This week I was able to lock down Dr. Ferguson again and this time I asked him some really tough questions about two of his friends, Rashad Evans and Daniel Cormier. Dr. Ferguson has trained and consulted for Rashad and he went to the Olympic Games in 2004 with Daniel Cormier and fought in Strikeforce with him and on the same card in 2011.
He was considerably torn when this fight was announced and I wanted to get his opinion on the matchup. I tried to get him to answer some of these questions in last week’s interview but we had to save it for this week.
Jack Bratcher: Well Dr. Ferguson, I hope you had a great weekend. Last week you promised me and the ProMMANow Fans that you would address the Cormier versus Evans UFC 170 co-main event and I have a few questions for you, but before that I’d like to say thanks for the great post on the 10 books that you suggested that every MMA fighter and coach should read in 2014. I know you are an avid reader. Are there any other books that didn’t make that list but could possibly be featured as “honorable mentions”?
Dr. Ferguson: Thanks so much Jack, I wanted to provide something cognitively tangible for the students and practitioners of the game. Something that was both edifying and challenging. Edifying in the terms of gaining knowledge and challenging in terms of change. Many people want to achieve certain things, great things, with the same type of thinking and actions which have gotten them to where they are. And if you are stuck in your MMA career or sporting career as a coach or athlete, most of the time it’s not because you are not working hard. The good things and the problems or potholes in your career are actually a manifestation of what you’ve done currently and what you know. And in order for you to get better and improve and to get past this particular “sticking point” you are going to have to do some things differently. And reading and developing as a more well-rounded participant in the sport has really helped me personally and the clients which I have coached. Albert Einstein is quoted as having said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” With that being said, I wanted to provide some things that would allow people to “think” differently.
Now in terms of other books that I didn’t have the opportunity to mention. Well, I love the show Scandal with Kerri Washington and my interest in the show caused me to really look into the real life character after which Kerri’s character, Olivia Pope, is modeled. And in doing so, I also read the book “Good Self, Bad Self: Transforming Your Worst Qualities Into Your Biggest Assets.” It was a great book that I read in 2013 and was recommended to me by one of my advisors as I still have some issues and hurdles with the transition from elite/professional athlete to general population. Mentally, I’m still an athlete but I have to realize that the people around me are not around me to fight me. And because I’m trained in confrontation….. confrontation is what I do and people in the general population are not really that confrontational. And those who claim to be “type A’s” in terms of personality, aren’t so much so when there are other “type A’s’ around. And that book taught me a great deal about myself and actually helped me during the time when I was writing my book, “Enhance or Destroy: Relationship Lessons From An Elite Athlete.” So I would definitely add that book by Judy Smith to the reading list in 2014 and also of course my book. That’s a shameless plug. So shameless. And, I would be remiss if I did not recommend the book of one of my mentors, Dr. Ann Maria de Mars, “Winning On The Ground: Training and Techniques for Judo and MMA Fighters.”
Jack Bratcher: Okay, Doc, so let me have it. Who do you think is going to win between Evan and Cormier?
Dr. Ferguson: Jack, you put me on the spot. I will say this and I will answer honestly. I really do not know. It is a really tough fight for Cormier’s first fight at 205. I truly believe that Cormier is doing the right thing by establishing his dietary practices early. The one thing that he did not do during his wrestling career was, totally and completely, put his nutritional practices in the hands of a professional and follow the advice 100%. As a collegiate wrestler and someone used to cutting and losing weight there are some things that you can get away with when you are younger that do not necessarily work as you age. I think that Cormier got into a situation where poor eating and nutritional practices just caught up with him as I’ve seen it happen to many weight-cutters. He’s now down in weight and I think he’ll be 215 about 10 days before the fight and, if under the watch of a professional, will actually try to get down to 205 without using the sauna. If he does use the sauna, it will be to force the water out but he can make 205 without ever getting into the sauna. And please do not email or hit me on Twitter and ask me how because I charge money for that answer. Lots of it. And yes, Mike Dolce knows the answer too, but some wrestlers just like the sauna, so if they want to use it we let them use it but you can lose the weight and never get in the sauna. There’s a quicker, faster and better way. I’ve done it with Rick Hawn, Jamal Patterson, Ronda Rousey and some of the Olympians that I’ve trained.
The biggest issue is going to be Daniel’s ability to make 205 and then to properly rehydrate. Rehydration is a very complex math problem which includes the variable of absorption rate, maximum uptake, macronutrient profile of fuel (food), emotional regulation and most importantly, time. You have to be smart when it comes to rehydration and have things done and planned out properly. I’m not sure who Daniel is using for his cut but I’ve talked with Mike Dolce on more than a few occasions and he knows how to do this stuff. I’ve done it on several occasions and it is NOT easy by any stretch but has a huge impact on performance.
The secondary issue is going to be that of striking. I have grappled with Rashad Evans on a few occasions and I have not seen anybody, and I mean anybody, keep him down on the ground when he wants to get up. I also have not seen anybody get up if Cormier wants to keep them down. Having a discussion about who the better wrestler is, is non-sensical. Having a discussion about who the better Mixed Martial Arts fighter is, is also somewhat senseless because the bout will determine this. But what we can do is look at the skill sets and the things that each athlete brings to the table.
I think that the better striker is Rashad and that is just due from him having more time in the area of striking. However, striking is actually the application of attacking with setups with respect to distance and timing and Cormier has much more experience in that area. So much so, that it actually trumps all of Rashad’s competitive experience to date. The amount of times where Cormier has stepped on the line and operated under pressure is not comparable. I also do not think that Rashad has ever lined up with an athlete the likes of Cormier. The caliber of athlete which Cormier is, makes Jon Jones look like someone on a Junior Varsity squad. I would be insulting myself if I compared Jon Jones’ athleticism to mine when I was in my prime. He’s a great athlete in a good sport that does not have a lot of depth right now. That’s it. Cormier is a different animal. I used to workout side by side and do morning runs with one of Cormier’s competitor’s, Dean Morrison. Dean was an NCAA Champion and just got inducted into West Virginia’s Hall of Fame in 2013. I watched Cormier and Dean wrestle. Dean has ZERO quit in him and I watched Cormier beat him. I watched him beat a man who used to smoke me on the morning runs and would not allow me to pass him at all. I’ve been around some real deal folks. I’ve sat down and have had numerous breakfasts, lunches and dinners with the likes of Apolo Ohno, Sergei Beloglazov and several medalists and Olympians and Cormier is a special dude. Really.
Athletically, Cormier is superior. No doubt about it.
However, this is, as many will remind me, an MMA fight. And in that specific body of knowledge Rashad Evans is the veteran. And not only the veteran, in some respects, the 2nd best fighter in the world at the 205-pound weight class. Rashad does not lose and 12 of his last 13 fights were against fighters who were ranked in the top 10 of the 205-pound weight class. He knows how to handle pressure and handle it well. However, in all of those fights I’m pretty sure that he went into each of them knowing that he was the superior athlete. I’m not sure that he’s entered a fight having to mental coach himself that he is the superior MMA fighter.
The tertiary issue but of equal importance as the weight cut are Cain Velazquez, Vitor Belfort and Anthony Johnson. Not to reduce all of the other training partners that these two men have, and not to reduce the importance of the coaching staff, but at the end of the day, the performance of these two men in the Octagon is a culmination of their preparation and practices. Rashad has credited Anthony Johnson as being the MVP of his camp and I’m not sure that Cormier can have a better body to bang against in practice than Velazquez. Rashad also has Vitor Belfort to train and practice with which is also a huge asset. The breadth and depth of Rashad’s camp, with the inclusion of Tyrone Spong and others provides him with a slight advantage in terms of the high quantity of quality sparring partners. This is of a great deal of importance.
I’m not sure that Cormier has a “Rashad Evans” type of person to practice with but Anthony Johnson is as close that you can get to a Cormier-type for sparring purposes.
So, the wrestling edge is going to Cormier and the striking edge is going to Evans. The practice partner edge goes to Rashad and the Octogon IQ is also in Rashad’s favor. The question here is this. Is this a Ronda Rousey situation where the athletic development and quality of experiences is just that much greater than what is currently in today’s MMA where Cormier can dominate Evans as he’s done to Mir, Nelson, Barnett and Silva?
My heart is screaming Evans, but my brain says, Cormier. I will have to save my official pick for the week of the fight Jack when you send out the email to the staff. Now, I just cannot decide. I love both of these dudes and hearing that the fight was going to take place bothered me so much. I called Mo Lawal to talk about it.
I will have to wait for my official prediction.
Jack Bratcher: Well, what do you think about Evans saying that Cormier will not return his texts or accept his phone calls?
Dr. Ferguson: On the Olympic side of sport we may compete anywhere from 5 to 100 times a year. It’s nothing to be in a different country every week for 8 weeks. I have not done that many, but I’ve done 3 on multiple occasions.
Jack Bratcher: Three countries in 3 weeks? That’s insane.
Dr. Ferguson: Not really. It’s normal. I know for a fact that Cormier has a routine. He has one that he’s been doing for years and he does not deviate from it. I have one, I know that Ronda has one. I know that Jimmy Pedro had one that included eating Mars bars. Cormier is not deviating from his system. I remember when he was getting ready to fight Jeff Monson. He and I really did not speak. He called one time to kind of let me know that the reason that we weren’t speaking was because it was uncomfortable because he was fighting Monson, but it was a friendship call and one where he just wanted in a roundabout way to let me know that this is his way of handling things. When Rashad fights, we don’t talk. I will hit him weeks before his fight and send the same text I always send. Then about 72 hours from his weigh-in I will send a text. And that’s it. I DO not bother the dude at all. I don’t bother Ronda and will only try to contact her when she is not in the middle of a bunch of stuff. Same goes for any other pro athlete because I know they have a way of doing things.
Rashad and Cormier probably communicate often because they work for Fox but now that they are fighting, I’m sure that Cormier has his system that he has invoked for this meeting and that means creating space so that he can get in the mental zone to do his job. Rashad has punched his friends in the face on a few occasions now, Tito twice and Chael, so that’s a day at the office for him. I’m not sure that such is so for Cormier.
Jack Bratcher: One last thing before we wrap up for today because I know it’s been long. What do you think about the impact of this fight being five rounds?
Dr. Ferguson: That is huge and it was one of the reasons why I want to wait until the week of the fight to provide my prediction. The weight management issue will be huge. Since neither one of these guys are finishers, per se, it is possible that we can see this fight going five rounds. As a matter of fact, the likelihood of such happening is pretty high. So as usual round 1 will be important and the winner of that round for each corner has to be clear and evident. As such it will dictate the rest of the fight. I think it is important for Cormier to win that first round but in doing so will it zap his gas tank? I’m not sure. How he handles the cut will be important and the five rounds will definitely have an effect.
Jack Bratcher: Well, who would you have if the fight was three rounds?
Dr. Ferguson: Damn Jack! You’re not gonna let me wiggle out of this one, huh?
Jack Bratcher: Nope.
Dr. Ferguson: If it were a three-round fight at a 215 catch weight, I would put my money on Cormier. But it is not a 215 catch weight fight and it is not three rounds. It is five.
Jack Bratcher: Well Doc, if you can’t definitely go with Cormier, that means that you are going with Evans, right?
Dr. Ferguson: (laughing) Thanks so much for the interview Jack.
Jack Bratcher: Thank you Dr. Ferguson. I’ll catch you next week.