it as a trainer.

In MMA it makes it ever more interesting, you get people in who are very good at one discipline and want to fight. It seems that they think that if you are good at one element of MMA then it will only take a month or two to learn everything else you need to know for a MMA fight. This just blows my mind as you would not go in to triathlon if you could not swim, no matter how good you are at running.

If you are a top BJJ competitor and decide ‘I am going to fight MMA’ there is a very steep learning curve, not even including punches in the face. Unlike in BJJ comps you are against people that want to keep distance and may want to stay of the ground, you may be thinking that a BJJ guy will just take them down and submit them. However this is not as easy as you think. With BJJ the training and in competition, they are against people who want to go to the ground they start standing but every person has the intention of going to the ground. It is a lot different taking someone down who wants to stay on their feet and needs a different mind set. Just as if you have a top wrestler they will take you down but have no real idea on how to finish a fight, then with a striker they are fine until they get taken down. So you need more than once discipline to be effective – which was learnt in UFC 5

This a situation that I got watch with my own eyes, the trainer was tough as nails and fought MMA, kickboxing whatever he was not fussed as long as it was a fight. He had a young guy who was physical and talented so they put him in a MMA fight with very little lead up. He gave it hell for the first round and was doing ok, due to his athleticism, until he got tired and all his bad habits came in and he got destroyed with some nasty ground and pound. He never fought again. I have 100% belief that if had trained for 6 -12 months more before his fight he would’ve had a better outcome and would’ve had a number of fights and been a very handy fighter.

At the end of the day a trainer is there to protect their fighter from others and themselves, if a fighter wants to fight then it is the trainer’s job to prepare the fighter the best they can. If they can’t prepare them for the fight then the trainer either needs to tell them that they are not ready and take more time to prepare them or send them to another trainer if they do not have the relevant skills. Sadly in MMA there are many clubs out there, who are just one discipline, who will put one of their fighters in to a MMA fight. It could be a kickboxer, wrestler or BJJ I have seen it all happen in MMA fights and it just should not happen. The trainer should not let it happen, the promoter / match maker should not make the fight in good conscience. If you are going to compete in another sport you would go and train with people that did that sport until you are at a level that is at least competitive. These people that are going in to these fights feel that they are ready as they are working their skills against people who have no idea on what they are doing and getting success then thinking they are good. To put that in context think a squash player going in to a tennis tournament and only practicing on a squash court, with squash players using squash equipment then expecting to do well against tennis players playing tennis – not going to happen. People think those example are silly as no one would do that, but it does and happens a lot more than it should. This means that a lot of people with potential only have one fight as once you get thrown to the sharks you are not likely to get back in the water.

Gareth Lewis

Head MMA Instructor

Partial Artists

Why do people from traditional martial arts come to a MMA session get beaten then get surprised that their training is not as effective in MMA against people who actually train MMA?

Over the years many people from many different martial arts have come along to Lockdown MMA and they have all been humbled. This does not mean that Lockdown MMA is all elite fighters and no mere mortal would stand a chance, it just stating a situation that happens at MMA gyms all over the world all the time. These people come in from various traditional styles and are usually high ranking and from what I gather they train ‘MMA’ at their club. When I say train MMA it is a loose term, usually they watch youtube and try to modify the techniques to fit with their style, so in other words they just mess up the moves because they think they know better and they can pass them off as theirs. This arrogance pisses me off, why would you take a sport like wrestling and ‘modify’ a takedown when wrestling has the best takedowns (alongside Judo and Sambo). They also do the same with BJJ and mess up the sweeps and submissions. Then they practice amongst themselves to get an absolute false sense of their abilities. This is very confusing as if you are not competing or training with people who actually compete in the relevant sport then you have no idea what the hell you are doing.

So these people come to training thinking they are going to beat us at our own game, we start sparring and they are going hard and get a little frustrated that we are relaxed and not really bothered what they are doing. They go for a takedown and as they have not come up against someone who has a wrestling base their takedown gets stuffed or reversed. Sooner or later they are on their back so they spaz out and elbow you in the face then go for their arm bar / triangle that is not even close. They get rag dolled on the ground, with one of us on top relaxed and just maintaining control until the submission comes. They fight until the bitter end as tapping is death. Then we are back on the feet and the ‘partial artist’ jumps up and thinks that we got lucky so the cycle happens again. This continues from opponent to opponent and after a couple of rounds they realise that they have bitten of more than they can chew. This leads to the ‘chat’ with the instructor to get some rounds off, during this chat you get some technical questions then some justifications why they are struggling (age is a common one) while all the time covering all talk with a good layer of arrogance. Once the session is over they say thank you shake your hand leave the mat and never to be seen again. This always surprises me as I started in karate, went to kickboxing – got my ass kicked – thought I have to learn this, then I went to BJJ and – got my ass kicked – thought I have to learn this, then I went to wrestling I am sure you can see the pattern here.

If you are training martial arts you should always look at improving and when you see a hole in your game you should look to fix it not just ignore it or justify it. This is an example of a justification that always amazed me, a 6th Dan from the karate style that I did had a one on one session with me. In the session he decided to grapple with me, he didn’t do very well and after a few minutes he said ‘I didn’t think I would beat you, but thought I would give you a run’ I liked the confidence but it was an ignorant comment. If I went to Tae Kwon Do and fought their rules I am getting destroyed, just because I can kick doesn’t mean I am going to do well against a specialist. After some more rolling, starting standing, kneeling, with me on my back and so on the outcome was always the same. He finally thought it would be a good idea to learn some technique that took us to the end of the session. After the session he said something that stayed with me ‘everything you can do now can be found it a kata’ so that means everything I know now has not come from my years of training and competing rather doing kata’s at karate (katas are sequence of pre arranged moves, check video below). From the katas I remember there are no wrestling or BJJ techniques and there is a lot of striking lacking – head movement for example.

With these people not coming back that could be an indication of me as an instructor or their want to just stay in their shell and not improve. I understand that MMA is not for everyone, not everyone wants to get hit in the head, roll around with sweaty guys and so on. If you have an MMA element in your club then go to a MMA club thinking you can hang and come up short then one of two things should happen 1. Keep training MMA at a good club or 2. Stop teaching MMA badly at your club and stick to what you are good at.

I want MMA to grow as I love the sport, however I am not a fan of ‘partial artists’ trying to hook their wagon to MMA to get more people (and $$) through the door. Just because you throw some punches, do some leg trips and a head lock does not mean you know MMA. They need to be honest with themselves and be humble and understand that they don’t know everything. There seems to be too many instructors from traditional styles that don’t want their students to train at other clubs, for fear of losing them, where they should be encouraging them as training with different people is a great way to grow and bring information back to the club. This causes them to try and teach what the students may leave for. There is no one perfect style and we all need to train with different people.

Gareth Lewis

Head MMA Instructor

They Still Don’t Notice It

When training new people in a one on one session they are always surprised that wrestling is such an important part of MMA. Given that MMA is as popular as it is I am surprised that people still don’t understand how important wrestling is.

If you are watching a triathlon you can see the three separate disciplines swimming, cycling and running and you can’t really miss any one part as it is so obvious what the athlete is doing at any one stage, also most people have done all three in some form at one point or another. However when it comes to MMA I am not quite sure what people are seeing. Is it just as simple as people standing up striking, people going to the ground and then people on the ground. It seems that people understand striking, kicked and knocked out. It seems people understand BJJ / ground work as they see them wriggling on the ground, submissions or ground and pound. But people don’t seem to really understand the part that gets them from standing to the ground, yet they cheer loudly when there is a takedown – go figure.

After thinking about this a lot more than I should of and I find myself still very confused. Do people over look wrestling due to the fact that it is very rare for a wrestling move to finish a fight? Is it because people think takedowns are part of striking or BJJ or do people think that the big takedowns are more like a big tackle in rugby where it is just a strength thing and only few people have the ‘knack’ for them?

As wrestling is such a small sport in New Zealand I just don’t think that people understand what is happening. When people start working with closing the distance and under hooks they always ask ‘can’t someone just punch you?’ so we go through it to show how hard it is to stop someone getting hold of you. Then they work some cage control with head position, heavy chest and hips and they are shocked with how effective some very simple things can be. Then you go to the bread and butter take downs the single and double leg and get the question ‘why don’t you just knee someone in the head’. Both these takedowns are not hard to do, but very hard to get right. Then when you work some live drills with defence against their newly learnt take downs they learn how hard it is to get a takedown and how much it sucks when you get squished by a sprawl. Then the people who do BJJ private sessions they love the little wrestling additions to their BJJ game especially from head to head and how to deal with an opponent on all fours.

Where wrestling really takes over is getting the clinch in the open and getting / defending the takedown and working both offense and defence against the cage to get the take down. Then where you can really spice up your BJJ game is with some of the wrestling scrambles and the ‘get to your feet’ mentality, as well as the work from under a sprawl or when someone has your back. Just to add BJJ is a very important part of MMA, I just don’t like people who separate BJJ and wrestling, wrestling makes BJJ better as the take downs are more effective and if you bring some wrestling escapes / scrambles that a BJJ person has never seen then you have an advantage. Wrestling by itself is not great as they only way to finish is via pin and that does not help in MMA. To have a truly effective ground game you need both wrestling and BJJ they work well together and should not be looked as one or the other.

Wrestling seems to be over looked as it doesn’t have many spectacular finishes, even though they one of the best KO’s in MMA history is a wrestling slam. It just seems that until wrestling gets better known in NZ it will still be a hidden secret in MMA.


Gareth Lewis

Head MMA Instructor

Different Measure

This was going to be me having a go at Jon Jones for failing another drug test. Then at training last night there was a few of us talking about Jon Jones and annoyingly I have had to change my stance on the situation.

Firstly I was amazed that Jon Jones could have 2 year layoff and come back to beat to Daniel Cormier for the light heavy weight title just a few weeks ago. I even wrote on the Lockdown Facebook page how “Jon Jones is the best light heavy weight in UFC history”. Jon Jones only loss was a questionable disqualification in a fight he was dominating against Matt Hamill. Jones was dropping elbows and they ref deemed he was throwing vertical elbows, as in straight up and down or 12 to 6 elbows, and was disqualified. As a side note those elbows have always been illegal in the UFC as a judge in the very early days went to a karate demonstration and saw someone break a block of ice with a 12-6 / vertical elbow and thought they must be too dangerous to use in a fight and the rule has never been changed.

So I have never been a fan of Jon Jones and I was very keen to jump on my high horse and have a go at him for using steroids. However I am a fan of Mike Tyson and Lance Armstrong. With Mike Tyson he was a hero of mine when I was a kid and watched his fights on TV and even had a tear or two when he lost to Buster Douglas. As I have got older and learnt more about boxing Tyson is still my favourite boxer. Tyson’s head movement, rotational speed and explosiveness and presence just set him apart for me. There has not been a boxer prior or post that had the aura like Tyson at his peak. He is a convicted rapist and bit a chunk of Evander Holyfield’s ear off both of which are both terrible acts and can’t bee dismissed. When people brought these incidents up in conversation I would say, I like him for what he did in the ring to me there has been no one better, and that is how I judged him. Mike Tyson is not a saint but he is still one of my favourite fighters and I can’t think of another fighter that I would rather meet.

Lance Armstrong, I used to cycle to get fit for fighting then ended up racing, I watched the Tour De France and loved when Armstrong would destroy his opponents up the climbs in the Tour. Then a family member got cancer and the Lance Armstrong book (It’s not about the Bike) was an inspiration on how he fought cancer and came back to win the Tour De France. Then he kept on winning and won the Tour De France a record 7 times, the previous record was 5, keeping in mind the Tour is 3 weeks long with two rest days and in excess of 3000km. Armstrong retired after his 7th win, then made a comeback a few years later. In his comeback all his drug taking came out after years of vicious denials and personal attacks of anyone who accused him. I always thought it was harsh for the UCI to strip Armstrong of his 7 tour titles as 17 of the 19 people he stood on the podium with, over those 7 years, failed drug tests. One of the big names to come out against Armstrong won the Tour and failed a drugs test and was offered a reduced punishment if he gave evidence against Armstrong. Armstrong should’ve been banned from cycling and fined, however everyone else that won the Tour De France and subsequently failed drugs tests has kept their victory so why did Armstrong lose his titles when no one else did.

After thinking how I still like Armstrong and Tyson it was very hard to look at Jon Jones through a different lens. They guy is a waste of talent he could’ve been one of the best fighters in history. With his amazing skill level it seems strange that he would think he needs steroids to aid in his performance when he dominated for so long. I have never been a fan of Jon Jones and that has not changed. However I can’t say that he is bad for the UFC and MMA in general when I like Tyson and Armstrong who have both left black marks on their sport and arguably one the most infamous moments in the respective sports.

Gareth Lewis

Head MMA Instructor

Stars In Their Eyes

The movie ‘Concussion’ that looks at head injuries in the NFL had quite a big effect on me. When us fighters take a good shot we need to look after our brains as it is the only one we have and once damaged there is no coming back.

Dr Bennet Omalu found a degenerative brain condition called chronic traumatic encephalopathy  (CTE). Dr Omalu first found it on Mike Webster who was a Pittsburgh Steelers (NFL) legend. Think how high regard New Zealand hold Richie McCaw, a tough as nails sports star, and that is how ‘Iron’ Mike Webster was viewed. Fast Forward to when Mike was 50 and was living in his ute where he had deteriorated to the point where he super glued his teeth back in to his head. He was found dead in his ute and Dr Omalu did the autopsy, he even had paid for the brain tests himself as the city did not want a legend ‘treated like that’. Dr Omalu wanted to find out what caused a healthy man in his 50’s with no history of mental illness go completely mad. This was the rediscovery of CTE, in terms that you and I can understand what it does is choke the brain from the inside and stops the signals going out to the body. This make a person get very confused and angry as the thoughts are in their head and they can’t get them out, even simple things like counting back from 5 seem impossible. When Dr Omalu released his results to the NFL they tried to dismiss it and get rid of the information. However over the years more and more players came out with the symptoms of CTE, and here is where it gets really bad, you can’t be sure of CTE until after death. When the players could not handle it more they killed themselves with a bullet to the chest so their brain was left to test. At an extreme level Chris Benoit (WWE) killed his children, wife and himself from in his autopsy his brain showed CTE. This became such a serious problem that the NF changed rules to protect players, such as no helmet to helmet contact in the open field, with these and other rules flowing down to younger players to protect them as well.

NFL players in the offensive and defensive lines are the players most at risk as they bash in to each other numerous times in a game and in practice as well. When you add these impacts up of a career they are 70,000 impacts or sub concussive blows. So as fighters what has that go to do with us? Take boxers for example, someone that has been training for 20 years with 3 sessions a week and 5 fights a year which is not extreme. Let’s say they are sparring twice a week, with 15 head shots each sparring you are looking at 30,000 shots to the head over the career. The human head is not designed to take this type of impact, unlike a woodpecker or those rams that smash their head in to each other to fight. Those animals have evolved to protect the brain we haven’t got there yet.

Helmets and head gear do not help as our brains are suspended in fluid, think an onion in a jar with water around it (example used in the movie). You shake the jar and you can hear the onion smash against the side of the jar with every shake. Think if you wrap that jar in a pillow and shake it, you will still hear the onion smash in to the side of the jar. Keeping that in mind it is a great demonstration that head gear and helmets do not protect the brain from smashing in to the skull and causing damage to the brain.

I was sparring with one of Lockdown’s fighters and sometimes we go a little hard against each other, I tried something clever and he landed heavy right hand. It was heavy enough for me to see stars but not buckle my legs. I fought through it and did consider stopping after that round but I and kept sparring. The next day my head was a little sore and when I shook my head it just did not feel right which got me thinking. Since then I have avoided head contact, in my job where I train people to box (as well as other things) and I did not spar with anyone at work to avoid the head contact. Then we had the usual Thursday night training at Lockdown and I was telling myself that I would not do striking to the head. We had a session that was 5 rounds BJJ, 5 rounds wrestling, 5 rounds kickboxing and 5 rounds MMA – we call it the 20 rounder. I did the BJJ, wrestling and MMA but did not do the striking sparring and in writing the feel I made a good decision.

As fighters we do not have the number of impacts that NFL players have but not one gets punched in the head more than us. As fighters are competitive by nature it is hard for us to take a night off sparing without a visual injury as we feel like a pussy. But we have to put our health and more importantly our future health as a priority. Rugby is now taking this very seriously with Dane Coles and Ben Smith having rests due to concussion. There are also numerous players in rugby, NFL, Pro wrestling, fighters and many other athletes who call their career early due to concussion concerns. So let’s look after ourselves and team mates and back their decision to rest a knock to the head.

Gareth Lewis

Head MMA Instructor

The New Era of Talking

Over the past two weeks I have watched two big fights, one boxing and one MMA and outside of the fights there was one thing that seemed to take my focus. The commenting is moving in to a new era.

In the early days of the UFC they had Jeff Blatnick (Olympic Wrestling Gold medallist), Bill ‘Super Foot’ Wallace (Martial Arts Legend and Jim Brown (NFL Hall of Famer) all of who had no idea about MMA. I remember when a fighter was locked in triangle and Blatnick said ‘He should be fine as he has an arm in’ then was very surprised when he tapped. As the sport progressed they got new people to commentate until they got the team of Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan (Goldberg started earlier). They are the voices for almost every major fight in the UFC from UFC 15 1997 -2017. Goldberg had the voice ‘and here we go’ and Rogan had the knowledge and it worked well for a long time. That was until 2017 and Goldberg got his marching orders but Rogan stayed on. As Joe Rogan doesn’t like flying and so many fights on there have been others calling the fights. Some of the new commentators have been great, Brian Stan and Dominic Cruz are two of my favourites. Watching the Jones v DC fight card really highlighted the big difference to me. Joe Rogan knows the techniques and how all the moves work but has never fought in the octagon. Then you get Dominic Cruz who is one of the best fighters in the UFC, what was really surprising about him is how scientific his commentary is. Keeping in mind that his fight style seems so laissez faire it is easy to think that he isn’t a scientific fighter. Then you hear him talk about a fight and he takes it too another level. Where he leaves Rogan in the dust is in talking about the fighter preparation, their mind set and fight plans / issues during the fight. When you have Rogan and Cruz alongside each other you can tell that Rogan is lacking on that insight.

In boxing Bob Sheridan is just annoying, he always talks about his resume and uses this line when talking about how judges may of scored a round ‘I have commentated 300 title fights, but what do I know’. Then he always goes on about the local fighter, he went over the top on David Tua back in the day and now goes over the top about Joseph Parker. You can always tell who is signing his cheque as he mainly talks about that fighter and their crew. One of his comments that sits in my head was ‘Kevin Barry is one the most respected trainers in the world’, which is not accurate. At the time Kevin Barry had not trained a world champion, he now has Parker, there are other trainers out there which are light years beyond him including Nacho Berinstien (20 World Champions), Emanuael Steward (30 World Champions), Freddy Roach (27 World Champions). Then when watching the Lomachenko fight Teddy Atlas was calling the fight and if you had a drink every time he said ‘he should go to the body and let some air out the tyres, put some water in the basement’ then you would get rather sloshed. There was moment in the fight that when Lomachenko landed a right hand near the ropes and the opponent moved his head away then dropped level and came back in to avoid another punch and caused a head clash and a cut. Teddy Atlas said I am not is his brain but that looked like an intentional head butt, then went on about silly things that a frustrated fight can do. There was a boxer who was also calling the fight who said, no I think he was just moving his head away from danger there was not intent, Teddy then went on a little rant. To me it came down to someone who was looking from a perspective from outside the ring whereas the boxer had the perspective from inside the ring and in the fighters head. Later in the fight Teddy was going off topic and the other commentators had to get him back to talking about the fight he was watching, this happened a few times.

When watching the fights you can really hear the difference between the side line experts and the actual fighters. The fighters give a deeper insight to what is going on inside the ring / cage. Teddy Atlas, Joe Rogan and Bob Sheridan are connected with the history of their sport as their voice is connected to lot of big fights, it just seems that it has moved on and having the fighters on the microphone makes a world of difference. They will always have the person who has had the media training who has a good voice and clever catch phrases known as the colour commentator, I just hope that during the fight that you hear the expert, or play by play commentator, talk more. There is evidence in a number of sports where the ‘voices’ of the sport are getting older and leaving the commentary team that you find that them replaced by experts and it seems to be where sport is going.

Gareth Lewis

Head MMA Instructor


On December 1st 2014 it was announced that Reebok has a 6 year deal to outfit all UFC fighters with pre fight, fight and post fight gear. This makes all the UFC fighters wear Reebok gear and does not allow fighters to differentiate themselves. Is this a reason why people are leaving the UFC for Bellator.

Going back to the good old days where fighters could wear gear with the sponsors slapped all over them like a NASCAR, or even better the fully personalised fighter T-shirt. For those that remember Affliction, which had some of the best t-shirts in MMA, you could get the T-shirt that your favourite fighter wears out to the cage. This was great as you could get the same T-shirt as your favourite fighter wears which means the fighter makes money from their T-shirt sponsor and that company makes money from the people like me who would purchase the T-shirt. This would good for all involved as the fan got to connect with their favourite fighters, the sponsors got bang for their buck and the fighter got some extra money in their pocket as well. There was a time when Affliction started up their own rival fight league so the UFC banned Affliction gear form the UFC, that was until the UFC brought out Affliction then the gear was welcomed back. That small incident aside, the time the main brands were TapOut, Affliction, Deathclutch, Venom and Dethrone and it seemed each top fighter was with a different brand. Then the UFC signed a deal with Reebok and made all the fighters wear the same gear and if you speak out against it you get fired.

To me one of the big casualties from the Reebok deal is TapOut. To put this in perspective I outlawed TapOut gear from Lockdown due to the amount of ‘wannabes’ who wore it. I was not a big fan of the gear and I would never own any myself. That aside TapOut was there from the beginning of UFC they helped fighters when no one else would go near the sport. They sold the gear out of the boot of their car. All they asked from the sponsored fighters was that they showed heart, not just the winning fights. These guys were there from the begining and grew with the sport and were there for the love of the sport and then made a very successful business out of it. If anyone was to get an exclusive deal Tap Out should be at the top of the list. They have now made a big money deal with WWE, so at least they are doing well.

Fast forward to the UFC with the Reebok deal, two fighters facing each other one wearing black shorts with white stripe and the other white shorts with a black stripe. Then after a few years they let some other colours in, Gold and Green for the Brazilian fighters for example. Not long after the announcement of the Reebok contract the first big name of the UFC left, this was not a fighter but a cut man. Stitch who is one of the best cut men in the business and was very well known, respected and liked. He would wear a vest out to the cage with sponsors on it and he made a good living from their support, until the Reebok deal that is. Since Stitch could not get the sponsorship money so he could not afford to stay and he left. Then over time some other big name fighters left as well, and they have all gone to Bellator, Big Country, Gegard Mousasi, Rory McDonald, Rampage and Ryan Bader. Seeing what these fighters have had to say after leaving the UFC has been very interesting. They were not allowed to say anything against the Reebok deal while with the UFC, that all changed once they left. In a nutshell they all mention they got more money as they can now have their sponsors and that the Reebok tier system of payment was not great (to say the least). The tier system pays fighters a set amount per fight depending on how many fights they have had 0-5, 6-10, 11-15, 16-20 and title fights.

Scott Coker the Bellator CEO said:

“Listen, they’re independent contractors. How they’re forced to wear a uniform, to this day, still baffles me,” Coker said. “It should be against the labour laws or something, because you have to wear this sponsor thing? You have to wear this certain uniform when you fight? To me, they’re independent contractors. They should go out and get whatever sponsors they want, and if Ryan Bader or whoever went out and made a million dollars in sponsorship, good for you. We don’t touch any of that.”

One fighter mentioned that the UFC got the Reebok deal so the fighters looked like a team, as in a baseball or basketball team, so they could sell the company for $4 billion. This view obviously means that the UFC did not take the fighters interest to heart rather they made a decision on what was best for their own pockets. What is not good for the fighters is not good for the sport.

Overall the UFC has got too many fighters on their roster, which leads to fighter inactivity and fighters without a pay check. Without sponsors paying the bills life as a professional athlete is very difficult, that is why Bellator is attracting more fighters as they allow fighters to have individual sponsors. To make big money in sport you need to be able to individualise yourself and stand out from the crowd. With the Reebok deal it makes it harder to stand out from the crowd, then once you do standout it is harder to make the money you deserve, as it is based on the amount of fights you have had, not the amount of fans you have. Tito Oritiz used his clothes as a way to stand out, when he won his post fight T-shirts always got a reaction as it had statement about their opponent, either you laughed or you hated him. Then a few years ago Dan Cormier wore a T-shirt when he fought Jon Jones that said ‘Break Bones’. All this added to the show and the fighters could express themselves which was entertaining. Just imagine how many Conor McGregor t-shirts you would see if Dethrone was actually allowed to make McGreggor T-shirts, both Dethrone and Conor would be very happy.

Outside of UFC and Crossfit I can’t think of one Reebok Athlete. Where as Nike, Under Armour and Addidas each of who have a lot of big individuals as well as teams on their books. The sooner the Reebok contract is over the better, get the different brands back in the sport so the companies and the fighters can make good money and we, the fans, can get the fighters branded gear.

Gareth Lewis

Head MMA Instructor

Donkey Kong

When using ground and pound there are many ways of landing effective strikes on your opponent however there are only a few methods that are both efficient and effective ways of producing some devastating ground and pound. There are two methods we are going to look at the traditional style and what I like to call the donkey kong.

In this video you have a demonstration of traditional ground and pound from inside someone’s guard. The main points are having your arms on the inside of theirs, good posture with your hands on the person not the mat. Then when delivering the strikes it is getting as much in to the punch as you can by getting your elbow up as high as you can, think starting a lawn mower, then using gravity and your body weight to put as much in to that punch as you can. There are plenty of other little things that can be done, like tying up their arms short punches before the big heavy long punches and so on. For me to make this type of ground and pound effective you need good posture and distance between their chest and yours, which usually happens when you opponent is trying to keep you at a distance or using an open guard

This is using hammer fists for ground and pound. With a hammer fist you are hitting with the little finger side of the glove. If you have ever worn an MMA glove then you will know that there is no padding on the side of the glove and with most brands there is stitching and other things that keep the glove together which make it quite a solid surface. One thing that is consistent across all brands is that the side of MMA gloves do not feel good when bouncing off you skull. If you really want to see how powerful the hammer fist strike can be check out a gorilla hitting the ground in a display of dominance. That is all very interesting I know but was has a gorilla have to do with MMA? When you are inside someone’s guard and they have broken your posture down so you can’t deliver any powerful strikes, short sharp hammer fists to the face is a perfect way to get a reaction so you can make space. Once you have space you can really open up with hammer fists. The most effective way I find too use hammer fists is to do a couple of powerful strikes with one hand, to get their defence up, then swap to the other hand. While you are striking with one you are trying to set up a max power shot with the other hand, the when ready alternate hands almost like a windmill. Once you have the heavy shots raining down then you can throw a double handed strike. The two handed strike really creates confusion with defence and makes it a nightmare for your opponent Donkey kong doesn’t have to be from inside guard it works just as well from half guard and mount, just like any effective ground and pound. However it is not the most effective from back control.

The benefit of the donkey kong ground and pound is that it is faster and uses less energy than traditional ground and pound. With a traditional ground and pound the lift of the elbow and the rotation of the forearm, on the striking arm, takes more energy than you would think. The other interesting thing that I have noticed is that with traditional ground and pound people can defend it more effectively and their movement causes more of a problem as they seem to be under less stress. Then with donkey kong I find that people cover up more and seem to be easier targets as they are under more stress. In fact there has been numerous times with a person in half guard that they go in to the foetal position and they just stay there as they have no idea where to go. Don’t get me wrong I still use traditional ground and pound and I really like it, especially when against an open guard, but when I see the opportunity to unleash some donkey kong I am always surprised with the effectiveness of it.

Here is some of the best ground and pound that I have seen in MMA

Gareth Lewis

Head MMA Instructor


When new people start MMA they usually ask what You Tube videos they should watch to get better. In general, training with people beats watching You Tube, but You Tube can be good to get an idea of what can be done with technique, along with some other good little tips. When asked, the BJJ video I tell people to watch is ‘Genki Sudo Westside Tournament’, as to me this is a great display of BJJ.

To put it in perspective, I have trained BJJ for years and it is the only sport I have competed in that I find boring as hell to watch. The top level matches, where they are fighting for every inch and their skill level is even can be 10mins of rather boring man-cuddle fighting. I have a lot of respect for their skill and understand what is going on, however it is just not that interesting to watch. A lot of matches have only 3 pivotal points, the takedown, the pass/sweep and the finish. For those reasons I send people to the Westside Tournament to get a view of what is possible in BJJ. Genki Sudo’s movement and transitions are so smooth and effective it can open the mind of a person new to BJJ.

Here are some of the highlights that make this a great watch for me. In his first match they are standing in a lose grapple and out of nowhere Genki throws up a jumping triangle. In the second match there is a great display of an open guard sweep to top control, then a far side armbar. Next match sees some good wrestling defence which transitions to a triangle while defending a single leg. The next two matches are my favourites as they start with a beautiful double leg, with a trip, followed by a lovely transition, then a great demonstration of top control. Genki’s opponent goes from all fours to his side and repeats the sequence while Genki just sticks to him like a limpet. Then the opponent can’t keep up with the movement anymore and stops as Genki has his back. , There is a short pause in the action, then out of nowhere Genki catches him with a rear naked choke. Against the next guy there is great wrestling defence, then his hip movement, when passing guard and avoiding hooks, is just top shelf. There is also a pause after a lot of movement, with Genki standing and the opponent seated. Genki then jumps at him with a triangle and catches him. Following this is an arm drag that doesn’t get a great result, so Genki just drops to a forward roll and locks up a calf crank. To finish there’s some good wrestling defence top control and shoulder lock.

Overall watching Genki’s movement and anticipation always surprises me. With his guard pass, where he just keeps moving his hips and feet until the other guy can’t keep up,   Genki really makes them pay. When his opponent changes position he doesn’t try and stop them, he just uses it as an opportunity to move to a better position. His top control is what I call a hangman style – gives you enough rope to hang yourself. His control is tight, but at a distance, so the opponent can move. This allows Genki to take advantage with that movement. His knee ride transitions are a thing of beauty. He does all this against some decent grapplers. I have watched this many times and the opponents don’t really do anything wrong. There are a couple of guys who look very solid grapplers who get made to look very average.

For someone new to BJJ there are things that will be above their head, but that is true of any BJJ video. I expect the movement on display to really open the eyes and the minds of the people watching . If a new person thinks about their movement and transitions they will improve faster than someone who focuses on submissions. To get submissions you need to have good position with good control. The more a person can think about and work different and better ways to keep control, as well as come out on the good end of transitions, then the sky is the limit.



Gareth Lewis

Head MMA Instructor