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MMA Opinion: Sinking to a Good Level

If the reader hadn’t noticed, there is a lot of information available if one is looking for it in Mixed Martial Arts. It is part and parcel to growing a sport in the age of social media. The veteran fans will remember when Dana White, long before the massive Endeavor deal and still under the Zuffa banner, would tweet a location where he – yes, the actual president of the UFC – would meet fans and give them tickets to the UFC event in their area.

Those days of the need for guerilla advertising are long gone, but the days of floods of social media content related to the sport are still very present.

One particular facet of the proliferation of media is that we get to see things we may not otherwise see in bygone eras. In the past, video footage of sparring or training would only have been seen in very clearly orchestrated pieces done by mainstream sports media. Not so anymore. We now see individual fighters, gyms, specific training camps, podcast appearances, etc. letting us know where a given fighter and his or her trajectory are at all times. A very specific thing might actually teach us something.

There is an axiom often stated in all sport, but it bears a lot of weight in combat sport because the stakes can be so very high. It is this: You will always sink to the level of your training. It is likely different athletes and coaches might express the nuances of the idea a little differently, but it seems pretty clear that there is a general principle there all would likely adhere to. Possibly something along these lines: in competition, when the circumstances are such that you are unable to execute at your best, your default base of training will be where you land.

You may excel or have flashes of brilliance, but if things go south for whatever reason, it will be your fundamental training that makes or breaks you.

Combining the two thoughts that media and access to MMA is at an all-time high and that your training will dictate to some expected level your success, what would the MMA observer see if he was able to peek into the training of some fighters? In particular those fighters that have been found to have trained very specific things that yielded success in competition. Considering four examples ought to show (literally if the video is viewed) that sometimes a massive moment in a fight was indeed built into the respective fighter’s training regimen.

We won’t risk links going obsolete, but a quick search will probably get these on the eyes pretty quickly.

Example #1: Conor McGregor vs. Jose Aldo UFC 194 (Search: Backroom Locker Practice & Finish): There is side-by-side footage where Aldo’s faceplant after Conor clips him in a light-footed retreat looks so inconceivable that it must have been choreographed. This would be one of those moments where the victim would no doubt say later that he got caught or it was a lucky punch, but that footage makes it undeniable Conor saw that and trained for it.

Example #2: Alexander Volkanovski vs. Korean Zombie (Search: Drilling Korean Zombie Takedowns): This was not a fight-ending spectacular finish, but it certainly qualifies as a training moment that was indeed used just as trained in a fight that would be a very successful title defense. “Very” because it was this exact kind of proficiency that the champ clearly had worked very hard to accomplish.

Example #3 Jorge Masvidal vs. Ben Askren (Search anything with their names!): Teammate Dustin Poirier tweeted that coach Mike Brown and Jorge showed him video of them practicing that stunning all-time greatest knockout contender 48 hours before successfully delivering it. Apparently practicing that was #supernecessary. Of all on this list, that knee seemed the most probable “fluke.” It happened in the opening seconds where there are lots of flashy moves in MMA. For extra credit find Fabricio Werdum flying sidekicking Ronda Rousey’s husband. No training footage, but an opening move for the collectable shelf.

Example #4 Leon Edwards vs. Kamaru Usman (Search: footage of Leon Edwards' team drilling): Another spectacular moment ending with a belt being strapped on the victor. This fight in particular had all the makings of an ending that could only be considered a fluke. Usman the welterweight champ dominated three straight rounds. So, the fight-ending sequence looked way more chance than plan. It was only afterward with the release of training footage that Leon’s coaches can be seen describing how this technique of catching Usman with a headkick when he circled out and dipped his head – just as it happened in the cage – would work.

When it is seen that these moments – those one might rightly assume are fluke-ish – are indeed planned for, it becomes evident that training and repetition in Martial Arts can make a huge difference if taken seriously. In some cases, it can be that the thing drilled is the difference between not only wins and losses, but actual championships. It is so intriguing watching Leon Edwards’ coach so casually talk about a potentially effective move after it was employed successfully and not only rescued Edwards from a grueling loss he would have no doubt regretted, but gained the belt and a place in highlight reels forever.

If this is what it means to sink to the level of your training, it behooves the martial artist to elevate their training for those sinking moments. If your best training shows up in your worst moments in competition, the odds certainly seem to shift in your favor if history proves correct. You might want to start recording those training sessions too. Just in case someone says, “fluke!”

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