What It Takes To Be A Real Fighter Part 2: Skill Set and Training

Jay BanduCorrespondent IMay 20, 2009

CHICAGO- OCTOBER 25:  Anderson Silva prepares before the Middleweight Title Bout at UFC's Ultimate Fight Night at Allstate Arena on October 25, 2008 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

What it Takes to be a Real Fighter: Part 2 – Skill Set and Proper Training.



            There are a lot of good fighters out there.  It seems that they have a natural instincts, reflexes and talent for the sport.  Not too long ago there were a few champions fighting in the UFC that did not have a rigorous training program.   However, because of this almost all of them encountered someone who worked harder than they did and lost their titles.


            Once again I am not bashing any fighters out right now, but two names come to mind.  Matt Hughes and Frank Mir were both very dominant in their weight classes yet at the time they seemed to not take the training part of it very seriously mainly due to lack of competition that made them do so.   Hughes was unbeatable until a young up and comer named BJ Penn came along and upset him for the 170lb championship due to the fact that although he was in great shape he was not evolving and learning new skills. 


            While Frank Mir never officially lost his belt, by his own admission he said most weeks he would get by with only one to two hours of training per week.  When he recovered from his accident he learned the hard way that due to MMA becoming more popular the other fighters in his weight class were a lot better trained than he was and he cannot continue to go on the way he used to.  What makes both of these guys’ great fighters is that they got themselves a rigorous training program and a good training team and got themselves back to the top of their respective divisions.


There are many different theories as to which way are the most effective.  For example most fighters choose to do it by “sessions”.  Usually anywhere from 10-15 per week ranging in the different styles of MMA due to them still working other jobs to finance their life and training.  Although there is nothing wrong with this, training is fairly expensive and most fighters do not make more than 30-50k per year from fighting, however it can only take you part of the way.


The truly great fighters understand that this is their way of life.  They have the mentality that fighting is there plan A and most do not have a plan B because they make plan A work.  There is a saying “Go hard or go home”.  At sometime in your career you should make a decision whether you truly want to get serious in this sport or whether it is not for you.  Every one has their starting point but the truly great ones treat fighting like it is their job so every day they train and they train for a good portion of the day.


With that said, when asked to name a great fighter what names would most likely come out?  Georges St.Pierre, Anderson Silva, Forrest Griffin, Randy Couture, Chuck Liddell, Matt Hughes, BJ Penn come to mind.  We have all watched their UFC countdown specials and seen only a portion of what their days are like.    Their jobs are to be fighters so they train all day every day.  Most of the fighters on that list are in shape to fight a 3 round fight at any given time. 


It is important to touch on all the aspects of your fighting style every day.  Traditional martial artists woke up every day and practiced the same moves day after day month after month.  The reason for that is that over time the moves get imprinted into your muscle memory and when it comes time to use it, it is already like second nature.  Doing this will allow you to react to something with little or no thought at all.


 Certain fighting styles are a little more effective than others, however if you choose to be a master of only one realm of fighting you will fail.  The two main realms of MMA are Stand up and The Ground Game.  A world class Muay Thai striker cannot be effective when he is on his back on the mat and the best wrestler in the world will find a hard time getting a necessary takedown if he gets kicked unconscious.


Great wrestling or other ground based skills are important in a great fighter’s repertoire.  Wrestlers have the ability to dictate the pace and realm of the fight.  If they are getting outclassed striking wise they can take their opponent down and end the fight in their “home field”.  If they are outclassing their opponents they will also prove difficult to takedown and will continue to win the fight.  This also however can lead to stalemates and very boring fights.  With discussing wrestlers I have to make this statement,  if you do not entertain the fans that pay your salary than you are not a great fighter.


Great stand up skills are also important, whichever style you choose is not that important just that what ever you do choose make sure you do it well.  Most fans love seeing two world class strikers face off because they know that most often than not someone is going to fall.  The pace of these fights is usually higher and the results are always pleasing.  However nothing is more frustrating than seeing someone so good in this realm of fighting being taken down and made completely ineffective for three rounds.


            Truly great fighters train in both realms and make sure that wherever the fight goes they know what to do.  During the fight they find a way to win.  Georges St. Pierre is the best example of this in my opinion.  He is constantly training in both realms and will find your weakness and exploit it to defeat you. 


            Another important facet of training is to have a good solid team.  Teammates with a good camaraderie will push each other to improve and teach each other new techniques.  The Ultimate Fighter show proves that it is more effective to work closely with people with the same type of mindset as you and have similar goals.  No one will help you if you do not help them in turn.


            Having a good solid team to help you train can prepare you for anything that can happen in the ring.  Sparring is the best way to test techniques and find out what your strengths and weaknesses truly are.  The great fighters train with the best guys in the world so that they can constantly be pushed and they can constantly improve themselves.


In conclusion I hope you can almost recognize which fighters in the sport right now are truly great.  I personally do not see why any fighters would not take this important part of their career seriously.  I don’t understand when someone says “I need to make sure I peak for this fight”.  The truly great fighters are always in the gym and always in peak condition to fight.  To me there is a clear line of separation between real fighters and pretenders.