Often times I get asked by clients, coaches and parents, “What’s The Difference Between Good and Great?” or “What’s the Difference Between Good and Average?”

Instead of setting them up with a consult I simply refer them to the books that have certainly helped me answer these questions. If you do Mixed Martial Arts, Coach MMA or are an MMA Enthusiast and you wanna sound really friggin cool during the next Bellator, UFC or Strikeforce fight that you are watching at Hooters, here are the books that you need to read now:

And I’ve been reading all of the research of skill acquisition and expert performance that I can get my hands on.

In the past 6 months, I’ve created a system where I can improve VO2 Max anywhere from 15%-50% in a healthy young adult in 4 weeks time. We’ve already done it in the Bahamas with the young judo players there. This may not be amazing to some and is nowhere in the realm of remarkable, especially for untrained or detrained individuals, but it is a major milestone to have a STANDARD protocol which we know that everyone can do and improve so now we can disseminate the information because it has been tested and proven to work. Although the tests are practical and anecdotal in nature, they still are “evidentially factual” (for lack of a better scientific phrase, since one doesn’t really fit here) LOL.

As I have said before, I have been reading, voraciously, all of the research on expert performance, talent, skill acquisition and chess strategy and studies that I can get my hands on.

I’ve actually found out the secret to development for short, medium and long term development for sports such as boxing, judo, jiujitsu, wrestling, etc.,. (but not MMA, the mixture of disciplines makes it very difficult. I’m going to have to start reading some research or pentathletes, triathletes, decathletes, and gymnasts. The multiple disciplines make MMA a very difficult study. I DON’T CARE WHAT ANYBODY SAYS!!! I KNOW!!!). It’s crazy because some people think that they know, some do know, but many are just guessing. And I will admit, I guess too. Sometimes you have to do it, but I don’t purport my guesses as facts, but educated guesses.

Here’s what I do know. If you want to be super good at anything, there are 4 things that you are DEFINITELY going to need. You will need others, but you will definitely need these FOUR.

Number One: Coaching

I don’t care who you are or what you are doing, if you do not have QUALITY coaching, you can FORGET BEING GOOD AT ANYTHING. I don’t care, if you think that you’ve coached yourself, if you are receiving some advice from different sources and its working out for you, its more than likely that you are getting some good coaching. Now your coaching can actually be better, but it is better than not having any at all.

This year I created an online training webinar called The Truth About MMA. As someone who has coached at the high level of the sport and who has competed at the lower rungs, I can tell you that the treatment and the resources are very different and I want to help those who don’t have the resources but who are “training hard” to have some perspective of actually how close or far they are.

Okay, lets’ get back on topic…..

Without getting deep into this discussion and rambling due the excitement of the moment, I will tersely say – COACHING IS IMPORTANT!! YOU CAN’T GET ENOUGH OF IT. And if you have a coach, who doesn’t think that you should get coaching from elsewhere as well, FIRE HIM OR HER IMMEDIATELY. They are jealous, ignorant and STUPID!!!!


This is not about “loyalty” it’s about having an open-mind and being around people who literally want the best for you.

My former coach and friend Lloyd Irvin actually sends his students to other places and brings other coaches in to teach and seminar from time to time. He has many answers but knows he doesn’t have all of them and his “open-door” policy has created a BJJ and MMA reputation that is unparalleled and GROWING!

I can say the same thing for David Camarillo.

No surprise both of these gentlemen are Judo players. In the Judo culture we train with EVERYONE!

Number Two: Practicing

I’m sure you’ve seen boxers shadow box before.

The crazy thing is that you never really see MMA Fighters spending a lot of time of shadow boxing, shadow wrestling or shadow grappling.  LOOK! Don’t read this and say, “Oh I do that!”

No YOU DO NOT. If you don’t have it in the schedule as a weekly activity, you don’t do it. You do it ‘every once in a while.’

I’m not sure why more MMA fighters don’t do this. These high level professionals do, I assure you.

One of my judo advisors Angelo Ruiz, a 3-Time Olympian and former head coach of Puerto Rico, was a huge proponent of this and recommended hours and hours of it. As a matter of fact, when I was preparing Brian Picklo for the 2008 Olympic Trials, I flew Angelo Ruiz into Florida to help with Brian Picklo’s preparation (I introduced ANOTHER coach because I believe in coaching) and he and Brian did hours and hours and hours and hours of shadow randori and shadow uchikomi. We even did shadow mock matches where I was able to call out the commands based upon the tendencies and Brian was able to perform on cue.


Brian was also able to practice by himself. Practicing alone is VERY important. Self-directed learning and alone deliberate practice is important and IS DONE BY CHAMPIONS not by the average.

If you want to be good, you have to do more than the normal levels of practice.

You have to do more.

That doesn’t mean that you have to “kill” yourself in every training session, but it does mean that you have to practice until you CAN absorb more than you could before in a practice.

WARNING!!!! There is one problem.

If you practice by yourself, WITHOUT having learned properly from a seasoned coach, you can create problems for yourself because you can possibly create bad habits. This is why coaching is so important.


Number Three: Environment

If MMA is what you want to do and you want to really be a good Mixed Martial Artist then you have to realize what Rampage realized, what Rashad Evans realized and what many fighters learn.

You have to know when it is time to Move.

Don’t have the practice partners or the RIGHT practice partners?


Don’t have Advanced Placement (or classes strictly for the pros. Classes is PLURAL, that means sparring, technical and strategic classes)?


Don’t have weight room? FIND A WAY TO GET STRONG WITHOUT IT or MOVE!



Number 4: Understand
that Strategy and Tactics
ARE More Important Than
Technique…… After you
have a sufficient level of

We can always be more technical – that is a fact.

Deion Sanders could have been more technical. Jerry Rice could have been more technical. Manny Ramirez can be more technical.

But here’s the issue… THE RESEARCH STATES VERY CLEARLY that there is a well-defined chronological window of time where you can be at the TOP OF YOUR GAME. And in that time, you have to make a decision of what you need, take inventory of what you have, and look at what you can gain the quickest and fastest during your “golden hours” of athletic prowess.

Gaining more technique is certainly key.

But it is NOT the only key.

If you had some great and blessed early development where your technique is SUPERB, well… I’m happy for you. Not everyone is so fortunate and most people learn a great deal more AFTER they have retired. During your “golden hours” you need to find a way to win and what the research says is that strategy and tactics are key. Don’t believe me, then do the studying for yourself. You will find the information in the area of chess development and study and expert performance in chess. You can spend the hours reading and researching because you want to fight what I’m saying or you can believe me and we can keep this party moving.

I laugh when I’m at Hooters or sitting in the stands at some MMA fights while listening to the people in the crowd, boo and complain. I laugh because all these people don’t have a clue of how to get good in the sport of MMA. LOL.

The answer is ALWAYS in the “0″.

MMA is like a donut. The key to the donut is not the round part. The key to the donut and what makes it a donut is the “HOLE”


But here’s the key: The improvement of your MMA exists within that which you CANNOT see, not in that which you CAN see. Just as in religion, the ability to jump over the spiritual chasm is for you to begin to WHOLEHEARTEDLY believe in that which you CANNOT see, and this mirrors the development in life and sport.

There is a level of “blindness” that is necessary to increase your “vision” which creates the “Ohhhhhhhhhh now I see it” phenomenon. It’s crazy when it happens, but it is the truth. THE ANSWER IS IN THE “ZERO”!!!!!!!!!

(side note: The “Zero” is a LOOOOOOOONG discussion that we cannot have on the blog. Trust me.)


Thank you for your time and for reading. I wish I could write more and more, but time is of the essence. We will resume our discussion. Please comment

Take care and have a great day.

Rhadi Ferguson, Ph.D., CSCS
2004 Olympian
4-Time National Judo Champion
BJJ Black Belt

4 thoughts on “Wanna be good at MMA? Well, you’re gonna need these things!”
  1. I can’t recommend this enough. All of the principles apply to any sport for the most part…I certainly used these in my heyday in baseball…especially the practicing along part…I can’t tell you how many hours I spent in front of a full sized mirror swinging a bat.

  2. Thank you so match for those great aricles so well documented and easy to read (yeah I’m french lol)
    Next year I’ll start competition (at a very amateur level), I’m already 30 lol with just 2 years of training in Russian Combat (some forme of MMA), Judo and Savate.
    I was heasitating at wheather to subscribe for the full pack offer of my gym (which will allow me to learn BJJ, Muay Thai, Kickboxing, Full contact, Bokator,…) along with those I’m already practicing.
    With your coach advice, I’ll defintely subscribe for it
    Thanks again, looking forward to your next articles

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