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Approximately 70 percent of all serious knee ligament injuries (ACL/MCL) occur during non-contact situations, such as plyometric exercises, landing from a jump, or twisting/ turning movements that cause a sudden imbalance in your lower extremities. However, these non-contact injuries are more preventable than injuries that occur during competition and sparring.

Dominick Cruz, Georges St-Pierre, and Conor McGregor are just a few fighters who have torn their ACLs while training and competing. And, as all three fighters will tell you, ACL surgery and rehab is no picnic.

While many knee injuries aren’t preventable, there are ways to reduce your chance of injury: (1) Increase the strength of your thigh muscles (2) Improve your flexibily (3) Maintain a proper “Power Position” when you perform exercises that involve jumping, including box jumps and burpees.

Begin In The “Power Position”

• Keep your knees and feet directed forward and in alignment with your hips.
• Keep you back straight with your chest open, shoulders back, and head and eyes forward.

// PHOTO BY PAUL THATCHER
// PHOTO BY PAUL THATCHER

Taking Off and Landing

• Take off and land without excessive side-to-side or forward-backward movements of your upper or lower body.
• Maintain a soft landing throughout your entire foot to reduce ground reaction forces (the force the ground exerts on your body).

// PHOTO BY PAUL THATCHER
// PHOTO BY PAUL THATCHER

3 Bad Landings To Avoid

Landing in any of these three positions puts added stress on your knees, making you susceptible to ACL/MCL damage. Avoid these landing positions and focus on landing in the “Power Position.”

// PHOTO BY PAUL THATCHER
// PHOTO BY PAUL THATCHER

• Valgus Collapse: knock kneed position as you sink down into a squat or landing position.
• Imbalance: unequal stress to one side of your lower extremities.
• Shearing Force: decreased knee flexion with forward body lean (knees extend in front of toes).

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JOSH THOMSON // PHOTO BY PAUL THATCHER
Josh Thomson // PHOTO BY PAUL THATCHER

Somewhere around the 30-minute mark of his interview, UFC lightweight contender Josh “The Punk” Thomson is still going strong on a series of big-picture topics he claims he’s no longer as invested in as he was around the 2008 election. With little prompting, he riffs on politics, government, personal responsibility, religion, and education. If this is his version of apathy, you wonder what activism looks like.

At the moment, the federal government is shut down, so there’s a lot to talk about for a self-identified Libertarian. The 35-year-old says there’s too much reliance on our elected leaders and too little incentive for people to control their own destinies; too much focus on other countries and not enough on America; too many closed minds and not enough willing to consider other points of view.

“I know where I stand,” Thomson says. “I stand on the belief that we should be supportive of people here in our country and take care of our country first. If we’re a strong nation, we can be strong with other people. And I feel like we’re getting weaker and weaker as time goes on.”

His thoughts move at a fast clip and flow together in a series of arguments and counter-arguments it seems he’s prepared in case of dissent. He explains that he’s not only used to that, but welcomes it. Mostly.

Google the veteran lightweight, and your results will be dominated by two things: his upcoming title shot against UFC Lightweight Champion Anthony Pettis, which comes December 14 at UFC on FOX 9, and the controversy he sparked by sharing his thoughts on gay marriage. The former is, of course, the pinnacle of a 12-year career in MMA, which started in an Idaho gym and took him on a tour of virtually every major fight promotion before his triumphant return to the UFC in April. The latter is a look at how he walks through the world. Taken on its face value, you might get the wrong impression about him.

Above all else, Thomson is a world-class 155-pound fighter, who was groomed by the UFC for a title shot before the promotion shuttered the lightweight division in 2004. He largely fought in the shadows of the MMA boom brought by The Ultimate Fighter, despite winning the Strikeforce Lightweight Title from Gilbert Melendez in 2008. After returning to the Octagon in April with a head-kick knockout of Nate Diaz, Thomson is ready to prove he’s the best in the world.

Posting on Facebook about same-sex marriage, his credentials hardly mattered. He came off as the kind of conservative hysteric who’s guaranteed an Internet flogging, and indeed, he took his lumps, not only from fans and the media, but also UFC president Dana White, who said he should get a hobby, like finger painting.

If, however, you were able to put aside the defensibility of his logic, which linked same-sex couples to deviant behavior, as well as its relative lack of nuance, his expression revealed a defining characteristic. You would have missed it reading words on a screen. But spend any significant amount time listening to Thomson—and you will with the UFC’s promotional machine kicking into high gear—and one thing is unmistakable: the guy likes to engage.

“I bring up conversations, not because I believe anything, but I just like to hear people’s opinions,” he says.

Thomson is not a policy wonk—he said he prefers not to scour the Internet for facts and figures, but read links sent to him by friends and others. He simply likes to debate, and he likes getting a reaction. He wants to find out where you’re at, where he’s at, and whether both of you believe what you’re saying. He’ll have an opinion one way or another, and he won’t be shy about sharing it.

“That’s how you get knowledge about things,” he says. “If you just continue to deny talking about it, you’re going to find that you’re never going to open your mind. There are times when you’ll learn something from somebody when they speak up, and that educates you. That’s a big thing to me.”

He will say there’s no link between his confrontational approach to conversation and his style in the cage, although the mischievous smile he wears during combat suggests otherwise. His expression can be an unnerving presence for opponents, who throw heavy hooks and are greeted by a grin. But for those closest to him, it’s a reassurance.

“I spent years trying to knock the smile of his face—unsuccessfully,” says American Kickboxing Academy head trainer Bob Cook with a laugh.

Suddenly, Cook is interrupted by another Josh, this one with the last name Koscheck. The scruffy-haired two-time UFC welterweight title challenger is riding shotgun with the trainer, and he’s managed to sniff out the topic of conversation when Cook says Thomson is mellowing with age.

“I’m going to say 30 is when Thomson started maturing a little bit,” says Cook.

“Uhhh, 34,” counters Koscheck, a real stranger to provocation.

Asked what Thomson was like before he matured, Koscheck blurts, “An asshole. In every aspect, he’s just a prick. That’s his nickname.”

Josh Thomson punches down on Nate Diaz on his way to a TKO victory at UFC on Fox; Henderson vs. Melendez on April 20, 2013 // PHOTO BY KYLE TERADA-USA TODAY SPORTS
Josh Thomson punches down on Nate Diaz on his way to a TKO victory at UFC on Fox; Henderson vs. Meelendez on April 20, 2013 // PHOTO BY KYLE TERADA – USA TODAY SPORTS

“I’m going to go out there and get the win, go home, get a good night’s sleep, and get ready to start training for the next fight.”

Then, almost as quickly: “Let’s be real. Josh does have a huge heart. He’s an asshole and a punk, but man, he’s got a big heart. I remember when I fought my first fight when I started with AKA, and me and him drove all the way to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, overnight. He drove the whole time. He’ll go out of his way for his friends and teammates. He’ll take your back on any stance.”

Cook lived with Thomson for a half-decade. He remembers a cocky 17-year-old who walked into AKA with more bark than bite, but he came back despite getting armbarred a half-dozen times.

Thomson, he says, is a pain-in-the-ass little brother, but a brother nonetheless.

“I think there’s been a lot of time where he hasn’t gotten his due,” Cook says. “I think he’s got as much skill as anybody, but because he wasn’t always necessarily in the UFC, I think he got somewhat overlooked.”

After the recent controversy, which he said brought death threats, Thomson says he’s tempered his public voice. He now knows he can come off the wrong way when delving into subjects that interest him.

“I’ve noticed that when you bring up topics like that, people don’t even talk about it,” he says. “The first thing they do is start calling you names, and that’s when you know they’re not really educated on what the topic is about.”

But with his teammates, nothing has changed. Thomson calls it “hooking,” like goading an opponent into a bad position, which, as it turns out, is exactly what he tries to do when he discovers an opinion.

“I’ll get them to bring up a subject,” he says. “Javier Mendez [AKA trainer] brought up, ‘Miguel Cotto is a better boxer than Antonio Margarito.’ I said, ‘Yeah, but Margarito whooped his ass the first time they fought.’ I hook you in. ‘You think Cotto is a better boxer? I’ll bet you Margarito is going to win.’ I was hooking him into making a bet. Daniel Cormier is getting better at it. He knows how to hook me. If I’m putting it on somebody, he’s telling that guy, ‘You going to let Josh do that to you?’ Then I look over and say, ‘You might want to be quiet before this kid gets it worse, because you’re pissing me off.’”

Thomson will certainly need to impose himself on the unpredictable Pettis, who’s made a career of bending the rules of combat to his favor.

“Honestly, I’m impressed with him,” Thomson says of Pettis, who submitted Benson Henderson to capture the belt in August. “The thing that makes him the most dangerous is he’s the guy who shows up to the gym every day to think up new moves that he can do off the cage or in the middle of the ring. Those are things that you only do when you enjoy doing what you do. He spends time thinking about how he can run off the wall and kick you in the face. Now, that could also be his downfall with me, because I’m no normal fighter. I’m someone who knows how to capitalize and put people in bad positions. If he tries too much and ends up in a bad position, you can bet your ass I’m going to finish him.”

With the UFC’s lightweight division in relative flux—Pettis the new champ, and contender T.J. Grant being forced to pass on a title shot due to the lingering effects of a concussion—the time is now for Thomson. If successful against Pettis, he’ll become the first American Kickboxing Academy fighter to win a UFC Lightweight Title.
That might render him speechless, but just for a moment.

“I’m going to go out there and get the win, go home, get a good night’s sleep, and get ready to start training for the next fight,” he says. “That’s all there is to it. This is a job. I enjoy doing this job, and for me, it’s just another fight.”

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We’ll take a look at stories 10 through six in Part One of this year-end special.
PHOTO BY PAUL THATCHER
PHOTO BY PAUL THATCHER

In 1993, a skinny Brazilian named Royce Gracie not only won the very first UFC tournament, but he also changed the way we forever perceived fighting.

Twenty years later, there’s still nothing particularly remarkable about Royce Gracie when you look at him. He’s the same slim, unaffecting figure at 46 years old that he was at 26, back when he somehow emerged as the face of the gladiator bloodsport known as the UFC. In 2013, only the obstacles in front of him have changed.

These days, Royce is a man of schedules. Right now, he’s in North Carolina, doing a week of seminars sandwiched between stops in Missouri and Canada. After Canada, he’ll head back to his home base in Los Angeles for a couple of days before trekking down to Brazil. People—all over the globe—love Royce Gracie.

In fact, people love anybody who can hollow out adjectives (like “skinny” and “small”) and recast them as glorified nouns (like “icon” and “pioneer”). In 2013, people—companies, dojos, academies, you name it—want Royce to pay them a visit. Come behold the greatest everyman the fight game has ever known.

And like most athletes who transcend their sport, Royce remains in great demand after retirement. At one time in his life, he refused to lose against giants nearly double his size. In a roundabout way, defiance made Royce not only a star but also a living curiosity.

*****

On this day, he rises before the sun is up in Raleigh-Durham and drives straight to Charlotte, where he pulls in at the Charlotte Police & Fire Training Academy in a Kia, just as pedestrian as you please. He walks up, shakes hands with his longtime friend and student Steve Hall—the only Royce Gracie black belt in the Charlotte area—and the event is in motion. Royce is ushered without ceremony into a classroom where 40 or so cadets are waiting to hear him speak. In a flash, he’s doing just that. He’s telling them stories and answering questions. Some of the trainees followed the sport of MMA back when it was a barely legal underground spectacle. Some, just like so many on the UFC’s current roster, rented the VHS tapes.

Many are staring at him like he’s Zeus come down from Mount Olympus.

And if Royce is Zeus, then his late father, Helio, was Cronus from the first generation of Titans. The difference is that the Gracies don’t belong to mythology, even if it’s tempting to categorize them that way. In one sense, Royce is just a dude. And Helio, who in 2009 passed away as a temple of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu—and whose own brother Carlos learned jiu-jitsu from Otávio Mitsuyo Maeda and brought it to Brazil—couldn’t even do a pushup.

Royce Gracie addresses cadets at the Charlotte Police & Fire Training Academy.  // PHOTO BY SHANE CUDAHY
Royce Gracie addresses cadets at the Charlotte Police & Fire Training Academy // PHOTO BY SHANE CUDAHY

“But he had leverage,” Royce tells the class. “He was strong because he had the right leverage. You’d spar with him, and he’d grab your wrists, and you’d be like, ‘Goddamn, he’s strong.’ As an old man, 70 and 80 years old, you could feel his leverage, but he couldn’t do a pushup.”

Royce just happened to be the Gracie who got thrown into that first big martial arts gumbo back in 1993 at UFC 1. He was a live chapter to Helio’s biography. Royce’s brother, Rorion, was one of the promotion’s founders, back when togas, electrical fences, and alligator-infested moats were being discussed. The whole thing was based on brutality, both figurative and literal. Although it was only 20 years ago, that first UFC feels like something from Jem “The Gypsy” Mace’s day of crude bare-knuckle combat—only, the UFC’s earliest versions had far fewer rules.

Royce was the one who entered the eight-sided cage that night 20 years ago. And Royce—virtually expressionless—was the one who was left standing at the end.

That’s when he changed our perceptions as to what happens when real life martial artists cross one another. In 1993, Jean-Claude Van Damme represented our most updated (and absurd) martial arts notions. People liked to fantasize that what we saw with Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris was the apex of the art. They didn’t envision it being the smallest man in a Brazilian chain, who headed toward the cage looking like Daniel Larusso in his gi.

“When we first came to America—when [my brother] Royler came to America, people didn’t know what Gracie Jiu-Jitsu was all about,” he says. “When I got here many years later, people still didn’t know. If you opened up Inside Karate or Black Belt magazine, they would not talk about grapplers at all, in general.”

By late 1993, Royce became his own editor. He beat every guy put in front of him from UFC 1 through UFC 4. He made the fight game horizontal. It was him showcasing the concepts of leverage, come beast or behemoth.

“I had fights that lasted seconds,” he tells the class. “I had fights that lasted one hour and 45 minutes. If the guy didn’t make a mistake, we’re going to fight forever until somebody loses.”

Hall tells Royce they’ve got to bounce. People are waiting on him at the Futrell Airfield. It’s there he’ll board the helicopter “Snoopy 1” for a joy ride around greater Charlotte, the city where Gracie once fought Ken Shamrock to a 36-minute stalemate at UFC 5.

The police are only too happy to return the Royce Gracie of 2013 back to his familiar heights.

*****

1993. Twenty years ago, MMA was the Wild West, filled with wrestlers, brawlers, judo practitioners, opportunists, pugilists, mercenaries, karate masters, sumos, grapplers, shysters, and jiu-jitsu players.

The face of the original UFC should have been somebody like the muscle-bulging Kimo Leopoldo. It should have been the colossus Dan Severn, or the yoked Ken Shamrock, or a Texas-sized concrete mixer like Don Frye. That the face was someone…somewhat less extraordinary…confused many people and raised suspicions.

“That was the UFC,” Royce says. “It shows that this thing’s for real. Actually, the first UFC in Denver, a lot of people thought it was fake, that it was set up. The second one, everybody still thinks, ‘Well, it might be set up.’ The third one, people thought, ‘Hmmm.’ The fourth one was the one that sealed everything. People saw what Dan Severn did to the other opponents, and then I came in and beat him, and people were like, ‘Wow.'”

What happened was Severn, all 6-foot-2 and 260 pounds of him stuffed into a pair of pro wrestling trunks, crashed through his first two opponents that night in Tulsa. The All-American wrestler from Arizona State was too much man for Anthony Macias and Marcus Bossett, finishing them both with chokes without breaking a sweat. Royce, who weighed 180 pounds (generously), had done the same to Ron van Clief and Keith Hackney, only it took him longer to do it. Even though Gracie had won two UFC tournaments in the past, Severn was supposed to be the climate changer. He was the 800-pound gorilla.

Then Royce happened.

In another bare-knuckle, no-time-limit fight, Severn got Gracie down immediately and kept him there for the next 15 minutes. It felt like the mismatch people suspected it would be. In fact, Jim Brown, the former football great who worked as one of the original commentators for UFC events, shook his head when asked what Gracie could do to turn things around in a bout scheduled for infinity.

“With 14 minutes gone, it feels impossible that he can do anything,” Brown said. Then, after a pause, he added, “…but [Royce] has the heart of a lion, too.”

About a minute later, the ever-patient Gracie, biding his time with Severn in his guard, began to sink a triangle so surreptitiously that most, including the commentators, didn’t think anything of it. Then he lifted his hips and constricted. Then came the slow wooden taps of Severn.

“I knew there was no way he was going to submit me,” Royce says. “There was no way. I knew he only knew wrestling, he was a strict wrestler. So he had no submissions. I just knew how to play a defensive game. So, I just put him into guard and waited for the right time.”

That was the cymbal crash of a career that had already been filled with triumph. At UFC 1, on Nov. 12, 1993, at McNichols Sports Arena in Denver, Gracie went about beating some of the great characters of the game. First it was Golden Gloves Champion Art Jimmerson, who fought with one glove to protect his jab hand, and ended up submitting only two minutes into the fight (that 2:18 of fight time was the entirety of Jimmerson’s MMA career). Then it was Ken Shamrock. Gracie coolly handled Shamrock’s pressure before clamping onto his neck and tapping him out.

That set up a fight in the finals with Dutch karate master, Gerard Gordeau, who’d scattered Teila Tuli’s teeth all over the media table earlier that night. Some four years before Mike Tyson took a bite out of Evander Holyfield’s ear, Gordeau wrote the book on fight game cannibalism.

Royce Gracie // PHOTO BY PAUL THATCHER
Royce Gracie // PHOTO BY PAUL THATCHER

“As soon as I took him down, he took a bite of my ear and pulled it with his mouth,” Royce says. “I just looked at him like, what are you doing? And he just gave me that look like, so what. I was like, okay, and I put a couple of head butts in his face. That’s why, at the end, I held the choke a little longer.”

Gracie took home the modest bounty that dangled over the whole spectacle.

“If you fought and lost in the first round, I think you got $1,000,” he says. “If you won the first round, you got $2,000. But if you won the second fight in the semis, you got $7,000. And if you lost the second fight, you got $3,000. It was something like that. And if you won first place, you got $50,000, and second place got like $10,000.”

Money aside, the Gracies were on the map. Helio saw his craft stand up against the fiercest competition of the time.

At UFC 2, Gracie did it again. This time, he took home $64,000 for beating Minoki Ichihara, Jason DeLucia, Remco Pardoel, and Patrick Smith, who was a taekwondo specialist. At UFC 3, Gracie rolled through Kimo, tapping him with an armlock in the first round. He was so dehydrated afterward that he had to withdraw from the bracket.

After beating Severn at UFC 4: Revenge of the Warriors, Gracie traveled to Charlotte for UFC 5, where he faced Shamrock a second time. At that point, Gracie had a target on his back. And Shamrock, knowing the minefield he was about to run across, fought to smother him.

“He stalled,” Gracie laughs. “He was sitting on me. His father was yelling at him do something, ‘Don’t just sit on him, what the hell’s going on?’ But he stalled.”

That fight ended in a draw, after the newly instituted 30-minute time limit and six-minute overtime. Shamrock, playing it safe, didn’t make a mistake. After that, Royce left the UFC with an 11-0-1 record, all of his victories coming via submission (which is still a UFC record). He would continue to fight in Pride, where he met Kazushi Sakuraba in 2000 in what was one of the longest fights on record. With no time limits, the bout went 90 minutes, in which both fighters had moments where they nearly finished the other, and both nearly killed themselves in the process.

“That was a long fight,” Gracie says. “I remember sitting down, and it got to the point where I was like, ‘Okay, let’s see who’s going to go farther.’ Both of us where done for the next fight, so forget the next fight. It was six rounds of 15 minutes with two-minute rests in between.”

With a broken leg and nothing left in the gas tank, Gracie’s corner threw in the towel. It was one of only two losses he’d ever face in MMA. The other came against Matt Hughes at UFC 60 when he was nearly 40 years old. By that time, Gracie has already inspired thousands of people, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in America was everywhere. He was a vanguard. Royce Gracie had already left his mark on the game.

*****

1973. In the Gracie household, with older brothers Rorion, Relson, Rickson, and Royler Gracie, there was a hierarchy in place for the younger brother Royce. The elders were respected. If there was a problem, “we stuck to the mats,” Royce says. “[Helio] encouraged that.”

As for his mother, while there was ultimately a pacifist message behind the fight game that Helio encouraged that spoke to restraint, Veara has some fire in her blood.

“She is tough,” Royce says. “My dad would say, ‘Do not fight, do not beat your opponents, win with technique, but don’t hit them.’ And as soon as he walked away, my mom would be like, ‘Forget everything he says. Beat him up. I want to see some blood. You have to knock some teeth out. Your father is getting old, he doesn’t know what he is talking about anymore.’ I’d say, ‘Alright, mom. I’ll try.’ She was the mean side of the old man.”

At eight years old, Royce began to take up the “family business” of jiu-jitsu. Today, he is a 6th degree black belt, though since Helio passed in 2009, he wears the navy blue belt, the same as his father (despite being a red belt).

“My father thought it was wrong that people would win fights and be awarded black belts, so he went back to the navy blue belt,” Royce says. “He would put the red belt on if you asked him for a picture, but besides that, he never really did.”

*****

2013. Two days prior, Royce jumped out of an airplane at Fort Bragg. Today, he took a leisurely helicopter ride around Charlotte, from the race track to Lake Norman to downtown, where the Carolina Panthers football team could be seen practicing in the stadium. Later, he’ll teach a seminar at Hall’s school. He’s a man on the move.

Royce Gracie is all smiles as he boards a helicopter for an aerial tour of the local area // PHOTO BY SHANE CUDAHY
Royce Gracie is all smiles as he boards a helicopter for an aerial tour of the local area // PHOTO BY SHANE CUDAHY

And these days, Gracie can walk around with his sunglasses and ball cap and few people think anything of it. On first glance, he’s just some guy of “average size,” as he says. That is, if he’s by himself. If he is with an entourage, then people connect that within the phalanx is the unassuming man who put Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu into the American lexicon.

“Most people, if they think they recognize me, are like, ‘No that’s not him,'” he says. “I say to my son, ‘Just don’t answer, don’t look back if they yell Royce. Just don’t flinch.’ If you look back, that’s it. If you don’t move, ‘See, I told you it wasn’t him.’ That’s what I hear behind me.”

As for the current landscape of the UFC, the Hall of Famer likes the cerebral fighters, the ones who use strategy, like Georges St-Pierre and Cain Velasquez. He likes the hard-to-solve puzzles, the fighters who are full of nuance and surprise, like Jon Jones. He likes fighters who go in there with a mindset not so different from his own. And as for those above mentioned names, with their big sponsors and big paydays, and all the exposure that the fight game gets now compared to those underground first days when he stood as the skinny guy going against the pantheon of Goliaths?

Any regrets that he came too soon?

“No, not at all—fighters, they come and they go today,” he says. “It’s the turnaround. Even the guy who makes five million dollars, the next week there’s a new champion, so he’s gone and nobody knows. What I have is forever. I’m the first one. There’s no money that can buy that.”

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nutrition

From capsules and tablets to gels and powders, an athlete’s countertop can look more like a pharmacy than a kitchen. To sort through the insanity, we’ve got a breakdown of the 10 supplements than can help you reach your fitness goals of maintaining optimal health, building muscle, and decreasing inflammation.

1. Creatine
Creatine is a natural substance found in the body as a component of skeletal muscle. It’s used to produce phosphocreatine, a precursor to the energy molecule known as adenosine triphosphate (better known as ATP). In theory, the more creatine available, the more phosphocreatine produced, the more energy you’ll have through workouts, and the longer it takes for fatigue to set in. This allows for longer, stronger, and overall better training sessions. Supplementation touts enhanced recovery, increased lean body mass, and improved performance—specifically in brief, intense, high-power output exercises (resistance/strength training, sprinting).

For a limited time, you can get an awesome free sample pack, featuring a Promera Sports 3 in 1 Shaker Cup, a 24 Serving Jar of CON-CRET, plus a Variety of Sample Packs, and a CON-CRET Key Chain and Wristband. Just click the link or banner below.

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Several creatine dosing regimens have been used and studied, some with loading doses of 20 grams per day for a few days. Effective maintenance doses seem to hover around 2-5 grams per day. Creatine is one of the most widely studied and proven supplements available, but to avoid possible side effects, make sure to stay hydrated and use a quality product like Promera’s Con-Cret.

2. Protein Powder
Protein powders are about as common as water bottles in the athletic world. Whey protein isolate is the top choice, as it’s complete, tastes good, is easily ingested, and has the perfect amino blend for muscle building, strength, and recovery. This smooth textured powder has also been shown to help keep you healthy by boosting immune function via its ability to increase glutathione (master antioxidant) at the cellular level. It can act as a quick protein source at breakfast in the form of a smoothie when there’s no time to make eggs or lean turkey sausage, and it’s a vital part of proper workout recovery fuel. Within 30 minutes after training, strive for 0.5 grams of carbs per pound (or 1.1 grams of carbs per kilogram) of body weight, along with 20-40 grams of protein for strength-training sessions, or 15-25 grams of protein for cardio-based sessions.

Not able to use whey protein due to milk sensitivities or other issues? Eating organic, lean meat is a great source of protein, with approximately 7 grams of protein in every ounce. For a nondairy-based protein powder, choose a plant-based product (non-soy) made from peas, rice, or seeds, such as Vega Sport or Sunwarrior, with 17 to 26 grams of protein per 1 scoop serving.

3. Electrolytes
Electrolytes are minerals that break into small electrically charged particles (ions) when dissolved in water. Among the most important are sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium, and magnesium. These help maintain your body’s proper fluid balance, pH balance, transmission of nerve impulses, and muscle contractions. Hydration status, cognitive function, and muscle movement would not be maintained at optimal levels throughout tough training sessions without the aid of electrolytes.

Of the top five mentioned, sodium, potassium, and chloride are the primary electrolytes lost through sweat. Sodium is typically the front runner and most important to replace, as it aids in optimal fluid balance, muscle cramp reduction, and thirst stimulation—all critical components of athletic performance.

When intense training lasts more than one hour or is performed in extreme heat, most of your fluid intake (especially during and after activity) should be in the form of a well-formulated sports drink containing electrolytes. It is okay to alternate between a sports drink and filtered water. Gatorade, PowerBar, Ultima, and Vega Sport are among a number of brands making electrolyte replacement powders and drinks that can be found in most health food stores.

4. Multivitamin
You don’t need a multivitamin with mega doses, especially as a health conscious, clean-eating machine—a basic one is just fine. The form your vitamin comes in, however, should be far from basic. Skip the tightly bound, cheap, synthetic, poorly utilized tablets, and go for an optimally absorbed liquid like Intramax or Organic Life Vitamins. Most well-made capsules and powders are also superior to tablets on the absorption scale. Multivitamins are a great nutrient backup for busy days when your eating isn’t up to snuff—and are one of the best general health and wellness products you can take each day.

As far as mimicking a multi in the form of food, eating a balanced diet is key. Lean proteins such as chicken and fish, carbohydrates like green vegetables, quinoa, and sweet potatoes, and healthy fats including raw nuts and avocados should all be consumed regularly.

5. Probiotics
Approximately 70-80 percent of your immune function is based in the gut. Probiotics are good bacteria that patrol your GI tract, keeping your flora in proper balance. There are about 500 species of bacteria, good and bad, roaming around down there. Keeping the number of good guys (probiotics) flourishing is essential to staying healthy.

You do not need to take probiotics daily for the rest of your life, but upping the amount during cold and flu season or at the onset of a bug, during and/or after taking antibiotics, and during times of intense training can definitely benefit your health and decrease your number of sick days and doctor’s visits.

Probiotics can be found in well-absorbed capsule and powder form in most health food stores, or they can be taken via food in the forms of yogurt and kefir.

6. Glutamine
Glutamine is the most abundant amino acid in your body. It’s considered conditionally essential, and our body produces its own. In certain situations, however, your body may not be able to keep up with the demand. Glutamine levels tend to plummet during frequent and intense training periods, and lower levels can inhibit strength, endurance, energy, and immune function. Glutamine supplementation can bring anti-catabolic and immune-enhancing benefits to combat these exercise-induced problems.

Glutamine is found in food sources, such as chicken, beef, fish, and red cabbage, but it is easily destroyed during cooking. To compensate, many athletes choose supplements of 5 to 10 grams per day. Glutamine also plays a role in the health and integrity of the GI tract, acting as fuel for the cells that line the small intestine—your very important defenders against toxins, allergens, and disease-causing microorganisms.

7. Omega-3 Fatty Acids/Fish Oil
The proven anti-inflammatory properties of Omega-3 fatty acids make them vital to an athlete’s routine. Boasting a slew of other benefits, including lowering the risk of heart disease, and improvements in blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides, and cognitive function, these polyunsaturated fatty acids do more than reduce joint pain.

There is quite a long list of hard-to-pronounce words when it comes to naming all the Omega-3s. With regards to nutritional importance, the three heavy hitters include alpha linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), with EPA and DHA showing more benefits in the areas listed above compared to ALA.

Some of the most potent foods sources of EPA and DHA include salmon, sardines, mackerel, and tuna. To reduce the consumption of fish contaminated with mercury and PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), the best source is wild caught salmon. If salmon doesn’t float your boat, there are myriad fish oil supplements on the market. Choose wisely and look for trusted companies that have a verified process to purify the oils and remove toxins, and make sure your supplement lists a breakdown of EPA and DHA (versus just listing total Omega-3 content).

8. Nitric Oxide (NO) /Arginine
The amino acid L-arginine is a precursor to nitric oxide (NO), which is a potent vasodilator (a substance that widens blood vessels, increases blood flow, and decreases blood pressure). NO/Arginine supplements are typically taken for their advertised benefits of delivering more nutrients to muscles, leading to longer, stronger workouts and faster recovery times. Research supporting these claims is sporadic, but many athletes report that they notice substantial results.

Related studies that test nitrate-rich beetroot juice seem to be more promising. The dietary nitrate found in beets/beetroot juice is reduced to nitrite via certain bacteria on the tongue’s surface, and then further reduced to nitric oxide. This source of nitric oxide has shown improved performance via increased mean power outputs, decreased oxygen consumption, increased time to exhaustion, and lower perceived exertion ratings.

9. Vitamin D
Vitamin D is another immune enhancer that can keep you in the gym (and off a couch surrounded by cold meds and tissues). This is a fat-soluble vitamin your body produces on its own with exposure to sunlight. During winter months or in regularly cold and overcast climates, natural vitamin D levels are depleted. There are very few vitamin D rich foods (cod liver oil, wild salmon, mackerel), and people cannot make up for a vitamin D deficiency through diet alone. Supplementation in a gel cap or liquid-based D3 is optimal and is typically advised. Adequate Intake (AI) recommendations are 200-400IUs daily for most of the population, but many researchers studying immune function and athletic performance are suggesting 2000IUs daily as a therapeutic dose. Because vitamin D is fat soluble and can become toxic at high levels, be sure to get your levels checked first.

10. Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)
BCAAs are a group of essential amino acids, including leucine, isoleucine, and valine, that your body uses to build proteins, with muscles having a particularly high content. The term “branched-chain” refers to their molecular structure. The best food sources of BCAAs include red meat, dairy products, chicken, fish, eggs, and whey protein.

Supplementation is proposed to increase protein synthesis, postpone fatigue, decrease muscle damage and breakdown, boost the immune system, and inhibit muscle glycogen degradation (glycogen is the storage form of carbohydrate and primary fuel used by muscles). BCAAs are typically taken before and after workouts.

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Eddie Wineland’s strength and conditioning training is just as unconventional as his appearance. Applied Strength & Conditioning coach Jason Gus carefully utilizes the training principles taught by Louie Simmons of Westside Barbell to develop Eddie’s absolute strength, explosive strength, and dynamic muscle endurance. The goal of these five exercises is to develop these strength types by targeting the muscles (hips, lower back, and glutes) that give Eddie his knockout power and his never-ending gas tank.

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1. Resistance Band Grappling

Sets: 2-3, Duration: 5 Minutes

This exercise can be used as a warm-up or as a main accessory exercise. It is well known that grappling works the whole body. Adding a resistance band around the waist adds an extra 50 to 200 lbs. of resistance that constantly pulls Eddie backward. This exercise forces him to explode forward in order to overcome band resistance. The band relentlessly forces Eddie to push his hips forward. This will develop isometric strength and dynamic endurance in his hip flexors.

*****

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2. “Gus Grapples” Medicine Ball Drill

Sets: 1, Duration: 5 Minutes

The goal of this exercise is to train Eddie’s overall muscular endurance as well as his ability to recruit his explosive strength at any stage during a fight. To perform correctly, focus on maximal acceleration as you take three steps forward, while simultaneously throwing the medicine ball. It is vital that constant tension is kept on the bands at the start and finish of every movement.

This exercise mimics the central nervous system demands that occur during grappling exchanges against the cage and helps to train Eddie to keep constant forward pressure with his hips. To avoid adaptation, numerous movements with the medicine ball while varying the band tension or changing the ball weight can be implemented (super-set this exercise with sumo deadlifts and your explosive power will go through the roof).

*****

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3. Belt Squat Walk (Westside Style)

Sets: 2-3, Duration: 5 Minutes

This exercise is a tremendous hip and glute developer that provides a carryover to Eddie’s kick and knee power. While standing in a wide stance on the boxes, Eddie will “belt squat walk” by shuffling his weight from his right leg to his left leg while contracting his glutes for five minutes. To add variety, he will perform 10-15 reps of high knee strikes to a pad, or he will squat to parallel and then return to walking until the five minute duration is up. To change up the exercise, Eddie will add stronger bands, heavier kettlebells, or swing the kettlebell in order to focus more on stabilization.

*****

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4. Sled Drag with Pummeling

Sets: 1, Duration: 5 Minutes

This exercise will build up the entire posterior chain while simultaneously building muscle endurance. Attach a sled to a weightlifting belt around your waist and explosively walk forward with long strides. While walking forward, have your training partner pummel with you for one-minute-on and one-minute-off intervals for the five-minute duration. Remember to always keep walking forward, pulling from the heels.

*****

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5. Sled Drag with Atlas Stone Carry

Sets: 10, Duration: 60-Yard Trips

This exercise develops sheer brute force. The awkward position of carrying the atlas stone with a Gable grip presses against the diaphragm, making it hard to breath. This exercise is an incredible conditioning exercise. It will build muscle endurance in addition to developing strength.
Eddie will use a Gable grip (overlap hand grip) around the atlas stone, while pulling his shoulders back and keeping the core of his body tight. He will power-walk forward with a sled for 60 yards and immediately return to where he started.

  • For more cutting edge functional strength training advice, be sure to visit Westside-Barbell.com
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    UFC middleweight Luke Rockhold talks about his upcoming UFC 166 fight against Tim Boetsch and what it will take to get back in the title hunt.

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    Max Holloway and Conor McGregor are poised to steal the show Saturday night in Boston at UFC Fight Night 26.

    Over the last couple years, featherweight has become my favorite division to watch. Much like the lightweight ranks, the 145-pound weight class is loaded with talent, and just about every fight that hits the Octagon ends up being an entertaining affair.

    Those grumblings about the lighter weight fighters not being able to finish fights? Nonsense. Don’t believe me? Pull up a Cub Swanson highlight reel and enjoy eating crow.

    Saturday night in Boston, two featherweight prospects will share the cage in a fight that could potentially steal the show. While it’s not flying under the radar like some of the previous fights featured in this series, it is undoubtedly worthy of being deemed a Badass Beatdown.


    “The Notorious” Conor McGregor (13-2, 1-0 UFC)

    Streak: Nine consecutive wins
    Last Fight: Win-Marcus Brimage, TKO (strikes), R1-UFC on Fuel TV: Mousasi vs. Latifi
    Notable Wins: Brimage, Ivan Buchinger

    Max “Blessed” Holloway (7-2, 3-2 UFC)
    Streak: One loss
    Last Fight: Loss-Dennis Bermudez, Split Decision-UFC 160
    Notable Wins: Leonard Garcia, Justin Lawrence


    Why I Love This Fight

    In my opinion, McGregor is the real deal—a fighter with championship potential, and the type of charisma that could make him a major star in the UFC very quickly. Yes, he’s getting a lot of attention for someone with just a single UFC win under his belt, but he’s won nine straight—all by way of stoppage, and seven of those in the first round—and looked every bit as good as his advanced billing when he took out Brimage back in Sweden.

    Holloway is no slouch, either. In fact, I actually think this is a tougher fight for the 25-year-old Irishman than his originally scheduled match-up with Andy Ogle. No disrespect to “The Little Axe,” but the Hawaiian is a superior striker and a much more dangerous stylistic match-up for McGregor.

    I think Holloway is a good test—a step up from Brimage, and someone who will help us get a better read on where McGregor’s ceiling rests. If the Straight Blast Gym student comes out and runs through Holloway the way he did Brimage back in April, then it’s time to give him an even tougher opponent next time out.

    If he wins, but has some struggles, we know it’s time to pump the brakes and pull back on the hype just a little. And if he loses, Holloway gets a major bump in recognition and replaces the brash Irishman as the up-and-coming featherweight striker to watch going forward.

    Holloway doesn’t strike me as the type of fighter who is going to be overwhelmed or unhinged by sharing the cage with someone who has been garnering as much attention as McGregor. He knows all the pressure is on his opponent, and that should allow him to be loose and fluid in this fight.

    There is a very good chance this turns into a 145-pound game of Rock’em Sock’em Robots, with these two talented prospects slipping punches and slinging leather in the center of the Octagon until one of them goes down. McGregor has the edge on the ground, but chances are he’ll look to keep it standing and put on a show for the crowd in Boston and everyone watching at home on Fox Sports 1.

    On a card full of potentially entertaining contests, this one is a front-runner for Fight of the Night, and will definitely carry on the proud tradition of the Badass Beatdown series.

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    UFC Fight Night 26 Tweet-Sized Stats: It’s amazing what you can do in 140 characters or less.

    You’ve heard the big news by now. Fox is expanding their presence in the world of sports, and FOX Sports 1 launches this weekend, anchored by a super-charged dose of UFC action. Not only is the card free, it’s loaded with big names and exciting fighters to make the biggest splash possible.

    Before you search your channel guide to figure out where FOX Sports 1 is located, here’s some hard stats and facts…140 characters or less for your chirping pleasure.

    Superlatives

    Hardest Hitters by Total Knockdowns Scored: Shogun Rua & Matt Brown-6, Johnson-5, McDonald & OSP-4.

    Hardest Hitters by Knockdown Rate: Pyle & McDonald-10%, Browne & OSP-9%, Rua, Howard & Brandao-8%.

    Highest Significant Strike Accuracy: Overeem-62%, McGregor-60%, OSP, Hall & Matt Brown-57%.

    Most Likely to Attempt Takedowns: Gamburyan averages 3.9 attempts per 5-minute round.

    Highest Takedown Defense (>10 atts): Overeem-88%, Holloway-86%. Honorable mention to Browne who defended all 6 attempts to date.

    Longest Reach: Overeem & Hall-80”, OSP-79”, Browne-78”.

    Shortest Reach: Brandao-63”.

    Oldest Fighters: Mike Brown & Mike Pyle both turn 38 next month.

    Youngest Fighter: Max Holloway, who is 21 years old.

    Most Accurate Power Head Strikers: McGregor-57% (small sample), Matt Brown-38%, Overeem-37%.

    Best Head Striking Defense: Chael Sonnen avoids 81% of head strikes by opponents. Holloway & McGregor-79%.

    Best Cage Control: Yuri Alcantara, who when standing, outworks his opponents by throwing 80% more total strikes.

    Fun Facts

  • 5 fighters will come out in a Southpaw stance: Sonnen, Alcantara, Johnson, McGregor, and St. Preux.
  • Max Holloway has yet to attempt a single submission in 58 minutes inside the Octagon.
  • Max Holloway & Conor McGregor currently have the highest average significant strike attempt pace of all fighters.
  • The biggest betting favorite on the main card is Uriah Hall over John Howard at -515.
  • When fighting on the ground, Chael Sonnen has been in a position of control for 95% of those minutes. That same stat for Rua is only 44%.
  • Sonnen has a pace and defense advantage in striker over Rua, but Shogun is the more accurate & powerful striker in all categories.
  • In Conor McGregor’s UFC debut, he & Marcus Brimage combined for 71 attempted strikes in just 67 seconds of fight time.
  • Both #5 ranked Alistair Overeem and #8 ranked Travis Browne suffered upset TKO’s to Antonio Bigfoot Silva, currently ranked #4.
  • Overeem has more accurate striking than Browne, but Browne has a higher knockdown rate, higher pace, and better defense.
  • Joe Lauzon has attempted 24 submissions in the UFC. He finished 7 of those, winning SOTN 5 times.
  • Chael Sonnen spends 69% of his fight minutes on the ground. Rua’s takedown defense is only 34%.

    Visit fightnomics.com for more info, and follow Reed Kuhn on Twitter @Fightnomics.

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    The first time I talked to Brian Stann in person was in a kitchen on a gray January 2008 morning in Big Bear, in what seemed like a Kumbaya camp for the scariest humans in the west. The compound he was at had once belonged to Oscar De La Hoya, but at the time was owned by Tito Ortiz. Dan Henderson was doing altitude training up there ahead of his fight with Anderson Silva. There were icicles hanging off the A-frame and snow all over the ground, and the barn in the back was the training facility.

    Several times a day the fighters would crunch through the snow from the cabin to the gym and from the gym back the cabin, with very little else to do on that mountain.

    And what a devil’s den there was—all holed up at the compound. There was Henderson, Vinny Magalhaes, the Frenchman Cyrille Diabate (brought in to emulate Silva’s length), the “X-Man” Xavier Foupa-Pokam, Matt Lindland, Krzysztof Soszynski (who looked like a lab experiment), Chris Wilson, Darrell Gholar, Heath Sims, the doctor Ryan Parsons…and Stann. All of them had left their lives back somewhere to train in relative isolation.

    Stann, a square-jawed comic book action hero with the propriety of military elite, was a relative unknown. He had a fight coming up with Doug Marshall—the biggest of his career to date, as it was for the WEC Light Heavyweight Title. He and Chris Wilson were both cooking oatmeal and staying out of each other’s way, like a scene from The Ultimate Fighter, minus the cameraman and posturing. Wilson had just agreed to stand in for an injured Akihiro Gono against Jon Fitch on the same card that Henderson was fighting Silva. It would be his UFC debut. I asked him if all of this seemed a little daunting.

    “No,” Wilson said. “What is Fitch going to do—summons the wind?” Wilson was full of this kind of thing, and it made sense to me that his nickname was “The Professor.” Fitch was a great opportunity for him, and he had the confidence, I thought, to make it a fight.

    Stann, on the other hand, was a picture of inward dedication. It immediately stood out. There was a quiet dignity to him that showed up right out of bed over a morning stovetop. It wasn’t that he was just an All-American (because he wasn’t in the lesser way we’ve defined it), it was that he was a true All-American when nobody was looking.

    “What are you up here for,” he asked. “To cover Henderson,” I said.

    At the time I was editing an alternative weekly newspaper in Southern California’s Inland Empire, and Hendo was a cover subject. Stann talked to me about that fight a little bit. He mentioned what a worker Henderson was, and talked about technique. The idea of that fight genuinely seemed to excite him. It was for a title, and he understood the added spotlight on it. We talked about Henderson for a good 15 minutes, spoke about his Greco-Roman skills and Hendo’s “H-Bomb,” and—to my surprise—he queried me on general life things. He was one of the few fighters who took an active interest in a random writer’s life.

    And I have to admit, his ability to listen knocked me off balance a little bit. In all subsequent conversations, this has always been the case. Even as he moved up the ranks and into contention in the UFC’s middleweight division, and found a seat as an analyst with FOX, and became one of the most respected men to ever take up the grim trade, he has kept that genuine interest in his fellow man.

    What he didn’t talk about that morning was Marshall, or the belt he was about to fight for (and ultimately win). He was solitary in that regard. It was his sixth pro fight, and he had knocked out the first five guys he’d faced. Here was a decorated soldier, a Silver Star recipient for valor in war, who had played collegiate football at Navy. He was seemingly successful in about everything he ever attempted. But there wasn’t an air of smug accomplishment to him, and the urge to talk about himself never came up.

    Team Quest had a motto that went like this: “Pain is merely weakness leaving the body.” This was a saying posted all over the headquarters in Murrieta, and I always associated it with Heath Sims who ran that branch. The saying was borrowed from the Marines, a slogan used in recruiting. Stann, a gallant Marine, embodied it. He performed his training circuits every time I saw him in that camp like he had something to avenge. And he’s talking about Henderson being a hard worker, I thought. In the best way possible, Stann makes you feel like you’re not doing enough…that there’s so much more to human potential.

    In other words, watching him train had me thinking of goofy parables.

    I revisited the compound a couple times before Henderson fought for the belt, and saw Stann many more times. Henderson lost to Silva at UFC 82, but Stann won his belt. He lost it later that summer to Steve Cantwell, before making his UFC debut against none other than Soszynski. Soon thereafter he became a star. And even as he walks away from fighting, as he heads off to work the broadcast booth for the ACC in college football and to dissect the fight game rather than conquer it from the inside, something stands out about him.

    Is it the casual chivalry? Maybe. But it’s also something more basic. It’s something like true self-assurance together with a general lack of masquerade. It’s that the man you see on TV today is no different from the one eating oatmeal on a random January morning in Big Bear back when nobody seemed to care.

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    Q: My stomach can’t handle cow’s milk yogurt, but it can handle goat’s milk…I just don’t love the taste. Any suggestions?

    A: If you’re missing yogurt, and goat’s milk yogurt is a bit too….goat-y (it can actually be quite strong in taste, especially compared to the fruity-flavored cow’s milk yogurt you grew up on), give sheep’s milk yogurt a try. Much closer in taste and creaminess to mild cow’s milk yogurt, sheep’s milk yogurt also packs more protein than almond/coconut milk-based yogurts and has fewer carbs.

    Many people find sheep’s milk yogurt to be richer in texture than cow’s milk yogurt, sweeter than goat’s milk yogurt, and tastier than soy milk yogurt. You really don’t want to go the soy milk route anyway, due to soy’s negative effect on thyroid function and its hormone disrupting/estrogen mimicking properties.

    Sheep’s milk yogurt is just as healthy as that of the cow, with nutritional frontrunners including calcium for your bones, probiotics (good bacteria) for your GI tract and proper immune function, B vitamins, and riboflavin. Add some fresh berries to sheep’s milk yogurt as part of a balanced breakfast or quick snack. Look for brands like Old Chatham Sheepherding Company at your favorite health food store.

    Plain Sheep’s Milk Yogurt (6 oz)
    calories: 150
    carbs: 7 grams
    protein: 10 grams
    fat: 9 grams

    Plain Coconut Milk Yogurt (6 oz)
    calories: 125
    carbs: 18 grams
    protein: 0 grams
    fat: 6 grams

    Plain Almond Milk Yogurt (6 oz)

    calories: 130
    carbs: 14.25 grams
    protein: 3 grams
    fat: 6.75 grams

    image descDawn Reppucci is a registered dietitian and former D-I swimmer with degrees in nutritional science and exercise science from the University of Connecticut. For the past 10 years, she has been forcing her patients to eat grilled chicken and steamed veggies at an integrative practice in Atlanta, GA.


    Post a question in the comments section if you want a FIGHT! expert to tackle your query.

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