As of recently Quinton “Rampage” Jackson has been quoted as saying that he is not a fan of “elaborate game-plans” and that Mixed Martial Arts will end up like boxing.
Brother, we should all hope to be so fortunate.
To say that the statement was sophomoric, myopic and cantankerous is an understatement. It is poignantly foolish. Although MMA has been around for some time, the tradition of boxing has been around longer than Mixed Martial Arts. There is more than one major title in the sport, the payouts are more and it is an Olympic Sport as well. On this point, I am no longer conversing, it is a waste of time and I’ll be glad to have it if you like, but really… Let’s be serious.
After watching Rampage’s time as a coach on The Ultimate Fighter and being a coach myself, it further solidified why he would make such a statement. Rampage is a PRIDE relic, similar to Fedor. He has added few new things to his game and is living off of a beautiful brand, the Rampage brand, that he has created. He has a very good character, he interviews well, he knows how to create controversy and says what the crowd wants to hear and he is very “sell-able” and marketable, but he is NOT a coach nor is he someone that I would go to for coaching advice, although I’m sure he can teach very well.
A game-plan is a method for completion of a desired goal or task. As the task increases in difficulty, so does the game-plan. The cliche’ “the shortest way between two points is a straight line” is correct, but that journey becomes difficult, no matter how straight the line, as the terrain changes. As the technical landscape of MMA increases in terms of the technical proficiency of the fighters, so will the game planning, and this is the strategic morphing which we are seeing at the high levels of sport.
I Finish Fights
Here’s what we must all understand. The mantra and phrase “I finish fights” is a foolish one.
You, me and anybody else can “finish fights” as long as there is a great disparity in the skill-set of one fighter and the other. If I let you fight my 5-year-old son, I’m sure you can finish him. If I let you fight Brock Lesnar, I’m sure he’ll finish you, but if you fight your next door neighbor, things may get a little bit tight.
Remember, the major organization that we have in the fight game is the UFC, and as the talent pool of fighters becomes more seasoned, the differential between the skill-sets of the two fighters will decrease. Therefore, over time at the high levels of the sport, the skill-sets become the same, and then the differentiating factor will consequently, not be technique, but the ability to implement a game-plan.
This is why wrestling, judo and boxing at the elite, Olympic, World Class and National Championship levels “looks” boring to the casual fan with an untrained eye. It’s because there is a narrowing of the technical disparity at these levels, and as such, it is necessary to create the disparity on the cognitive level (i.e. thinking and/or game planning level).
When both fighters are highly conditioned and are well-rounded it is the goal of the competitors to push the area of the fight into the domain where they have the most clear advantage and least amount of risk per reward and to avoid the other areas where the risk increases and the reward is not as great.
For example, Georges St-Pierre has great ground work but he is working on his striking so much so to eliminate the possibility of getting taken down and/or knocked out, because in the world of MMA he can create a great amount of technical disparity through becoming a superior striker (i.e. Anderson Silva).
In B.J. Penn’s case, he has excellent grappling and great striking, but his game-plan is not in harmony with his preparation plan; there is a “plan-to-preparation mismatch” that he does not fix and it rears its ugly head every time he comes across the MMA “grinders” (i.e. “Jon Fitch types”).
I would love to go to Hawaii and consult for him but that’s another story. If he ever reads this or you run into him, let him know there is a basic math problem based in the the metabolic currency that he spends in practice and which he spends in the fight. He overspends based upon what he has and it puts him in a huge debt. It’s not that he’s not in shape, he is, it’s that he overspends because the game-plan he puts in place… costs more than he has. (but that’s another story).
Let’s get back to the topic at hand…..
As the sport of MMA grows what we will hope to see and create is a more intelligent and intuitive fan base. This is NOT what we have right now. We have an arena of blood thirsty viewers that want to see people stood up off the ground and punched in the face. Unfortunately what you are teaching the fighters and the coaching staff is that striking is more important than ground work and you are essentially turning the sport into “boxing” via the rules. And thus you see the movement toward the following in coaching and instruction:
1. MMA for BJJ – The thrust and focus of teaching in this area is to “get up.” I had a quality conversation with B.J. Penn about this at the UFC Fighter’s Summit and we both agreed that our BJJ game has actually deteriorated because of our MMA focus, but that our MMA ground game has gotten better because initially we thought that the purpose on the ground was to submit the other person. Well in MMA it is not. The purpose is to use your BJJ to get the hell up. Because all of your submission attempts are NOT going to win you the round if you are on your back. You have to create space and get up. This put you back on your… (drum roll please) FEET.
2. Boxing for BJJ - The thrust and focus of boxing for MMA is not all the combinations, but to learn how to fight in the pocket, how to move your head appropriately and how to see the punches. Rolling, weaving, slipping are all techniques that are learned for the sake of “seeing.” Muay Thai guys always say, “well if you roll a punch I can knee you in the face.” Well, idiot, “Am I not to practice one technique because of what may happen if you do another?” Look, we use boxing to “see” and “identify” and most importantly to manage the distance. The number one key is to develop a quality jab. Understanding the jab and distance game puts us right back into… (drum roll please) WRESTLING.
3. Freestyle/Folkstyle Wrestling for MMA – The thrust of this type of wrestling is to get the takedown or to know how to appropriately close the distance. This is why boxing is necessary, because the skillset of Muay Thai doesn’t address this as well. The emphasis of the jab and the straight right in boxing will allow you to set up your shot. Because all wrestlers understand there is no shooting without a setup, and the setup in pure wrestling can be applied to MMA but the setup, in and of itself is different. Therefore, as your boxing improves, so will your takedown percentage.
(I could stop now, but I’ll keep going so that you recognize that I do not need to have an MMA belt around my waist to coach Rampage into the dirt. He’s a great fighter and a below average coach. I’m a great coach and a below average fighter. With this, I’m sure you agree. We are both great at what it is that we do.)
4. Greco Wrestling / Judo for MMA – The thrust of this type of grappling/wrestling is to know what to do once you have closed the distance and are on the cage or in the clinch. This form of grappling blends very well with the close quarter combat game of Muay Thai and the inside game of boxing. This area of the game is one that is overlooked by many. The hardcore Greco guys still do the 45 to 90 minute grind sessions, which are sessions with no breaks, no water, no stoppages. Why? Well not only is it a good safe form of conditioning, it allows you to properly know how to spend energy in the clinch and it allows me, if I’m not a great striker to suck the energy right out of your arms like a mile runner that doesn’t have a good kick but pushes the pace of the race early so that your kick is gone (for more info, please watch Randy Couture’s fights).
As the sport grows we will see people become strategic masters of these areas. Now please don’t nitpick at what I wrote, I definitely am not on here to provide my whole business coaching model, but to provide you with a starting point of recognition when it comes to who you should listen to when it comes to coaching in MMA. Every UFC event that I attend, I take some time out and sit down for at least 30 to 45 minutes and speak with Greg Jackson.
Greg and I talk about some of the recent books that we’ve read, coaching strategy, Judo, wrestling and some more stuff. We’ve even shared some techniques on the mat. The richness of the discussions are what I would expect from speaking with a fellow coach in the industry and is different than speaking with an athlete that believes that “winning equals knowing.” Winning equals winning and knowing equals knowing. Game planning is knowing how to win. And that part, my friend, gets as elaborate as the paychecks.
As the paychecks increase so will the game planning. When the stakes are high, you are an IDIOT if you throw your game-plan out the window or don’t have one or don’t have a game-plan and 2 backup contingency plans (that you hope you never have to use).
Georges St-Pierre would love to entertain you, but at the end of the day, he get’s PAID to win, not take chances. His endorsements alone are a deterrent to take chances.
Remember this: For the Champion it is called a “title defense” for a reason. All the champion has to do is defend the title, not win it.
For more on this topic please see www.TheTruthAboutMMA.com
A Message for Quinton
And Rampage, Jon Jones isn’t trying to knock you out, or submit you. That’s not his job. He’s just trying to beat you. And for only 3 rounds I would suggest you do the same. And that tip was free. If you use that as the basis of your game-plan, things will work out better for you. From there you may just even get your finish. Trust me… I’m a Doctor!
I have a long day ahead. I have a phone consult with Lloyd Irvin in preparation for Mike Easton’s UFC debut on October 1st in Washington, D.C., at the Verizon Center. I just returned from Lloyd Irvin’s facility days ago as I was in town constructing Mike Easton’s preparation curriculum along with the coaching staff, which was a seven hour ordeal, not including the write-up that I had to do.
At 11 a.m. this morning I have my daily coaching call with the President of the Bahamian Judo Federation, D’Arcy Rahming. I’m the Head Coach / Chief Consultant for the Bahamian Judo Federation so I am constantly tweaking the curriculum and designing miniature lesson plans for the desired outcomes which we need to reach in order to stay competitive on the international level.
I have two interviews that I have to do today and I’m just finishing up the piece of written articulation for ProMMANow. I have to take my son to Judo practice, hold pads for my wife at Muay Thai and try to squeeze in two workouts myself.
Life is superb. If you are reading this, I hope you have a fantastic day.