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Fighting isn’t a bodybuilding competition

“It’s a fight! You’re not going in there to have a pose down with the guy, you’re going in there to kick his ass!”.

I can’t tell you how many times I heard my old trainer Don Hinzman shout those words during my years spent with him.

You see, Don is what a lot of people like to call old school. But that didn’t mean that he wasn’t right about anything pertaining to fighting 99.9% of the time. He’s just cut from a different cloth.

Hinzman was one of the animals that came up in Hollywood, California under the legendary Gene Lebell in the 80’s and 90’s. Don was given the nickname “Domino” by Lebell for his ability to knock his opponents down one by one. This is the same man that became famous in the streets of Tucson, Arizona before there was an “MMA” for never losing a fight, and trust me, Don fought more often than whatever total you may currently have in your head. So yeah, my trainer, he’s what a lot of people like to call old school.

I remember Don stressing the fact that fighting wasn’t all about having big blown up muscles when I expressed my frustration with not being able to get that clear cut six pack. I had been training forever, was as fit as could be, but my body would just get to a certain point and kind of stop wanting to get ripped no matter what I tried.

“Who gives a [expletive] about all that,” he would go on to tell me. “You’re six pack isn’t going to punch a guy in the face for you, it’s not going to make your chin any more solid and it sure as hell isn’t going to stop you from being strangled, now is it? What will make you a better fighter is the time you spend on this mat.”

It was a tough pill too swallow when there were other guys walking around the gym looking like life sized sculptures of The Incredible Hulk. Genetic freaks. I would take one look at them and convince myself that they would just man handle me all around the sweat soaked canvas given the opportunity. I learned really quickly during my years training with Don and the wrong side of the tracks savages from Hinzman’s MMA exactly what Don was talking about. He was right, MMA wasn’t bodybuilding.

“Those big puffed out muscles aren’t going to do anything but slow you down and make you tired. Muscles require oxygen to breathe,” he would tell me.

And he was right. Fighting is more about experience, nerves, technique and skill more than anything else. In my estimation fighting is about 90% mental and 10% physical.

Let me explain; The mental aspect of fighting is just so huge. If you don’t have the ability to deal with punishment, or shut down when being attacked, MMA is not for you. It takes a certain type of person to get hit and naturally want to hit back. It’s just a natural thing that is programmed into each and every one of us. There are some that are predators and some that are prey. It’s the way of the world.

There are pretty much two ways to react if someone was to walk up to you an punch you right in the face; You turn red with anger and go directly into ‘Hulk SMASH!’ mode without being able to stop yourself, or you try to figure out why this person just hit you and try to avoid being hit again. Everyone will say that they will hit back but only those that have been punched square on the jaw by surprise truly know how they would react in that situation.

Long story short, if you mentally shut down or turtle up when being attacked, MMA is the wrong sport for you. The mental part is HUGE.

On the other side of that coin you can be the greatest fighter in the world but if your diet consists of nothing but pizza and donuts, and your training consists of throwing your Australian Shepard in the occasional triangle choke, yeah, you’re not going to be able to implement any of that awesome technique because your body is weak and slow.

When you think of “The baddest man on the planet” most would envision a man ripped to the teeth with muscles on top of muscles. Probably like 300 pounds of pure muscle. I’m not referring to a guy like Brock Lesnar. Sure he’s big, but I’m talking like Ronnie Coleman or Jay Cutler status.

If you didn’t know who he was you would probably laugh if someone told you that Fedor Emelianenko was actually the worlds most lethal fighter.

Six foot even, 230 pounds and he bears a strong physical resemblance to myself to be quite honest, and I don’t mean that as a compliment. I have a couple framed pictures of Fedor hanging by my computer at home and several good friends have thought they were pictures of me for months.

Case in point; The current landscape of MMA’s heavyweight division. If you take a look at the top rated big men in the sport you will be hard pressed to find a future poster boy for “Ripped Fuel“.

We’ve already discussed Fedor, but what about men like Josh Barnett, Frank Mir, Gabriel Gonzaga, Tim Sylvia and Brett Rogers. While far from overweight, none of these fighters are famous for their shredded physiques, more for the damage they are able to cause during physical combat.

Then you take a guy like Lesnar who is a complete physical specimen. Lesnar’s a giant but he’s far from musclebound. If Brock was overridden with muscles there’s no way that he would be as fast and explosive in the Octagon as he is today.

This previous Saturday there were a whole lot of people that felt as if Andrei Arlovski was going to add Brett Rogers to his highlight reel in what should have been an easy fight for the Belarusian. We all saw that things didn’t quite end up that way when Rogers proceeded to batter Andrei in mere seconds. While Arlovski’s record and experience against tougher competition could account for a great deal of the reasoning behind his favoritism going into the bout, a large amount of it surely came from the fact that Arlovski just looks like the guy from 300. He’s a gladiator poster boy in every sense of the word.

There’s something that many people fail to factor in when looking at fights sometimes. A certain factor that there’s no real way to put your finger on. I will call this the “Beast-Factor”. Rogers just had the “Beast-Factor” going into the fight with Arlovski. He’s 6’5″ and a natural 265 pounds. A natural 265 pounds! Anyone that has spent time in a gym training with larger men will be the first to tell you that size matters. Believe that. Besides that, Brett just hits like a Mac-Truck. I don’t care who you are, if Rogers puts one on your chin there will be “Grim” consequences.

Rogers just happens to be the latest in a series of the world most dangerous men that have validated the fact that fighting isn’t a bodybuilding competition.

  • cocoonofhorror says:

    Ronnie Coleman or Jay Cutler? wtf?

  • edub says:

    Cory i normally like your articles but I just dont see a point to this one. I mean like maybe put this article out for people who dont read about mma everyday of there lives. Keep writing though i like ur style.

  • Joker10 says:

    he’s referring to jay cutler the bodybuilder, not the quarterback.

  • edub says:

    Joker10: Huh?

  • MMASwami says:

    So much insight in this article. You probably make a lot of money doing this.

  • madheartmma says:

    Great article, so many good points touched on. I’ve seen guys that look like baby Jay Cutler’s (the BODYBUILDER…bing or google image the guy…edub)And seen them walk into the bars, tight shirts, fake tans, w/ their “crew”, and underestimate the wrong fellow, and get DROPPED, his crew, wants nothing to do W/ the fellow. Some guys are “beast-like” or old school, aka a real M.F., they dont care who, how many, where, all that. The point about Fedor, when some of my friends seen pics of him, they were like wtf? till I enlightened them w/ some fights on the you of tube, anyway, good stuff, not everybody will get this article, unless they see for themselves, hopefully not by pissing off an “oldschool fellow”

  • Austin says:

    I’m going to have to agree, sometimes your articles are a real WTF, Cory.

  • MMA-LOGIC says:

    What fighting ISN’T body building!? I’ll have to go back over the tapes to see if I agree with the decisions now. I wish I had been told this earlier. So if a fat guy KOs a buff dude that is a legit victory?. I don’t get it…why?.

  • cocoonofhorror says:

    thanks for the Jay Cutler (bodybuilder) info. maybe better to use one of the dozens of other unknown bodybuilders names that doesn’t share both a first and last name with a quarterback in the NFL.

  • mma-owns says:

    BTW …. There was no “Beast Factor” in the Arlovski/Rogers fight. Rogers connected with a big left hook in the first combination he threw. That just means he threw the right punch at the right time.

    And as far as the whole concept that a guy who is a natural 265 is gonna hit harder than a guy who is a natural 230 but has accumulated the extra 35 in sports specific weight training, that’s a little far fetched.

    Brett Rogers is a pure striker. No ground game. So we know he doesn’t have grapplers strength (for example you will often hear Joe Rogan speak of how diceptively strong Karo Parisyan is due to his strong grappling background. Even comparing him to a chimpanzee.), and he is a little on the flabby side with no real muscle definition. That says to me that if he were to get serious about his physical condition, he could gain speed, strength, and stamina.

    Ask any doctor. Body fat percentages are better kept on the low side if you plan on living long. Also, eating Pringles and Ice Cream isn’t gonna help you perform better in any athletic competition.

    So lets say, as a professional athlete you decide to eat the foods that are going to help your body recover after training and help contribute to an overall healthy body…..I know, far fetched. And on top of THAT, you are going to do 2-a-days at the gym, fighting dangerous and often slightly mentally unbalanced individuals in a steel cage, and at least once a week you are going to see a personal fitness coach who is going to push you untill you are on the brink of vomitting. All done in a near religious fashion for the sake of not being unprepared in a potentially fatal situation.

    Should I be criticized for being in incredible shape?

    It’s not really a critical article, it’s just the idea that in general it isn’t an important part of the sport. It is an incredibly important part of the sport. When I look at a fighter in evaluation of his/her physique, their physical condition to me is synonymous with speed, explosive power, and endurance. Some would even say it shows work ethic and dedication. That may be a bit of a stretch as a general rule but MMA is an incredibly physically demanding sport. As demanding as any sport in this day in age.

    To not credit the physical condition of a fighter is a mistake, because it can be a difference maker in a fight and at that point this article will be irrelivant. Of course, we already have seen plenty of fights where there is a clear difference in stamina of fighters. So basically, it is already irrelivant.

    P.S. – The saying “fighting is 90% mental and 10% physical” was used out of context as the real saying has the preceeding portion included, “Training is 90% physical and 10% mental, but fighting is 90% mental and 10% physical.” Usually used do give perspective on the physical demand of training and the relaxed feeling of walking into the cage immediately before the intense, high-paced, physical violence they are about to subject themselves to.

    Anywhoo I’ll stop being the asshole now.

  • CMT says:

    As a bodybuilding fan of the 90’s, I can appreciate this article. A fat bodybuilder will never win a bodybuilding contest and will probably be laughed off the stage. A fighter that has a gut can be very effective in the ring, cage, etc. Look at Big Country, dude has a big gut but still knocks people out and can go the distance. By the way, Cory also referenced Ronnie Coleman, not just Jay Culter, and the article was about bodybuilding not the NFL. Seems too many people will comment before doing research, just see their words published. Good article Cory.

  • mma-owns says:

    If Big Country wasn’t fat….he’d be a better fighter.

  • Cory Brady says:

    Thanks Madheartmma & CMT. I figured that not everyone would get this article. As much as many would like to say that this is old news we still have thousands of fans tuning into the weigh-in results to see which fighter looks more cut. I know for a fact that many people base their picks on looks alone. The premise of this article is simple, all the muscles in the world won’t make you any tougher, or a better fighter. So if you want to fight, spend the bulk of your time training in an MMA gym instead of the weight room.

  • mma-owns says:

    The article was also about fighting as stated in the title.

  • Cory Brady says:

    “The premise of this article is simple, all the muscles in the world won’t make you any tougher, or a better FIGHTER” thanks mma-owns

  • madheartmma says:

    Well said Cory Brady.. mma-owns is probably doing 20 min. abs right now, so he doesn’t “look” like Big Country, I’m up ready to run this beautiful morning, so I can hope to fight like him….(Big Country) He got ROBBED when he fought, Andrei Arlovski, maybe Arlovski’s 6 pack helped him win..or the ref stopped the “FIGHT” AT “THE RIGHT TIME”..YEAH GUY..You can use your physical/mental % anyway you want…but at the higher levels, it’s WAY more mental, how else could you carry on with the physical…???

  • MMAFright says:

    Great article and so true. Did you see Kongo last night? He was breathing hard two minutes into that fight. He looks better than Cain with his shirt off but Cain is the much stronger man. One of the better articles I’ve read in a while. Right on the money.

  • aimres says:

    Great article.

    You might want to explain why big muscles are a weakness for an endurance athlete. (sherk, w. silva, kongo)

    Bottom line muscle needs oxygen to function.
    The more muscle a fight has the more oxygen he or she needs to feed the muscle.

  • mma-owns says:

    madheartmma i’m not sure what you are talking about with the 20 minute abs comment. Sure fighting is more mental but lets say big country had an identical twin. exact same style, talent, and just a complete mirror image of himself. but lets say the twin is in incredible shape and not fat as fuck. who do YOU think would win??

    It is moronic to think that a guy with a beer gut couldnt be any better if he got in great shape. that is the whole point. I never said bulky guys have the advantage. i said guys who are in great shape will fight better than guys who are in bad shape. its a simple concept. i dont care how mentally strong you are. if you are too fat to get out of your chair then yer a bum.

    being a professional fighter these days takes more than mental fortitude. that is why you see guys at the top who are in incredible shape. they have the edge on thier competition…….am i in the fuckin twilight zone??

  • mma-owns says:

    madheartmma sounds like he’s new to martial arts….or he does martial arts and then goes to the bar waiting for ppl to start shit with him…..onna those guys.

  • mma-owns says:

    Simply put, you cant say that physical is more important than mental or vice versa. That is impossible to tell because each fighter is different so it’s a mute point. Both are hugly important but neither is more important because in training, it is more important to be in great physical condition to prepare yourself while you still can. Once you are in the fight you can’t do anything but be mentally prepared. Ask any fighter, training is 90% physical and 10% mental and the fight is 90% mental and 10% physical. It’s not a difficult concept…

  • edub says:

    I know who they both are.

    I just dont know why that dude was trying to explain who they are.

  • edub says:

    madheartmma: u gotta be like a 19 year old kid.

  • neijia says:

    what? fighting isn’t about homoerotic man hugging and selling apparel? dana, you owe us refunds.

    seriously good point. read Moneyball where Billy Beane of the Oakland A’s repeatedly says “we’re not trying to sell jeans” when his scouts say a prospect looks fat.

  • mu_shin says:

    Excellent points Cory. While weight training certainly has a place in the overall preparation of a fighter for the ring, it’s definitely true that hypertrophic pectorals and biceps never submitted anyone, and just because a guy is sporting twenty inch guns, it doesn’t mean he can fight.

    Boxing trainers in the old days told their charges that training with weights would make them slow, and damage their endurance. Then Lee Haney trained Evander Holyfield, and proved both of those postulations wrong, at least in the case of the “Real Deal”, who went from being a natural cruiserweight to the heavyweight champion of the world.

    Deep core strength is so much more important than vanity muscle in the fight game, but I think the main thrust of this article is that without tough, hardcore training, an experienced and dedicated mentor, and lots of experience in the ring and on the mat, it doesn’t matter if you’re shredded or a butterball. Fighting is the only way to learn to fight.

    Having gone from middleweight (163 lbs) to heavyweight (as heavy as 225, currently 205) due to thyroid disease and medication, my personal experience as a martial artist taught me that size matters as to how you use your body and what tactics will work for you at a certain size. As a point fighter, I went from fleet elusive counterpuncher to more of a stand-in block and counter fighter, because as a heavier guy, I wasnt’ going to move unless my opponent moved me. Different body style, different tactics. But either way, lighter or heavier, it was the experience I got getting my ass kicked in the gym and the guidance of my teachers that helped me progress, and not the forty pounds of muscle I put on in the gym.

    No argument that superior conditioning is paramount in MMA, but a fighter’s condition is not always as apparent as a shredded six pack. Good piece Cory.

  • Patrickk says:

    Yeah, I agree with that. Grim is a beast seriously! I’d love to see him mash up Brock Lesnar. I just want the Lesnar era to be over man. I know Dana wants to milk it, but dude, there are so many better fighters than Brock.

    Give Brock a true test; give him a solid 265 pound guy that’s either a vet, or someone like Grim Rogers that is just a complete beast, and let them go at it. I hope Carwin beats Velasquez cuz they Brock will have a true test.


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