Stepping Into My World

Three years ago, NFL defensive end Jared Allen was coming off of a disappointing 7.5-sack season. He had shown too much potential to languish in underachievement. After the season, I told Allen, a close friend of mine, that he should train with me and my boys at Arizona Combat Sports in Tempe.

He certainly had the right mindset, and I promised that, if he wanted to turn on the jets of his NFL career, stepping into my world would bring his NFL game to levels he had only dreamed about. After little urging, Allen joined us and embarked on an off-season that changed his life. Our crew at AZ Combat helped drop a stunning twenty-five pounds off of Allen’s frame. We also improved his punch and his step off the line. Most of all, we loosened and strengthened his hips and core beyond his imagination. Perhaps even more important than all the physical benefits he got from his two-a-day training in Brazilian jiujitsu, Muay Thai, boxing and submission fighting was the fact that Jared Allen became one of the most feared forces in the NFL. He stepped onto that field feeling as if he was the baddest SOB in the stadium.

“Obviously, it strengthened my core, my flexibility, my hips and eye-hand coordination. And my cardio went through the roof. But more than that, it taught me how to push myself past barriers your mind puts up to stop you,” said Allen. “Fight training teaches you how to push past those blocks.” Oh, by the way, it just so happens that Allen led the NFL in quarterback sacks that year (with 15.5), made his fi rst Pro Bowl and was awarded the largest contract ever given to a defensive player in the history of the National Football League!

Since then, several NFL stars and Major League Baseball players and prospects have asked me about MMA training regimens conducive to their sports. I never understood why more haven’t gone this route. As Allen said, we push guys to the brink and then blow through barriers they never knew they could get past. MMA will change any athlete, and if the difference is measured in millions of dollars, wouldn’t you?

This offseason, I began training 2004 Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinart. While he originally turned to me to help transform his body, that was more a byproduct of his training. Although his body did change, his attitude, will, and fortitude have undergone the most dramatic makeovers. Leinart needed to take drastic measures to be able to understand his potential and reach it. MMA was just the thing. “I love it, love it,” said Leinart. “I wanted to stay under the radar this season, but this stuff is ridiculous. It’s incredible how much people have noticed a change in me, how I look, how I carry myself. I’m addicted.”

I felt I was on to something, but I couldn’t do it alone. To take this truly to the next level, I probably needed an expert in the fighting/coaching field, a name that would be a heck of a lot more respected than mine. More importantly, I needed the help of a friend I knew I could trust. Enter Randy “The Natural” Couture. I went to Randy in Vegas a few months ago with my idea and told him what I had been doing, and it took us all of ten minutes to come to an agreement. Just like that, the wheels started in motion for MMAthletics—a full-time training camp, out of Las Vegas-based Xtreme Couture, designed solely for professional athletes from other sports looking to propel their careers to heights they never knew were possible.

Couture, whom Time Magazine called “Ultimate Fighting’s Babe Ruth,” has pushed his body past extremes usually heard of only in folklore. If guys truly want to learn to blow past barriers, to push their bodies past limits, I needed a stud like Randy and his coaches. Forgive me for sounding infomercial-ish, but I’m pretty damn stoked about this latest venture. Couture, his coaches, and I will design an intensive program using MMA training to strengthen specific areas relevant to any athlete’s sport and position.

Obviously, the needs of a quarterback are different from those of an offensive lineman, whose needs are different from those of an NHL defenseman or an MLB shortstop. Moreover, our athletes will train with each other, not with anyone outside the world of pro sports. What makes this training experience even more unique, is the opportunity for these athletes to see how some of the greatest fighters in the world prepare for the most extreme sport of all. If I were a pro athlete, I’d want to learn what it takes to push the body past the limits of sanity from guys like Couture, Griffin, Maynard, Hieron, Trigg, etc.

The mental aspect, which Randy has long preached, is alone worth the price of admission for these athletes, aside from the changes in their physical techniques. My excitement is two-fold. First, I get to marry the two worlds of mainstream sports and MMA. I’m only a decent fi ghter at best, and I certainly don’t have the schedule to train full-time, but I fought back in 2003–04 simply to give MMA some mainstream attention, and I succeeded in that to some extent. The brass at FOX wisely demanded that I stop fighting, but I have always been willing to do whatever I could to push MMA into the mainstream.

Second, Randy and I get to groom what could be future additions to the pool of MMA talent. I love this sport, and would do anything for it. Perhaps this venture will end up being more beneficial than we could have ever imagined. NFLers, MLBers, NHLers, jump aboard! Come into our world. To be the best, you’ll need to beat the hell out of the best!

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