Enjoy 🙂

Where’s The Line?

With what happened after the Khabib Nurmagomedov v Conor McGregor fight (Khabib jumping the fence to attack McGregor’s corner and the ensuing brawl), one has to ask the question, what caused a usually very respectful fighter to act so out of character? The answer is trash talk.

First off, Khabib is the one fighter right now that looks very difficult to beat, and his record is evidence of that statement. He has destroyed top strikers and top grapplers, displaying a devastating ‘ground and pound’ game which has not been seen in a long time. For me, Khabib is the #1 MMA fighter on the planet right now and it was great to see him put a beating on McGregor, especially in ‘Khabib-dominant’ fashion. However, what happened after the fight took away from what he did in the cage as most people who talk about the fight speak of what occurred following the actual competition.

Khabib said that he did not start anything, rather, he finished what McGregor had started. Nurmagomedov stated: “He [McGregor] insulted my family, my religion, my country what do you think is going to happen?” Let me state clearly, I do not condone what Khabib did, but I can understand such a reaction after continued personal insults issued by McGregor. Why is it ok in fighting to insult someone’s religion, family and country? If this occurred in any other sport that person would be banned. For example, in cricket there have been fines for players calling a member of the other team a terrorist. Fans in crowds around the world are now being held accountable for racial comments directed at players, even resulting in lifetime bans. Yet McGregor can say what he wants and act how he wants, crossing any line he deems necessary all for the sake of ‘hyping’ a fight. McGregor is a master at trash talk, I do not dispute that, as right now, there is no one that does it better and I understand that they want people to watch the fight. Dana White loves eyes on the UFC, but there must be a way the organization can still have trash talk but place controls on the content. Say what you want about the fighter but leave, family, religion and culture out of it.

Muhammed Ali, the fighter most people turn to when referencing good trash talkers, would tell his opponents how he would knock him out in 8, to prove I am great. Ali called Liston a ‘Big ugly bear’, Frazier ‘the Gorilla’ and Foreman ‘the Mummy’. All of which were aimed at criticizing the way these men fought. Ali said to a reporter that Liston was so big and ugly that he must be a bear; Ali would say “have you got close to him he even smells like a bear”. This trash talk was funny, inciting laughter as it wasn’t designed to offend people at a personal level, just professionally. If the UFC do not put some restrictions on trash talk then incidents, like that following UFC 229, will keep happening. McGregor has changed MMA into a competition to determine who is the most entertaining, often outside the cage, rather than the better fighter. Fighters now feel like they have to trash talk in order to hype the fight. Both McGregor and Khabib have had 11 fights in the UFC, McGregor has 9 wins from 11 UFC fights and Khabib 11 wins from his 11 UFC fights, yet hardly anyone I talked to had heard of Nurmagomedov before this fight. Even after the fight people told me that they were shocked that a ‘nobody’ beat McGregor – I set them straight. It is a real shame that fighters as talented as Khabib (who I view as best fighter in the UFC at the moment), get less recognition outside of die-hard MMA fans due to his quiet, humble and respectful nature. The UFC have prioritised fighters who use trash talk and this encourages more of it and creates an expectation for it among fans.

Trash talk is part of sport in general and will most likely always be there. I have talked to people in the ring during fights, on the mat in wrestling and in BJJ comps. However, I always waited until I was wining before I opened my mouth. In cricket I was on the end of some good trash talk while I was having a rough day batting. The wicket keeper said ‘there is a piece of sh!t on your bat, so I turned the bat around to look at the bottom, without missing a beat, the keeper said ‘no the other end’. Another act of trash talk worth a mentioning is the famous rugby call, the player stated: “excuse me ref can I get penalised for thinking?” The ref answered with: “no”, the player ended this exchange by saying: “good, because I think you are a f*&#@n idiot”. I view these as legitimate and clever forms of trash talk as they are attacking the player and their ability, not anything else, especially nothing personal. McGregor’s team mate Dillon Danis was a big instigator in all of this as he is a big online troll and aims to wind up anyone who will engage with him. Danis stood up and gestured to Khabib post fight “c’mon then” and that is what tipped Khabib over the edge and the melee began.

Khabib’s actions were wrong but it was his way of retaliating to all of McGregor’s insults. Although, one would assume that giving the guy a beating and making him tap would be enough. Even during the fight, while winning, Khabib was talking to McGregor, encouraging him to “talk now”. It was obvious Khabib did not take very well to the trash talk that came from McGregor. Just because it is a fight and you are hyping it, doesn’t mean that you are free to insult your opponent in every way possible. I realise that they are professional sports people, and some might say that it is all part of what they signed up for. To a certain extent yes, pro athletes do have to put up with more, however it should still be kept about the sport and their performance and not anything else. Put some parameters on the trash talk and go from there. One more thing, McGregor should get a small suspension and fine with Khabib receiving a larger fine and suspension for starting it on the night. The guys that jumped in and attacked McGregor should be dealt with harshly – leave it at that.

Gareth Lewis
Head MMA Instructor

Sakuraba v McGreggor

Recently there has been the top 200 Fighters in the UFC on TV. I was happy to see the great Kazushi Sakuraba on the list, as he fought in Pride not for UFC. Then within a few seconds I was in shock as Conor McGregor was ranked higher at 37. If you know your MMA history then you will know that these two are not in the same league.

Sakuraba’s most memorable fights were in Pride, since UFC (Zuffa) brought Pride he has been included in the UFC rankings. How he became a legend is by beating 4 people with the last name of Gracie at a time when they were unbeatable. Sakuraba was a former pro wrestler who got in to MMA, he had great cardio and a fantastic mind for fighting as he always managed to stay relaxed during fights. To put his achievement is perspective at the time (1999 – 2000) the Gracie’s were the top name in submission fighting and next to unbeatable in MMA. Then Sakuraba who was unknown at the time went up against Royler Gracie and won via kimura (arm lock), so not only did he win he managed to beat one of the famed Gracie’s at their own game. Next was Royce Gracie and won via TKO (corner stoppage). Then Renzo Gracie was another victim to the kimura, Renzo had too much honour / Pride to tap and got his arm broken, and finally was Ryan Gracie who lost via decision. He made the unbeatable Gracie’s beatable, which at the time seemed impossible and earned the nickname ‘The Gracie Hunter’.

Conor McGregor on the other hand is great at trash talking but his actual fighting is nothing that the sport has not seen. He has not transformed striking in anyway. However what he has done is change the way that people build up fights and made it more like boxing, with all the trash talk. Now people believe that you have to ‘talk’ to get the big fights, one of the worst examples was the attempted trash talk by Ben Rothwell after one of his fights. Conor has made a lot of money for the UFC with his talk and brought new fans in to the sport as well as having all of Ireland behind him. However at the end of the day he has only had 8 fights in the UFC with 7 wins and 1 loss. His fighting ability does not put him in the to 50, or even the top 100.

I am not sure who is doing the voting for the rankings but the hype seems to have swayed the voting for McGregor even after he got knocked down with punches then tapped out in his last fight. The guy just has not done enough to be among some of the legends of the sport, yes he is talented but being the unquestioned best trash talker in the sport does not make you a legend, just good at talking. Time will tell what Conor McGregor legacy will be, a big mouth or great fighter with great trash talk, either way he has not done enough to ranked ahead of the great Kazushi Sakuraba.

Gareth Lewis
Head MMA Instructor

Reinvent The Wheel

For me, there are two ways to determine what techniques work best for fighting. One is to see what the best people on the planet are doing and try to emulate that. Or secondly, see what works against me and copy that.

Going back a few years, we had a guy step on the Lockdown mat who was in very good shape. I didn’t think much of it as there have been a few of those over the years and just being in shape does not mean much on the mat. I went over to introduce myself; he was very polite and humble. We started the session with drilling and just by watching, you could see that this guy was good. He wasn’t showing off, but the way he moved was evidence enough to see he had skills. We did more drills, and then moved on to MMA sparring; I wanted to see how good he was, so I was keen to have a round with him. I was a lot bigger than him but, from the get-go, I was working hard; his striking was good. We were going hard but not too hard, then I went for a double leg on him. In my head I had got the double leg and was thinking where to go next, side control most likely. However, he had different ideas. He used his ‘wrestling hips’ and flattened out, then went belly down just before he hit the ground, and with a little scramble, got back to his feet. I had not seen that before and definitely not had someone do that to me either. I was both shocked and impressed… mostly impressed. We are now back on our feet and I think to myself “now I know your game”, so I go for another double leg and am ready for the twisty hips. This time we had a longer scramble, but the outcome was the same as he was back on his feet – damn him. It turned out that this guy fought in Bellator and was a very good fighter in addition to being very humble and helpful. Once I processed what he had done and worked some of the technical aspects of the move (obviously after he had gone back to the US), it was time to try the twisty hips out for myself. I would wait for people to double leg me, not sprawl, then twist and get back to my feet. What surprised me the most was the emotional effect this technique had on people. They would get deflated seeing you pop back to your feet, so I kept doing it. The twisty hips are the single best move I have picked up from just training with someone.

Before my kickboxing fights I would watch videos of Ramon Dekkers, and just by watching him I would pick up some tools that really worked for me. The main thing I observed was the left hook, right leg kick combo. Dekkers would double up or triple up on this. I started working on it during sparring and had some success. After practicing it in training, it was time to test it in a fight. The theory behind this combo is that when you throw the left hook it shifts your opponents’ weight on to their left leg (front leg for orthodox fighter). Once their weight is on their left leg they are unable to lift their leg to check your kick (leg check is defence against your leg kick). At the time I would hold back on throwing kicks in the ring as I kept catching knees and elbows in training and it bloody hurt. For this fight, I taped my ankles and early in the fight I threw the left hook to leg kick combo and the kick landed clean on his thigh. My opponent had his leg up for the check but the hook knocked him off balance so he had to put his foot down, giving me a nice open thigh to kick. The first kick I threw quite conservatively but the confidence I got from landing it was all I needed to hunt his leg as often and hard as I could. By the end of the third round he could hardly stand and in the fourth it was all over.

There are always going to be freaks who do things that I couldn’t even dream of. For example, when Mighty Mouse managed to pull off a suplex to armbar (and made it look easy). Most of the time though, there are fighters who I watch and have a similar style to (well at least wish I had a similar style to them). I watch their set ups and the small things they do to make their moves faster, more efficient and consequently, more effective; GSP is one of my favourites to watch. There have been a few tricks I have picked up from watching Khabib’s ground and pound, and for kickboxing, I enjoy seeing Ernesto Hoost’s leg kick set ups and subtle changes with stance. The top fighters that do basic moves and beat everyone with these moves is the ultimate; it is simple, yet extremely effective. I enjoy looking for the subtle changes they make to techniques that’s made them better than others doing the same technique. For example, seeing GSP land a double-leg takedown, a move employed by most MMA fighters, yet he has been more successful than many other fighters.

If I see someone who has talent, I am looking at what they are doing and will hopefully pick up something they are doing better / different to me and see if I can add that in to my game. It is always good when training with someone and they get you with a certain move that makes you think, “how the hell”. These types of moves make me want to spar this person again and again to make sure I can either figure that move out or stop it from working (it is either competiveness or arrogance). For me 99.99% of moves in MMA have been done and for most of us we use about 7% of those moves when training / fighting. In fact being world class at 3% of all MMA moves means you will probably be a world champ. It seems to me watching the best on the planet to improve or improving through better training partners sounds a good idea to me.

Gareth Lewis
Head MMA Instructor

Who Are You Training To Fight?

Recently I heard an ex-military guy talking about how martials arts are a waste of time. He posed this question: who are they training to fight? I think that he had some good points within his perspective.

Without going in to too much detail, this guy’s argument was, “who are you training to fight?” Basically, within martial arts, the answer is ‘other people of your same style’. His thoughts are based on what happens when you have to fight “angry drunk Andrew” down at the pub. Angry drunk Andrew doesn’t care about rules, convention or respect; all he wants to do is hurt you… and he definitely isn’t interested in a fair fight when you’re ‘ready’. There is no formula or pattern to what he is doing, he is just fuelled by anger and alcohol. To put it in a New Zealand formula, it doesn’t matter what style you do if a 110kg Samoan or Tongan gets hold of you, if this happens, then you are in trouble. I base this on my experience, throughout my journey as an athlete in New Zealand, Pacific Islanders have been the most powerful and physically gifted people I have trained with. The strength in their upper body is crazy. I have been bench pressed off side control and have seen someone thrown half way across the cage leaving me dumfounded with disbelief of the power they have. You can have all the technique in the world, but size and strength make up for a lot… a hell of a lot.

In my opinion, the most valid point this guy made (that really made me think) was about how us as martial artists fight compared to a street fight. In all the martial arts I have done and all the styles I know, the sparring starts with either a bow or a touch of the gloves; whatever it is, it is some form of respect for your training partner. Once you touch gloves you usually step back get your mind in to it and then sparring starts. At the start of the round the intensity is usually low and builds throughout the round until the end, where usually the intensity is at its highest. Even if you start with high intensity it usually picks up during the round. Usually the round lasts for a few minutes and there is an element of pacing yourself for that round or the session, strategically managing your energy to cater to the task at hand. In a street fight however, you may get some indication that the fight will start, either verbal or physical, but once it starts, it is all on. The intensity starts at 110% and decreases from there as the adrenaline and oxygen wear out. The street fight would last 30 seconds, if that, as it’s all fury then suddenly, it finishes. For me this is what he was saying when he asked, “who are we training to fight”. The way we fight as martial artists does not set us up for a street fight. Yes, we will do better than Joe Average, but if a seasoned street fighter wants to take you out in the street, they have a damn good chance of doing it. As a demonstration, the ex-military person making this argument did a test against good fighters in which they closed their eyes, and he would push them. They then had to get their balance and hit a target as quick as they could (usually a pad). On their first attempt it would take 2.5 seconds to hit the target (this reaction time did speed up with repetition). This goes to show that even trained fighters can take a while to react when surprised. Think how much damage you could inflict on someone for 2.5 seconds, that could be the difference between winning and losing the fight.

Me personally, I am not a street fighter, and I do not consider myself tough. Rather, I am well trained and competitive. You put me in the ring against someone and I will be ok, with a ref and a ‘ready go’. I train with gloves wearing comfortable training gear, it is always in doors and against one other person. You change those elements and things get interesting. Bare knuckles and an outdoor environment would make it weird, wearing nice clothes would too, and being wet would be difficult. I have not trained for these scenario’s and being there would take me far from my comfort zone. Where a trained person does have the advantage though, is when they get hit. Rather than panicking and switching to “flight” mode, the brain of a fight-trained athlete switches on and goes into fight mode, ready to make quick decisions. Whereas the average person gets hit and their brain switches off… there’s not much chance of coming back from that.

Do I think martial arts are a waste of time? No, I don’t. I do see where the guy is coming from though, especially in a military context. Those in the military say that in hand-to-hand combat the person that wins is the one who’s friend turns up with a gun first. In life or death battles, it is the element of surprise that can make the difference. In a military setting which includes ambush, surprise attacks, weapons and a goal which includes killing someone, martial arts may be found lacking. However, in the real world, the world I live in day to day, martial arts are absolutely fine for what we are likely to encounter. When training to fight in martial arts you are training to beat someone of the same style, no surprises no excuses. You can look at any style and see limitations, but that does not mean that there is not a lot of skill. Getting better at street fighting doesn’t interest me as I do not want to be a street fighter, or find myself in a life or death fight, and if the time comes and I need to defend myself in the street so be it. To me, a martial art is a sport designed to test your skill against another trained person to see who is better. From viewing this guy’s perspective, I did like that it challenged me to look at what I was doing from a different view. At the end of the day I think martial arts are well worth it and I am glad I have been doing them for 30 years.

Gareth Lewis
Head MMA Instructor

Just Give it a Go

There are a lot of people who want to give boxing a go, so they try a ‘clash of the corporates’ fight night to see if they have the goods. Is this a good thing?

Usually, there is someone who has worked in an office the majority of their adult life, and one day, they wake up and decide they want to challenge themselves. The challenge they want is to see how they would fare in a fight, and consequently, sign up for a corporate fight night. How these things usually work is you pay ‘x’ amount to enter, then purchase a pair of wraps and 16oz boxing gloves and a mouth guard.

In reality however, what happens is that they also get boxing boots, usually something with Everlast on it, and some overpriced boxing shorts. Once all the names are in for the event they get split up between two fight gyms; real fight gyms that train real fighters. They have an initial workout to gauge their fitness and level of talent. After the first week, the coaches sit down to discuss potential match-ups. Usually you would think that people of the same age and weight would get matched. While this is fair, after that it comes down to athleticism and talent. Take this scenario for example, there are two 45-year-old males, both weighing 105kg, one has been behind a desk for his entire working life, while the other has played league for 10 years. Chances are, the league player is going to be used to competition and be more athletic, both of which are massive advantages. Despite being the same age and weight, this would not be a fair fight at all. In reality this is the type of thing that happens.

Once the fights are matched, they have 10 – 12 weeks of training before they face each other in the ring. During that time, they are more or less trained like fighters, and have multiple sessions a week consisting of pad work, technique, bag work, fitness and sparring. They all choose entrance music and a fight name. All of the fighters will have work mates supporting them and the build-up is like a real fight. I have to ask though, is this a good thing or bad thing?

These events give people who want to give boxing a go an opportunity to step in to the ring and to cross something off the bucket list. Some of the people I have seen training for these fights lose a lot of weight and get in pretty good shape. Nothing makes you train like having a goal, or in this case, having someone training to beat you up. Then there is the added motivation of people around you at work, and family members paying to watch you perform (plus, not looking like a dick in front of people is a great way to light a fire up your ass). This also gives people something that may’ve been dormant for a while, a spark in their lives, and gives them something to get up in the morning for. Then fight night rolls around, they have their entrance music, usually rap or something heavy, they have their fight name, usually something that rhymes with their name. They get in the ring, adrenaline is flowing, and it is fight time. They have the fight and when it is all done they have a big hug with family and friends – and of course the photo with a fight stance. For that night they feel like a world champ and it makes them feel alive.

However, there is also a down side and I have seen it a few times with people I know. There are people out there that do these fights to get a win, rather than a challenge. These are people that are too talented to have a fight like this. These people should be fighting amateur boxing, and some even have 5 or 6 of these fights, which I believe is unethical. I even heard of a guy that had had 3 MMA fights being matched up against a guy that was an office worker. Come fight night, no one wants to back out as you feel that you’ve let those around you down. Some of the worst fights I have seen with my own eyes have been with big age gaps. Most people I have asked would rather give away 10kg in weight rather than 10 years in age. In these fights, the first round can be rather even then it all changes as the youth kicks in and the older fighter gets a beating as the fight progresses. One of my favourites was a guy that turned up with all the gear, fight shorts, boxing boots and all replica gear of a top fighter. His opponent steps in the ring with cargo shorts and sneakers, the fight was closer than what you would imagine, but still very one sided. For me, when a fighter steps in to the ring they have accepted the consequences and realise it is either win or lose, and that you could get hurt. They have done the training and more often than not, they come out fine. The ‘corporate’ fighters go in with a similar mind set, however, the difference is that they have not had time to train their bad habits. In these fights they are always told to keep their hands up, so they walk out with their hands up, and once the punches are thrown the hands drop. If you are lucky the hands will return to head once the flurry is over. The other big thing is they have not learned how to take a punch. Now I am not saying that as a trainer you run a session where your fighters get hit in the head continuously in order for them to learn how to take a punch. This is rather something you learn over time as it is developed through years and years of training and sparring; it is important to know how to react when you get hit. If you are untrained then you will (assuming an orthodox fighter) turn 90 degrees to your right close your eyes, put your hands up and just stay there. For someone that has not experienced this, basically, when you get hit, your brain goes ‘look away’ so you turn but you also manage to keep your hands up and then your brain goes blank; you’re literally not thinking, rather, just waiting until it’s over. When you’re trained, you get your feet and head working together in order to get to a safe spot while your brain is thinking and working out what to do. So, in short in takes years for your brain to keep thinking after you have been hit, and as bad as it sounds it takes a lot of hits to get to that point or at least it was for me.

I do see both sides to these fights, but I do think fighting is not something you try. When you step in the ring you have to be 100% in because your opponent sure as hell will be. There are too many things that can go wrong with a fight, plus there is no loss in sport as bad as losing a fight. If you want to test yourself run a marathon, learn a language, play tennis, try a motorsport; something that doesn’t require you to get punched in the head when just ‘giving it a go’. Of course, if you want to be a fighter then go all in, dedicate yourself to it. It is up to the individual to decide if the risk and reward benefit works for them, for me I think there are other ways to test your metal.

Gareth Lewis
Head MMA Instructor

10 Years

It has been 10 years since I went to America to train at Xtreme Couture and I thought it was a good time to reflect on my time there.

Why I went: I had finished kickboxing and still had questions that needed answering, like could I make it as a pro fighter? So the decision was made to go live as a pro fighter for a month and see if I could handle it. When looking for a gym to train at, I started with a wide approach. One thought was Europe, a few people had mentioned Thailand and then there was Brazil or America. Each of these countries had world famous gyms at the time. I ruled out Europe as that was more of a kickboxing focus, Thailand was out as in my mind you would not find many 100kg training partners, and Brazil was out due to the language barrier and fear of crime. This left America and the three gyms I was looking at. These were, HIT – Hughes Intensive Training, ATT – American Top Team and Xtreme Couture. At the time I was not a fan of Mat Hughes so HIT was out, then Florida (ATT) seemed a long way to go which left Xtreme Couture. At the time they had Randy Couture and a few other UFC fighters training there, and for me that sealed the deal. Oh yeah, and the gym was in Las Vegas.

Pro Training: I informed Xtreme Couture via email, that I had some pro kickboxing fight experience and this got me a trial with the pro team, which I was very excited about. I turned up on my first day of normal training, not with the pro team, and got on the mat for a BJJ class. At the time I was a blue belt and thought I was a lot better than I was. The class consisted of some technique and drills, then finished with rolling. I was better than most in the class but the people who were better were light years ahead of me, this put the shits up for pro training. In the afternoon I did a striking session and that was good, hard fitness but otherwise good. The trial with the pro team was the next day as it was a striking session and I felt a lot more comfortable on my feet, so I went home to contemplate. The next day came around fast and I was very apprehensive about pro training, and to make matters worse, the gym closed from 12pm – 4pm, as 12pm – 2pm was for private lessons and 2pm – 4pm was the pro training. Due to misjudging the size of Las Vegas, I was staying 2 hours and 2 busses away from the gym, so I had to sit around and wait for the pro training. The main things I remember from the first session are Randy Couture introducing himself then getting told to go in groups of three. I was talking to a kiwi guy who was training there, Brice Ritani-Coe, so we were looking for a third, then Randy came over as he wanted to train with some heavyweights. Needless to say, I was like a kid in a candy shop. Then came the drill, one person striking, one person holding pads and when ‘shoot’ was called, the third person would attempt to take the ‘striker’ down. Randy asked to borrow my gloves and of course I said yes (I still have these gloves). While I got the gloves for Randy, Brice had put pads on which meant when “shoot” was called, I had to take down an All American Wrestler in Randy Couture. I gave it hell but got nothing on him. I was hoping my fitness would help but no, his positioning and technique where just too good. Then we swapped around and it ended up with me punching and Randy taking me down, well I managed to defend the first attempt a few times but not the second or third. Even though I was rag dolled, I loved the session and training with a Hall of Famer was incredible. After the session I went to talk to Shawn Tompkins, the Pro Team Coach, who sadly passed away a few years later. Tompkins said he liked what he saw and I was welcome to train with the pros – well that made my day.

The People: Brice Ritani-Coe is a big Maori from the south island. He is over in America training and fighting, he even fought Joseph Parker. We hung out a lot and I found out he is a very laid back guy with a great sense of humour. At the time he weighed 120kg however, he moved like he was 70kg and punched like he was 150kg; he had the hardest punch I have ever felt

Ray Sefo – Another kiwi living in America, Ray is a K1 kickboxing legend and is a 6x World Champ. Ray is one of the best fighters to come out of NZ. He invited me to stay at his place after about 10 days which put icing on an already amazing trip. Ray drove me to training, would not let me pay for a meal and took me to shows on the Vegas strip. He also gave me many tips in striking, including 5 rounds of sparring that left me in awe, I have never felt more out of my depth in anything and striking is what I am best at. Ray went above and beyond and was really great to me. I have only good things to say about the guy.

Randy Couture, the former Heavyweight and Light heavyweight UFC champ, who I trained with. I didn’t have much to do with him, but in the sessions I did train with him, he came across as a humble guy with a very good work ethic. After one session we were just sitting on the mat talking trash like anyone else at any fight gym, which was surreal. Mike Pyle, The funniest person I have ever trained with. Jay Heiron, GSP’s second UFC opponent, a very talented guy from New York always had time to talk training or to choke you out from behind. Frank Trigg, helped me heaps (story a little later). Mike Whitehead, not helpful at all (story to follow). Robert Drysdale, showed me how high the level in BJJ actually is. At the time there were a lot of top fighters there. Gray Maynard, Johnny Hendricks, Martin Kapman, Alex Schoenauer, Phil Beroni, Dan Hardy and Forrest Griffin to name a few.

The good and the bad: I was doing wrestling drills with Frank Trigg, and he picked up right away that I had not wrestled much; at the time I had hardly done any. Frank then gave me tips and helped me out for about 20mins, which he did not have to do. This made me a better training partner for him and it ended up being a great session. When I was grappling with Mike Whitehead, he took me down and tapped me out with neck cranks and other nasty moves. I gave him all I had but he was just better. At the end of the round I got up and said “any tips” he just shrugged his shoulders and walked away. After what Frank Trigg had done, I was amazed and thought “what a dick”. One silly story that will always stay with me, occurred while warming up for the pro class. We were running around the mat, then we would run backwards. After about a week of training, Jay Heiron crouched down behind me to trip me up, Mike Pyle then jumped on me and choked me out. This may not sound like fun but this was their way of saying welcome.

The Green light: At one of the pro trainings, focusing on stand up, there was a BJJ black belt there who was frustrated. When the session ended, he stupidly said “see you tomorrow I am a Gracie Black Belt” this was because the next day was a wrestling and BJJ session. As soon as he said it, the top guys looked at him and watched him leave, and as soon as he left Jay Heiron said, “green light that m%$r f@#$r”. The next day came, I had forgotten about the green light until Jay went and put his green fights shorts on and looked amped up. The BJJ guy came in and all was good until we did wrestling to submission with ground and pound sparring. Then it got real. The top guys made an example of this guy and were very open what they were going to do and how he disrespected them. I would like to say that the guy got a few bruises but nothing over the top. Lockdown has even used the green light on a few occasions.

Lessons Learned: I was worried how I would go over there, talent wise. The experience left me both surprised and shocked. What surprised me was that I was better than I thought. I could hang with most of the people that I trained with and even gave a few of the pros a hard time. On the flip side however, against some of the pros, there were light years between us and it really showed me how good these guys actually are. To put this into perspective, out of every 50 people they have 20 people that suck, 15 that are good, 10 that are my level, 5 that are really good and 1 elite person on the floor at any one time. The levels are the same as in NZ, as the average person is just as good as the in US, however, what happens is that the levels go higher. For example in NZ there are 2 people at my level and 1 or 2 who are really good.

The biggest thing I learnt was that I was not going to be the best in the world, so just train because you enjoy it. Yes, before I went I had delusions of grandeur; wanting to be at the same level of the best fighters on the planet. After sparring with Ray Sefo, rolling with Robert Drysdale and MMA sparring with Randy Couture I can confirm that I am not elite. Finding this out took pressure off me and it meant that I could work on getting better without the stress of trying to prove I was the best in the world. 10 years later I am so glad I did the trip, because if I hadn’t gone to find out if I could make it as a pro fighter it would’ve eaten me up to this day. Whether I liked the answer or not, what was important to me, is that I reached a conclusion to my question about being a pro fighter, and I could put that demon to rest (a few still to go). I would recommend training at one of the big gyms around the globe to anyone, as for me, it was life changing… as cliché as that sounds.

Gareth Lewis
Head MMA Instructor


Eddie Bravo is known for two things BJJ and smoking weed, this is only going to look at one of those aspects.

Who is Eddie Bravo? he did a little wrestling is his younger years then in 1998 focused on BJJ. He modified a ‘wrestlers guillotine’ to give him success in BJJ, the move was called the twister.

Then in 1999 he got his purple belt and developed the rubber guard, which we will get in to a little later. Then in 2003 he shot to fame by beating 4 x world champ and 3 x ADCC champ Royler Gracie with a triangle choke set up from rubber guard. Eddie would lose in the semis but the win over Gracie had cemented his legend. On his return Eddie was awarded his black belt from Jean Jacques Machado, who is considered BJJ royalty. So as you can see the guy has some serious skill with BJJ.

However after beating Gracie Eddie retired from competition and started up 10th Planet Ju Jitsu. 10th Planet is a no gi school and Eddie is very open on how much he dislikes the gi , he even has one gi class a year to remind him how much he hates the gi. Then oddly he still gives out belts to his students which you can’t wear without a gi. Eddie will not give out a black belt unless the student can sit on the ground with the soles of their feet together and be able to get their knees on the ground. So unless you are blessed with very mobile hips or were flexible in to your teens then you will struggle to get to that level with some serious work, aside from all the hours of rolling. Eddie also recommends that you smoke weed as it makes you more creative.

This is my view on him. The no gi thing I get what he is saying about the gi as I get gi choked all the bloody time. When he mentions things like only BJJ people wear a gi, people in the street don’t wear a gi, people in MMA don’t wear a gi, the gi is awful to train in and so on. But all the best BJJ people on the planet are all gi based, if you work your skills with the gi then your no gi game will always be good but the cross over does not work both ways. I have been doing no gi grappling for a few years and have got back in a gi and damn the grips, sweeps, and subs that I did not have to worry about in no gi really open your eyes. Even though I am MMA based and no gi is more suited to MMA grappling. I do believe that the gi is massive part of learning the fundamentals of BJJ, to me you need both to be complete. The stretch you need to get black belt of getting your knees to the floor is all based around his system of grappling which is rubber guard. Rubber guard is an attacking form of guard that requires a lot of skill and a hell of a lot of flexibility. Eddie has got an entire system that evolves from this position, taking the back, the spider web, the truck just to name a few. For me there are plenty of good black belts (and lower) who don’t have crazy flexibility, they have very solid games and don’t use any tricks and will still cause a lot of people a lot of grief on the ground. Eddie believes there is a big cross over for rubber guard in MMA, personally I don’t see it. My view is based on watching MMA, I can’t remember seeing anyone use the rubber guard too any effect, not at a high level anyway. There certainly isn’t one position that you think ahh yes that is an Eddie Bravo move. His two most known students in MMA are Tony Fergusson and Kelvin Geustelum, both of whom don’t use rubber guard. Tony Fergusson has a very good ground game and is a very good guard player but I have not seen him use rubber guard or other note able 10th Planet Moves. Fergusson main submission from memory is the darce choke, he also prefers to stand and strike. Kelvin Gastelum has a very simple game, that is meant as a compliment as GSP has a very simple game, they are just both done really damn well. Kelvin is very good at top positon but just uses very simple and effective moves to stay in control. Then smoking weed to be more creative……..yeah I am sure there are plenty of creative people who don’t smoke weed and plenty of people that do smoke weed that have no creativity at all.

I am not questioning Eddie’s ability the guy has amazing skill on the ground, it seems like you need a certain body type to be able to do a lot of the things that he does. There are other people out there with a grappling style that doesn’t require crazy flexibility rather just practiced technique over time. Eddie Bravo has made a style of his own that works really well for him for someone like me there is not much I can take away from his style. Since I am unable to incorporate his techniques is that more on my body type and lack of flexibility or that his moves don’t have the cross over. Then there are just two more things, firstly like his friend Joe Rogan he believes his own crap too much and goes on about all sorts of philosophical debates while talking about BJJ, he subscribes to the idea that governments have sprayed chemtrails on unknowing civilians. Secondly he believes the world is flat – enough said.

Gareth Lewis
Head MMA Instructor

MMA Arrogance

Recently I have heard myself and others talk about MMA and how good it is, then it made me think are we as MMA practitioners really damn arrogant when it comes to martial arts?

How do I come across as arrogant to do with martial arts? To put it bluntly I do not think that traditional martial arts work, karate, kempo, win chun, akido and so on. This belief comes from a decade of doing karate, where I got a black belt as well as representing NZ. I thought that I was a good fighter and could beat most people. At the time I thought I could beat a boxer, kickboxer, wrestler you name it I would beat them. Then I went to kickboxing to train for a full contact karate tournament and found there are a lot of holes in the karate I was not aware of. Firstly you train to miss, that is you when you throw a punch you are meant to touch but not hit, imagine touching an element to see if it’s hot. Every kick and every punch you are aiming to just touch but not land, yes this takes a lot of skill and practice but at the end of the day it is not effective. Secondly all the kata and patterns (prearranged moves to demonstrate technique) that will never help you in a fight, but are important in getting your next rank. Thirdly the self defence moves especially from people grabbing a wrist, I have seen fights start from people grabbing something but it has never been a wrist. Lastly the style’s where you can’t punch to the head in sparring, what is the point as that is the first thing someone is going to do is reality.

In a little more detail now with training to miss. When I went to kickboxing to train I remember the first sparring session I was throwing punches at them and the guys just did not care and I was not in range. They just put their hands up and walked forward, if I did land a shot it was so light that they still didn’t care, as I was just seeing if the element is on, and kept walking forward. Then came the real fun of training to miss, what we will call the flipside. The flipside is when you are sparring people that aim to miss you get a real misguided belief on your distance and how good your defence is. If you are aiming to miss then your distance is further away, it may not seem like much but the extra few inches it takes to land a solid punch makes sparring a very different game. Then with defence when someone throws a punch to knock your head off the open hand ‘swat’ that I used in karate came up short and I was getting hit. Then the kickboxing kicks started and I thought they looked so slow that it would not be a problem, that is until I found out the power behind them. This made my karate defence not just ineffective but dangerous. Next is kata, when I went back to karate they said that all the moves that I could do now can be found in kata. I knew a lot of kata’s but I never did anything that would reassemble a single leg, double leg, side control, sit out, arm bar and the list goes on. I understand why katas are there but question if they have any real use. Then the self defence from a wrist grab, I knew a hundred different ways to break the grip when someone grabbed my wrist that was until I needed it. At wrestling I was up against a good wrestler and he got an under hook with his left arm and grabbed my left wrist with his right hand, I distinctly remember thinking haha I know how to sort this, but nothing I did could break the grip. The big change was the angle that the under hook created, instead of being able to work my defence against the thumb to break the grip you are up against four fingers. I did finally find a way out, but it involved my knee and nothing from karate. Lastly punches to the head, you can’t be confident in a real situation if you have never trained against someone who is really trying to punch you in the head, it is that simple. The first few times you get hit in the head are a shock and you go blank for a few seconds. If you are trained then this does not happen and in the street you are going to have an advantage if a punch to the head is not a shock. I have trained against many people over the years and the traditional martial arts have always come up short against MMA. I went through it myself so I know how it feels. With the years of sparring against many different styles and finding out that MMA wins each and every time (in the MMA environment). There are styles that think that they are deadly which is silly because if a move could kill people how could you practice it, then if you have never practiced it how do you know it works (wuxi finger hold for example)

I believe that MMA makes you more humble rather than more arrogant. For those who really train MMA and are looking to improve you are constantly looking for people who can beat you, and for some of us you don’t need to look that far. For me all I have to do is go down to the local boxing, BJJ or wrestling gym and get a beaten. In MMA we are always looking to get better at each part of the sport and since we can’t train them as much as a specialist we are always going to be found wanting. Because we link the sports up, striking to wrestling, wrestling to BJJ we do things incorrectly, relative to the ‘pure’ sport. Our striking stance is modified for takedowns, our wrestling stance is modified for striking, or wrestling is modified for submissions and out BJJ is modified for ground n pound. We do our best against the purest in their world but at the end of the day we are going to struggle. Each time we get beaten the more it makes us learn and keeps driving us to improve and improvement is what we should all aim for no matter what we are doing in life.

I have every belief that if I got put in Tae Kwon Do club and fought under their rules I am going to get beaten. However in a straight up fight I would back MMA to beat Tae Kwon Do every day of the week. This is because MMA was started by putting karate vs kempo, Sumo vs boxing and so on to see what was the best. That was 30 years ago and now we have the answer no one art is the best you need to mix them together. Traditional martial arts will always be around as not everyone wants to get the in the cage and fight. Without my start in karate I would not have the technique and timing that I have now. In short what I am saying is that MMA has proven to us what works in combat, and just because we know what is effective it does not make us arrogant. There is a place for all martial arts and no one art is the best.

Gareth Lewis
Head MMA Instructor


Joseph Parker has come out and said he needs more mongrel when he fights, I say good luck with that.

If I go back to the days when I was fighting there where three guys at the same club who all fought. All three won a lot more than that lost but they all did it very different ways. One guy would brawl if needed or be technical as he had a lot of tools at his disposal. Another was very technical and would wear people down with his technique and fitness. Then the third guy was a scrapper, he would try and knock people’s head off with every punch he threw, he had no other style other than just try and kill you. The amount of times I would hear the scrapper say ‘this fight I am just going to take my time throw light shots and then when the time is right I will unleash hell’. Then at fight time he would go in there and do exactly what he always did and try and decapitate his opponent with punches from the bell. Then the technical guy would say ‘I am going to be more aggressive, once I hit him I am going for the knock out’ then at fight time he would dominate but win via decision and not be any more aggressive. The other guy was confident as all hell and would just say he is going to ‘smash them’ and more often than not would be correct.

That was a lovely walk down memory lane, but what has that got to do with Joseph Parker wanting more mongrel, well it has everything to do with it and I will explain. Every person that I have sparred with, trained with or fought against has had natural inclinations and the only thing they had in common is that you can’t switch them off. You have them all there is the angry guy, the bully, the talented one, the moaner, the funny one and so on. With all of them their traits are all inbuilt, you can’t tell a funny person not to be funny it just doesn’t work. With me I won my first few fights by KO so people told me to get some more time in the ring and get some rounds under your belt. However no matter what if I got a chance to finish the fight I would take it. There was no way I was giving up a chance to knock someone over so all my wins were KO’s. There was something in me that I could not switch on or off but when I saw that chance to finish the fight I would take it. In training it is more of the same thing, you know the traits of the people in your club and you know what to expect from them and they don’t really change. There are some people you just know you are having a hard round with because that is how they are (or how you are). When you are having a hard round you don’t consciously think ‘let’s go a bit harder’ as it just happens. If you don’t have the mongrel in your DNA then you are not going to create it, also if you do have it you are not switching it off.

Just because you don’t have obvious mongrel doesn’t mean that you will not be a good fighter but you will not great fighter. If you look at all the greats they all had a nasty streak in them and it came out in different ways but they all showed it. Take Sugar Ray Leonard who came from a middle class family, was considered shy as child, and had a good life which is not the usual up bringing for a fighter with a nasty streak. After his loss first pro loss to Duran Leonard wanted to embarrass the toughest fighter of his time so he humiliated him and broke his spirt in their second fight until Duran gave up in the famous ‘No Mas’ fight. The desire to break someone until they give up is pure mongrel and all the greats have it. This isn’t just in fighting either the true greats in all sports have the mongrel and they are ruthless in competition.

I have no idea where mongrel comes from and how some people make it work for them while others can’t control it. Take Badr Hari he is one of the most talented strikers in history but couldn’t control his mongrel and it would back fire on him big time. He lost control in a few fights that led to him getting disqualified and in each of those fights he was winning, including the 2008 K1 GP final. Then there are people who have no mongrel at all. All I know is that whatever you have you can’t change it as it is all in your programming and it just how you are made. Therefore in short Joseph Parker will not be able to have more mongrel in his fights. In general you have more mongrel at the start of your career and it decreases with age. Another big factor that will make it very hard for Parker to get the mongrel is the more money you have the less likely you are of creating that internal mongrel. That mongrel comes from a real deep desire to get somewhere and if you are not born with it then you will not have it. Then if you have millions of dollars and world title, as Parker does, then part of you (if not all of you) will think you have already made it and the desire will decrease. As I have said before Parker has reached the peak of his career and will not reach those heights again. Parker is a great ambassador for the sport and comes across like a really nice guy but he just does not have that nasty streak.

Gareth Lewis
Head MMA Instructor

Was it the Curse

In the weekend Demetrious Johnson lost for the first time at Flyweight in the UFC, was this a case of the 10 year curse?

In 2011 I wrote a blog titled ‘Decade of Dominance’ which said how the best fighters go for 10 years with one loss then lose 4 out of their next 5 on the way to retirement. To put it simply Demetrious Johnson (aka Mighty Mouse or DJ) is the man, one of the best fighters on the planet and considered by many as the best fighter pound for pound. However since DJ is small at 57kg he does not get the recognition he deserves. His first pro fight was 28th April 2007, 17sec KO and until the weekend was the first and only UFC flyweight champion. He first won the title on 22nd Sept 2012 and had the title for 2,142 days. (In 2012 Avengers and the Dark Knight was released and Facebook went public). DJ has the record for most consecutive UFC title defences with 11. That should give you some idea of how good the guy is.

Back to the 10 year curse, DJ had his first fight in April 2007 and has lost twice before yesterday, one was a upset against Drew Picket and the other was when the UFC had no Flyweight division so he went up a division and fought Dominic Cruz at Bantamweight. Cruz was a dominant champion in that division for years injuries have slowed his career these days sadly but he got the win over the naturally smaller DJ. This means that DJ has won almost everything in those years including a 1st round TKO of Cejudo in their first fight, who he lost too in the weekend. So does this mean that the 10 years is up for DJ and he will lose 4 out of his next 5, or was this just a hard fight where he ended up on the wrong side of the decision?

The fight was a 5 round battle and depending on who you talk to depends on who won. By this I don’t just mean either a DJ fan or a Cejudo fan it is closer than that. Over the 25 media outlets that covered the fight 13 had Cejudo winning and 12 had DJ winning so you can see that this is one close fight. This is the only fight from me memory where DJ was taken down and controlled for a period of time. DJ won the striking and Cejudo got the takedowns. Now this is where MMA scoring is questioned, how do the judges measure a takedown to dominant striking? It hurts me to say this as I love wrestling but they still seem to give too much weight to takedowns and ground control over striking. For example just holding top position on the ground doesn’t mean that you are dominating. I could go on about the scoring in MMA but that is for another day. However from what I could see that was the difference in the fight was the takedowns from Cejudo. The takedowns were a thing of beauty with misdirection, level and angle changes which makes sense given Cejudo’s background. Cejudo is the youngest American to win an Olympic Gold medal in Freestyle wrestling, which is no mean feat.

I remember being disappointed with their first fight being over so quickly, given Cejudo’s background. However this second fight lived up to the hype and delivered exactly what you would think from two world class athletes. Time will tell if this is the start of the end for DJ, the statistics say he will win one or two more but he is going to be on the losing side more often than not from here on out. Obviously there will be a rematch and it will be very interesting to see if Cejudo can keep hold of the title. Whatever happens in the future it will be a while before we see another champion as dominant as the great DJ

Gareth Lewis
Head MMA Instructor