Coach Eric Turner gives instruction to his fighter Ovince Saint Preux between rounds in his bout with Benji Radach at “Strikeforce: Henderson vs. Babalu II”. OSP went on to win via unanimous decision. Photo by Jack Bratcher for

It’s Just a Job

“It’s just a job. Grass grows, birds fly, waves pound the sand. I beat people up.”  -Muhammed Ali

Over the many years, I’ve been blessed enough to travel all over the world to fights in shows from low-level amateur to the highest the sport has to offer (UFC). I’d like to think I’ve seen a lot that this game has to offer. I’d just like to share with everyone my insight and opinions that I’ve learned over the years.

Be Nice

Yes, this is the iconic Roadhouse line and I’m sure a lot of you can hear Dalton saying it to you right now as I type this:

“If somebody gets in your face and calls you a [bad name], I want you to be nice. Ask him to walk. Be nice. If he won’t walk, walk him. But be nice. If you can’t walk him, one of the others will help you, and you’ll both be nice. I want you to remember that it’s a job. It’s nothing personal. […] Be nice, until it’s time to not be nice.”

Alright, but why be nice? Why? Because it’s just a job. Guys who get all worked up writing code, throwing things at their computers and stomping about have heart attacks. Girls who slam down their paint brushes then curse and yell about how badly she’s gonna break her paintbrush have aneurysms.

Moreover, when do you turn on the “I hate you” switch? The day of the fight? What if you’re hanging out with him and his team for a week because there’s no where to go and nothing to do? There you are in the van on the way to Whole Foods and you’re a seething cauldron of rage – are you remembering to get your grocery list – your Pedialyte, distilled water and whole wheat bread for after weigh ins? Probably not. It’s a job folks, he’ll do his – you do yours.

Why do I say this? Because at the highest level, everyone is pretty dang nice. The staff is nice, the fighters are nice, the camps and coaches are nice, the logistical people are out-of-this-world nice and everyone gets along except for those brief moments when we try to beat the holy crap out of each other in the cage.

Yet, at the lowest levels, everyone walks around like their carrying around invisible luggage – chest puffed out, arms bowed out, chin up, icy state at everyone. What is that all about? Are you trying to intimidate someone or practicing for your career as a bell hop?

Be Professional

A professional fighter isn’t just someone that gets paid to fight, it’s an attitude and a mindset that comes with being prepared to do your job. Professionals are polite and helpful and generally easy to get along with, because they have a job to do and want to get it done the best that they can.

Go look at a successful professional’s desk – it’s neat and clean and everything has a place, this is so that they can quickly and easily find what they’re looking for and get the job done faster. The same is true of a fighter.

They have a job to do and they have tools of their trade: mouthpiece, cup, shorts, gauze, tape, Vaseline, latex gloves, towel, water, bucket, etc. etc. etc. If you and your team want to be seen as professionals don’t show up to an event and not have ANYTHING other than a mouthpiece, a Tapout shirt and a bad attitude.

If you ever want to see the difference between an amateur and a professional, just watch and see how they treat everyone around them. Professional fighters treat everyone professionally – they’re considerate and kind, they do their best to pitch in and help out.

Amateur fighters treat everyone like they’re garbage – they’re constantly complaining or being inconsiderate, they are all about getting their stuff and forget about everyone else. Sad to say, I’ve seen amateurs at almost every level… same with professionals.

Having said all that, once you’re in the cage, do your thing. If you want to touch gloves you can, but protect yourself and know that you certainly don’t have to do that. If you get a submission hold, crank it until the Ref drags you off – you do your job, your opponent will do his and the ref will do his job.

You job is to win, don’t try to do your opponent’s job by “protecting” him if you catch him in a submission hold. Your job is to win, don’t try to do the ref’s job by “stopping the fight” before someone gets injured. Be professional, but don’t be a sucker.

Be Respectful

Before and after your fight be respectful to yourself and everyone else around you. If you won, congrats – be happy. But remember that unless you’re the last person fighting you’ve got other people who are still warming up, still trying to get mentally prepared so don’t get crazy in the locker room.

If you lost, my condolences – it’s okay to be sad. Again, remember that unless you’re the only person in the locker room there are other people around you who are just where you were – nervous about their fight, trying to get warmed up and don’t need you losing it in the locker room.

As a disclaimer: I’ve had guys and girls compete in more than 150 shows around the world and only one time have I ever lost it – to the most egregiously bad, hackneyed, political, asinine, retarded, absurd, malicious judge’s decision I’ve ever seen at any show – live or on TV. So that means I have a successful Respectful ratio of more than 99.994%. We can’t all be perfect I suppose.

Once the fight is over, shake the hand of your opponent and his coach(es). Thank them for the fight and then go collect your mojo and stuff and go out and do your thing – either celebrate or commiserate. Do your best to remember that the fight is just a job and win or lose the gym will be there tomorrow for you, the events will never end and you can always try again.

Hopefully some of this advice will sink in to the younger fighters coming up. Hopefully there will be more professionals at events and less amateurs. Hopefully we can all learn to co-exist in the locker rooms. I say all of this not solely from some altruistic place in my heart, but because if everyone learns these simple rules then my life gets less stressful when I’m trying to do *my* job.

God bless you boys and girls.

-Coach Eric

Coach Eric Turner is the Head Instructor at Knoxville Martial Arts Academy in Knoxville, Tenn. He is the author of’s “MMA Coach’s Corner,” a bi-weekly blog in which he shares insight and knowledge gleaned from his years training and working with fighters at all levels. You can learn more about Coach Turner and Knoxville Martial Arts Academy at

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