The call came last weekend, music to my ears. Mike Smith, the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons, made no effort to hide his satisfaction. His former first-round pick, left tackle Sam Baker, needed to show some more nastiness, needed to “own his space.” During a mini-camp practice, Baker locked up with a defensive end, dropped down, and shot a double-leg take down. He quickly passed to mount and proceeded to pound away, erasing all the lingering questions about his nastiness.
“Thank you so much for bringing your program down to Atlanta,” Baker texted me after his impressive demolition. “This is the best shape I’ve ever been in! I feel great.”
Welcome to my world of MMAthletics, a cross training program created by Randy Couture and myself last year after several NFL players approached me about taking their training to the next level.
We started with players in Arizona at AZ Combat Sports (I’ve since relocated to L.A. and now train guys at Toby Grear’s True Warrior Gym in Hollywood)and Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas. Players are put through an extremely intense curriculum we created based upon sport and position.
This NFL off season, Couture and I have taken MMAthletics on the road, literally.
Rather than waiting for players to show up to us fora short period prior to the start of training camp, we decided to take our training right to teams’ practice facilities. After meeting with several teams at February’s NFL Scouting Combine, two teams decided to step out of the box and give us a shot: the Atlanta Falcons and St. Louis Rams. Several other teams are already interested in signing up next off season, and we’ve simultaneously picked up a team from a professional lacrosse league.
Here’s how it works: I take a high-profile fighter who has been trained in MMAthletics and literally move him in with the team for anywhere from two weeks to three months. I get the program rolling for the first two days and then hand it off to our fighter until Couture shows up three weeks in for his two day training sessions.
With the Falcons, we dropped Frank Trigg into the mix. The Rams got a dose of Jay Hieron, who was instrumental in our work with 49ers LB Patrick Willis last summer.
“This has been the most amazing experience, I’m actually treated like a member of the Falcons coaching staff,” says Trigg. “They’ve expanded my duties now where I get to help with their field drills, not just the MMA workouts. As a football fan, this has been a dream come true for me. It’s really been a wild experience.”
Depending on the position, we have a series of workouts that coincide with a team’s strength and conditioning program, all intended to push players well past what they previously believed was their breaking point.
We teach leverage techniques, a ton of hand fighting for linemen, and gear much of our work to opening up guys’ hips and strengthening their cores. In addition, we’ve altered a few Greco moves to help our line backers and defensive linemen shed blockers to attack the QB or ball carrier.
But the physical part is merely a fraction of the value of our program.
When that cage door shuts, it’s really about imposing your will on another man. Snap that man’s will! We teach our guys to put themselves in the mindset that when that game starts, the cage door shuts and you “own your space.” You break your opponent’s will and take ownership of your fight.
A game like football still boils down to violence. Our guys are constantly preached to make their moves VIOLENTLY! Don’t just slap away a lineman’s hands, smash it away like you’re trying to break it. Find a spot on the forearm and attack that spot over and over and over until that man decides he no longer has any desire to put his hands out there anymore.
Our motto? When the game ends, we don’t want anybody wanting to shake our guys’ hands. There is no gray area.
The surface has merely been scratched as Randy and I are trying to branch our program out to college teams, the NHL, and baseball.
It is our quest to completely change the way professional athletes train in this country.