Category Archives: MMA

10 Devastating Karate Techniques Every MMA Fighter Should Know

#1: Ude Uchi

First up, we have ude uchi.

“Ude” is Japanese for “forearm”, and “uchi” is strike.

In other words, ude uchi means that you smash either the outside or inside bone of your forearm (ulna/radius bone) into your opponent.

Why it works: When you use ude uchi, the distance between you and your opponent is closer than “regular” ounching range, but longer than elbow strike range. Since most people use the fist or elbow for attacking, your opponent won’t expect an attack from this distance, using the forearm. It’s unexpected. It’s brutal. It’s sweet dreams!

#2: Ura Ken (Without Spinning)

Next up, we have ura ken.

“Ura ken” literally means “backfist” in Japanese.

Sure, a lot of MMA fighters use the backfist. However, they always use it horizontally, and they always spin before striking.

I suggest you try it from different angles, and without spinning.

Why it works: The ura ken is a perfect addition to your striking arsenal. It combines seamlessly with jabs, hooks and uppercuts, and it can be delivered from unorthodox angles with great accuracy. Besides, everyone knows circular attacks have the potential for generating huge power. That’s why people spin when they do the backfist, since it adds momentum. But if you don’t spin, it’s more versatile and sneaky.

#3: Ashi Barai

“Ashi barai” means “foot sweep” in Japanese.

Okay, I admit. It’s not really a “devastating” move.

But it’s the perfect way to set up a devastating move!

Yet, few people know how to use foot sweeps it in MMA – except Karate-based fighters.

It’s so easy though. Just lightly tap your opponents foot when he is about to step. Then follow up with a flurry of strikes to capitalize on any openings created by the sweep.

Why it works: Ashi barai is nearly invisible. While it’s relatively easy for your opponent to spot a regular leg kick, ashi barai is harder to notice since you’re sweeping down by the foot – not the thigh. And it’s super quick, because you don’t need great hip rotation. The key is to time it with your opponent’s step. Try it!

#4: Gyaku Mawashi Geri

This kick is crazy effective.

But it requires a certain degree of external hip rotation to generate power.

If you have stiff hips, work on mobility and flexibility before you start using this kick!

In Japanese, “Gyaku mawashi geri” literally means “reverse roundhouse kick”. Coincidentally, I taught this kick at my first UK seminar the other week.

The idea is simple: kick from inside > out (instead of outside > in), but still use the top of your foot as tool of impact – like a regular roundhouse kick.

Why it works: Gyaku mawashi geri is totally unexpected and mega powerful. It’s also diverse: You can do it with any leg (front/back), you can easily combine it with other kicks (especially circular kicks) and you can aim for both the head and the mid section.

#5: Ura Mawashi Geri (Without Spinning)

This attack is like #2 (ura ken/backfist) but with the foot instead.

You probably know it as “hook kick” in English.

Most people do this kick with their back leg, after spinning – but I want you to try it with your front leg, without spinning.

Why it works: Imagine getting b*tch slapped by an elephant. That’s how it feels when someone hook kicks you in the face (take my word for it). You don’t even have time to blink. It’s so fast! The tool of impact can be either your heel or sole. You don’t need to spin for power – your legs are already powerful enough. Trust me.

#6: Mae Geri (Snap)

When Anderson Silva knocked out Vitor Belfort with this head kick at UFC 126, the MMA world went crazy.

I was like: “Congrats! You are now a yellow belt in Karate!”

The snapping front kick (mae geri) is basically the second technique you learn in Karate, after the straight punch. But most MMA fighters only know the pushing front kick of Thai Boxing/Muay Thai, which is better for creating distance than damage.

However, recently I think more fighters are starting to discover the snap mae geri, which can be done both to the face and midsection. Here’s a perfect one!

Why it works: Your leg muscles are the most powerful muscles in the human body. When all of that power is concentrated to the ball of your foot, great force is generated. The trick is to keep your weight centered, so you can retract your leg. The kick can be aimed at both the head and the mid section. Honestly, I would rather get hit by a dump truck than receive a piercing mae geri in the belly or face.

#7: Mawashi Geri (Ball of Foot)

The mawashi geri (roundhouse kick) is certainly not new in MMA.

But, few people do it with the ball of the foot. This is the old-school way of doing it, and works pretty much like the previous kick – except it’s circular, not straight.

This kick is becoming more popular lately. Here’s a recent example.

Why it works: The roundhouse kick is perhaps the most powerful kick ever. So imagine all that power concentrated into the ball of your foot. It’s brutal! It’s also quite sneaky, since it can reach behind your opponents guard/arms due to the foot position. Aim for the liver, ribs or kidneys. Just pull your toes back, so you don’t break them.

#8: Kansetsu Geri

“Kansetsu geri” is Japanese for “joint kick”.

As the name implies, this is a stomping side kick aimed at the knee joint, or hip joint. The damage it can cause is horrible. That’s why few people use it – because nobody wants to practice with you if you use it all the time!

One of the most successful fighter in the history of MMA, Jon Jones, used this kick with great success in many of his fights. Perhaps that’s why he had so many haters?

Why it works: Every joint has its limits. They don’t bend 360 degrees. By stomping the knee or hip out, you can easily stop the fight – and perhaps your opponents whole career as well. It’s also a good strategic technique for creating distance and keeping your opponent away from you. Use with caution!

#9: Hiji Ate (Upward)

Next, we have “hiji ate” – the elbow strike.

In this case, I’m talking about the upward elbow strike.

Most MMA fighters use elbows in a sideways or downward fashion. That’s good. But, just like most of the techniques in this article, this version of the elbow strike is more sneaky and dangerous.

Why it works: If you stand in a regular fighting position, your elbows naturally point down. So, just bring your elbow forcefully up when your opponent is close enough. It’s almost effortless. You can strike the jaw in a upward motion, or even the solar plexus/sternum in a forward motion. Put your whole body into it. There is no elbow protection being used in MMA, so this technique is extremely devastating.

#10: Morote Zuki

Lastly, a real show-stopper.

“Morote zuki” literally means “double handed strike” in Japanese.

Back in the days, Kazushi Sakuraba used this technique with great success, especially on the ground. The concept is simple: Slap, punch, strike or chop with both hands at the same time. Your opponent will have difficulties defending himself against both hands.

MMA Fighters of a Devastationg Loss

Not all losses are of the same breed in MMA. This is unique in the world of sports. Sure, landslide losers of tennis matches, football games, or skiing competitions suffer to a certain degree after a demoralizing loss. But in MMA, such a loss results in being rendered unconscious. It’s a setback of a different ilk than being on a football team that lost 48-7. Being completely removed from your senses while you’re half-naked with all eyes on you takes the word “lose” to a completely different level.

For many of us it’s unfathomable. We can think of a million other bad things we would rather have happen than being knocked out cold in an arena full of people. In some of the more devastating knockout losses you will see in MMA, the victims are not as far from actual death as you would imagine. Losing consciousness as a result of blunt head trauma is no joke.

You get desensitized after seeing it happen so many times without much averse affect. No fighter has ever died on a major MMA card that immediately comes to mind. At the same time, the sport is perhaps not old enough for us to really internalize the true affects of being rendered near-comatose on numerous occasions. In boxing, the casualties are apparent. Punchy fighters are a readily-accepted concept, with many examples that we can see to clarify our understanding of the dangers of that sport. What condition will MMA fighters who took ungodly punishment be in when they’re 60 or 70 years old? Well, we don’t know yet.

How this all pertains to betting is that you should exercise caution betting on fighters coming off a truly smashing loss. Is Michael Bisping probably a bigger force at middleweight than Wanderlei Silva at this point? (This article written in 2013) Sure, but after getting knocked spark out in graphic fashion by Dan Henderson, he was perhaps a little leery of the “Axe Murderer.” Even though he had won a fight since losing to Henderson, Bisping was very likely a bit spooked by the reputation of the once-fearsome Silva.

What happened to Bisping can play mind games on a fighter. He seemed to shake off that defeat pretty well as put more fights between him and that loss. But what happened to Bisping is not atypical of fighters coming off what is surely the most demoralizing sporting outcome in all of sports. We see fighters bounce back from this all the time, but styles also figure into it. A fighter who suffered a scary-looking knockout can still thrive against fighters who might not be known as strikers. But if they face a noted smasher of faces shortly after a harrowing knockout defeat, they might not represent the ideal bet. A lot of times, they’ll be more concerned about not getting blasted than focusing on what they need to do in order to win. Who can blame them?

The Ring Versus The Octagon

It’s difficult to say how much of a role it plays in fights when fighters switch from the ring to the octagon. There is a school of thought that says superior fighting techniques will hold up regardless of whether it takes place in a ring or an octagon. Sure, there is an adjustment to be made, but the difference in the long run is negligible. But it’s difficult to ignore the general lack of success of fighters moving from the ring to the octagon.

Unfortunately for our purposes, it’s hard to fully determine if the issue facing fighters coming to fight in the UFC was the change in ring to octagon or simply age. By the time a fighter was good enough to come to the UFC and when the big shows in Asia lessened, a lot of those guys were at the relative end of their careers. I’m sure if fighters like Wanderlei Silva, Fedor Emilianenko, and Crocop came to the U.S. in their primes, it could throw this analysis into a new light.

It’s hard to deny that there isn’t a significant difference. Some fighters make the transition seamlessly while other do not. It could be that fighters are unaccustomed to being pinned against the fence. It could just be the different look, going from an open-air ring to the confines of a cage. But when a fighter starts fighting in an octagon for the first time, it merits some consideration in your wagering. The style of the fighter could play a role, especially if the new arrival to octagon fighting is facing someone who makes copious use of the fence.

10 Tips for Strength

I mean really, a buddy recommends a great restaurant, or a cool beach to surf at. How cool is that friend? Well let me drop a few strength training tips that will keep you going. This coming from someone who notoriously ease drops on as many conversations from top trainers, athletes, bodybuilders and fitness experts. Knowledge is power and you need that power to perform at the gym!

1. KEEP YOUR MUSCLES NIMBLE

  • As you age your muscles become less pliable. General rule if you are under 40 years old hold that stretch for 30 seconds if you are over 40, hang onto it for at least 60.

2. BUILD YOUR CORE

  • There are tons of ways to build your core. Anchoring your feet is one sure way to injure your lower back. Try using a swiss ball or doing putting a towel under your lower back for support. The more your core is built up the better you will find your range of motion.

3. REPAIR MUSCLE FASTER

  • Most people cringe at me when I say this. Try a short and lighter version of the previous days workout on the next day. It will bring more blood and nutrients back into those muscles so they can repair faster.

4. BUILD STRONGER LEGS

  • I am not advocating skipping a gym day. In fact if you go more than 3 days without a workout you should reevaluate your life. However, if ever there was a day to NOT skip, it would be leg day. Do reverse lunges, Bulgarian squats, one legged deadlifts, anything to build up some strength in one of the largest muscle groups in your body. More muscle = better strength.

5. PUT AN END TO YOUR BACK PAIN

  • The yin and the yang, the core and the back. We need a balance between these two. For every core exercise we do, add a superman stretch or do a yoga move like cobra. That balance will help preserve your spine and keep it from injury.

6. FLEX FOR MUSCLE

  • You know that guy who does all of his workouts in front of the mirror….. yeah, i am that guy. The reason is I like to see that flex at the end of each repetition. Working your muscle through a full range of motion ensures that you are getting the most out of each rep.

7. DON’T BURN YOURSELF OUT

  • Going to the gym and stacking workouts on top of each other is not going to get you any closer to your fitness goals. In fact it will likely reduce the effectiveness by adding cortisol and free radicals into your system that will lower your hormones, increase weight gain and add years to your figure. Simmer down, one to two workouts a day is plenty.

8. THE RIGHT WAY TO YOUR WARM UP

  • Either we get all excited that its bicep day and run to the free weights or we hop on the treadmill to get the blood pumping. For me the most effective is target those muscle groups with a little light exercise that will also free up the range of motion. Is it chest day? Try a few push ups before you hop on the bench to press weight.

9. FREE WEIGHTS, BARBELLS, MACHINES

  • Let me repeat that, FREE WEIGHTS, BARBELLS, MACHINES in that order. Not that I don’t mind having all the access to the free weights when I show up to the gym. But if you are really wanting results, skipping right to the machines is going to hold you back big time.

10. DITCH THE WEIGHT BELT

  • Yeah, there is a reason I saved this one for last. Its the hardest for some to cope with. But over time, regular training with a weight belt actually weakens your abdominal and lower back muscles. Sure, if you want to go all Hugh Jackman and try a 400lbs deadlift, you better strap one of those on. But only on max lifts like squats, deadlifts and overhead presses. If I see you doing biceps or chest with a weight belt I am coming to your house and taking it away from you.

Golden Boys

Every sport has them. The guys who have juice. For whatever reason, they help put fannies in the seats. They generate revenue for the sport and there is always a large contingent of fans who hate the “pretty boys.” And that’s because at some point, they seem to get some preferential treatment. Maybe they get opportunities other more deserving fighters fail to receive, they win a decision or two they didn’t deserve, or the ref improperly rules in their favor a time or two.

In MMA, there is far less perceivable corruption than in most fight-sports. A PPV giant in boxing who puts half of Vegas to work every time he fights can be almost impossible to defeat on the cards. In MMA, the dark-horse gets a fairer shake. That doesn’t mean that network poster boys and anonymous fighters are treated the same, not necessarily champions–but flashy guys who get a lot of attention.

Often times, when you handicap a fight, it’s easy to identify who the “powers-that-be” want to win. A lot of times, there is no apparent choice. But when there is, it’s worth some consideration to the bettor. You might, for example, think an underdog has a really good chance to win. But if you can’t see him winning in decisive fashion, it might not be worth your wagering consideration.

Choose Advice Wisely

When trying to find worthwhile analysis on the internet, you are often times forced to sift through mountains of manure before finding a few gems. The Internet has given everyone a voice, which is good to a certain point. The flip side is that there are now hundreds of millions of people proclaiming to be experts on various topics.

Attention-getting seems to be the bigger motive than making sense. And in order to get attention, the last thing a person does is provide a balanced opinion–a thought-out position that takes both sides into consideration and acknowledges a lack of all-knowing super-power. People speak omnipotently and in absolute extremes. Everyone is either great or they suck. The future opponent they think will lose will get “smoked,” not just beat. Then they say so-and-so is a bum. Then you notice that “bum” is ranked number-three in the world. In what Bizarro world is the person who is the third-best at what they do a bum?

This is not meant to imply that there are not people in the comment section of articles or on youtube clips who know what they’re talking about. There are many and part of your heart has to go out to them. Because talking to these people can be pretty unfulfilling for a person trying to have a well-reasoned understanding of the sport. Part of being an astute bettor is knowing that nothing falls along the lines of 100% vs. 0%. Most people “discussing” MMA in venues where no qualifications are required characterize everything in two categories–100 % or 0%. You never see a comment that begins with “I’m not sure, but…” or “There’s a good chance that…”

Everything is in shades. A fighter might be slow, but he’s not 100% slow. He might just be 68% slow. A fighter doesn’t have “no chance.” He might have a 17% chance. There are many degrees used by the astute bettor. A fighter’s ground game doesn’t usually either “rule” or “suck.” The thinking-mans bettor might call it “moderately vulnerable” or “unflinchingly solid.” A guy’s takedown defense isn’t always either great or horrible. You might be inclined to be more specific and determine that his takedown defense is “shaky against big-striking shooters.” There are wise MMA minds out there, so focus on listening to them and avoid the hordes where the sport serves as just a different canvas upon which they can practice their art of arguing on the Internet.

Things That Can Make a Fighter Perform Better

There are times in even a great fighter’s career where he hits a bumpy patch. It’s not hard to have that happen in a sport like MMA. A fine line separates the successful from the struggling and even those at the top have a tenuous grip. When we watch MMA, we can get carries away with the physical aspect of the game. It’s understandable–the sport is an explosion of physicality. The sport, however, is largely mental. How a fighter performs is often tied to his headspace.

We can see fighters perform with varying degrees of effectiveness from fight to fight. Fighters in a slump that has people suspecting they’re losing their edge can suddenly pop out of it and leave us wondering what in the world were we thinking. Here are some precursors that could signal a fighter is going to break out of a slump:

Rivalries or Personal History: The world of MMA is worldwide, but a lot of guys at the top of the sport (in fights we can wager on) have crossed paths with their opponents. They may have fought before, but beyond that–they might have worked in the same camp. A lot of things happen during training camp and carry over into a fight.

A fighter who fought in the shadow of another fighter might be especially eager to win. Some coaches who worked with fighters are now in the corner of their opponent. It can lead to a fighter gaining renewed focus. They’re human. Football players cut by a team will be gunning extra hard to stick it that team if he gets the chance to play against them. The same dynamic exists with fighters.

Tragedy: Something within the human spirit is galvanized in the face of tragic events. For some fighters, the drain of losing a loved one can sap their strength for a fight. This is not meant as an endorsement to blindly bet on fighters who suffered the loss of a loved one. At the same time, fighters dealing with something like that can develop a healthy disrespect for the damage they are bound to face in the octagon.

When a fighter is overcoming tragedy, what can his opponent do that compares to the pain? The normal pangs of concern for the upcoming fight are drowned out by the sorrow of the loss. You will see fighters looser than normal–more able to execute and less paranoid of returning fire.

Urgency: The general career of an MMA fighter will have its share of ups and downs. Usually, it’s all part of the sport and its participants are given a lot of chances to stay at the top of the sport. Once you reach the top of the mountain in MMA, it can take an awful lot to knock you off the top. Guys can milk a name for a long time in this business.

There are times, however, where a fighter has reached a clear crossroads. Either he wins this or it’s curtains. Not every fighter has such a clear impasse. A lot of guys just slowly fade away from the top heights of the sport. Others, though, actually have everything sort of culminate with one fight–a clear moment where it’s do-or-die.

We need to be careful betting against fighters facing such an urgent situation. With some fighters, they are too far over-the-hill to do anything about it. It doesn’t matter how urgent the situation is because they simply don’t have it anymore. Other fighters, however, have just been on a rough run of performances–tough stylistic match-ups, mental lapses, and just strange twists of fate. With a fire lit under them, they can still do damage.

Before we bet against any fighter, we need to look closely to determine if it falls into the category of “just another fight” or must-win situation. Fighters will tell you they approach every fight with the same level of urgency. In all sports, however, there are certain events that take on a larger meaning and that’s also true in MMA. Fighters can’t reproduce the same urgency for all fights. Gauging how urgent a fight is for a guy to win can maybe win us a couple extra bets a year and spare us from a few losses along the way.

Dealing With Referees and Judges

MMA, being a rather young sport, will probably continue to experience growing pains as it pertains to officials. Organizations like the UFC have done an excellent job building the sport, but this is one area out of their control. MMA depends on the commissions in the states where cards are held to provide officials and it doesn’t always go so smoothly.

Sports that rely so heavily on judges have had a long time to establish clear-cut criteria. But in MMA, judges can be all over the place. Standards are in place, but in a sport that has so much going on in the octagon, it seems that MMA judging still lacks concrete guidelines. It’s not a good sign when you see a lot of judges presiding over MMA bouts who are also known as boxing judges. It shows that the pool of capable and trusted MMA judges is quite shallow.

Even in boxing, where fighters are limited to only punches, the views can be very different for the same fight. In a form of fighting where every part of the body is a weapon and there are so many different combinations of moves–it can get messy with the scorecards. And how many times have we seen a bad decision in MMA? It’s hard to keep count.

You want a sure-handed referee presiding over a match in which you wagered. It’s hard enough picking winners without having some dopey referee screwing up the natural flow and conclusion of a fight. You want to see a guy like Herb Dean–a former fighter who knows what he’s doing. You don’t want that one woman referee you saw on those old Strikeforce shows, who has no clue what she’s doing.

One way to avoid this whole mess is to look for fighters who finish. And luckily for MMA bettors, those fighters exist in spades. At the top levels of boxing, for example, decisions are rampant. In MMA, you can single out many top guys whose fights rarely if ever go to the scorecards. A lot of guys fall in the middle, where their fights are just as likely to not go the distance as they are to go to a decision.

But some fighters historically do not hear the judges scorecards very often and perhaps deserve more betting consideration as a result. Finishing a fight is really at the heart of what MMA is supposed to be. As a bettor, fights that reach a more holistic conclusion are better betting fodder than fights that are decided by non-fighting individuals.

Some examples of fighters whose bouts don’t go to scorecards are guys like Junior dos Santos, who has seen 2 out of 15 bouts go to the scorecards. Cain Velasquez has heard the final bell only once. Josh Barnett has seen 30 of his 36 bouts end early. Shogun Rua has heard the final bell only 4 times. Jon Jones tends to finish fights. Out of Rich Franklin’s 35 fights, 30 of them ended before the scheduled duration.

On the other end of the spectrum, you have fighters like Gray Maynard, who has seen 9 of his 13 fights go to decision. Dan Henderson has 19 decisions in his 37 fights. Out of Rashad Evans’ 19 fights, 10 have gone to decision. Frankie Edgar’s fights have gone to the cards 11 out of 17 times. Dominick Cruz has 12 scorecard readings in 20 bouts.

We can never shield ourselves completely from poor officiating. But by picking fighters who generally finish fights, you can at least partially remove that sometimes unpleasant variable from the equation.

If you are truly concerned about the identity of the officials, this information can be ascertained. It’s just that you won’t know until very close to fight-night. This can create a conundrum when trying to decide what’s more important–jumping early on a favorable line or holding out until you have more information. Nevertheless, it can be pretty random. Sure, some referees are better than others, but there are no real signs to detect when an officiating snafu will occur. The best referees and judges all screw up at some point. The only real defense against this is to place a little more value on wagers involving fighters who win fights outright.

THE MMA FIGHTERS WHO PASSED AWAY IN 2016

Although there’s plenty of evidence that 2016 has not been the literal worst year ever, it won’t exactly go down as humanity’s most beloved spin around the sun, either. Politics, natural disasters, terrorist attacks, and a seemingly endless wave of prominent deaths—and the overwhelming reporting of all of the above,thrown at us much faster than our brains can process—have made the past 366 days feel like an endless slog through misery and heartbreak. And the MMA community has not been left untouched by this tragedy. Not only did we lose a hero in boxing and cultural legend and all-around GOAT Muhammad Ali on June 3, we also witnessed the deaths of a number of mixed martial artists.

Here’s a look back at some of the fighters who passed away in 2016:

Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC

Kevin Randleman
August 10, 1971- February 11, 2016

PRIDE, Strikeforce and UFC legend and former UFC Heavyweight Champion Kevin Randleman died of a heart attack on February 11 after being hospitalized with pneumonia. He was 44-years-old. “Those who saw him at his peak will always remember his feats of athleticism in the ring and those who had a chance to speak with him or hear him at seminars will always remember him for the thoughtful, introspective man who shone through from underneath the muscled, almost superhuman exterior,” our own Jack Slack wrote in his look back at the highs and lows of Randleman’s storied career.

João Carvalho
1988- April 11, 2016

The young Portuguese MMA fighter was hospitalized when he started feeling sick after a rough TKO loss to Charlie Ward of what was only his third professional fight at Total Extreme Fighting 1 on Saturday, April 9 (see here for Fightland’s full report on the incident). According to a statement released by his team Nobrega Team, he died at 9:35pm in Dublin on Monday, April 11. “Even though we had the permanent medical care from the promotion’s staff and the Irish hospital, to whom we thank for the support in this tough moment and even though we know the risks of this sport, Joao Carvalho’s passing is, in my professional point of view, unfortunate, and makes us, his family and the entire Nobrega Team—which followed Joao Carvalho through his entire career, which gained notoriety nationwide and internationally— saddened and heartbroken,” his team posted on Facebook.

Amokrane Sabet
1972- May 2, 2016

Amokrane Sabet earned only one victory in his four fight mixed martial arts career in the late 90s and early 00s. He also starred in a 2009 action film called K. Sources reported that the 49-year-old French national, who was living in Bali and was “controversial” among his neighbors, was shot to death by police after stabbing one of their officers to death while resisting arrest on May 2. An autopsy released on May 4 indicated that Sabet had actually died of stab wounds.

Jordan Parsons
August 26, 1990- May 4, 2016

Up and coming Bellator star and beloved Blackzilian Jordan Parsons died on May 4, three days after he was the victim of a hit-and-run in Delray Beach, Florida (the driver, Dennis Wright, was found and charged later that month). “Jordan was an exceptional athlete and a rising star in the sport. But more importantly, he was an exceptional young man. Jordan was hard-working, dedicated, intelligent, and a pleasure to be around. He represented all the reasons we love this sport. It is a terribly tragic loss and our thoughts and prayers go out to his family, friends, and teammates,” Bellator President Scott Coker said in a statement.

Blas Avena
June 30, 1983- May 4, 2016

Avena was a BJJ black belt whose mixed martial arts career included stints in WEC and Bellator. His last fight was a 2013 KO loss to War Machine in 2013. On May 4, the 32-year old was found dead in Las Vegas apartment. Police announced that they were investigating the death as a suicide, but did not immediately release the cause of death.

Kevin Ferguson aka Kimbo Slice
February 8, 1974 – June 6, 2016

In the cage, Kimbo Slice, the viral street-fighting sensation turned professional boxer and Elite XC, UFC, and Bellator star was a controversial figure. In real life, Kevin Ferguson the father, fiancé, and autism advocatewas far more universally beloved. On June 3, Ferguson was rushed to the hospital with stomach pains, nausea, and a shortness of breath. Diagnosed with heart failure, he was immediately put in a ventilator in intensive care and was about to be added to an organ donor list for a heart transplant. But it was too late. Hedied at 7:30pm ET on Monday, June 6 in Cleveland. Ferguson is survived by his six children and his long-term girlfriend.

Ivan Cole
November 30, 1990- June 11, 2016

New Orleans native Ivan Cole was a professional mixed martial artist and Muay Thai instructor whose last fight was for Bellator in 2015. On June 11, Cole was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head in a Dallas apartment on June 11. CBS reported that he might have been playing Russian Roulette at the time of his death. “Some say it was about money, someone said something about Russian Roulette, but I don’t have any facts now,” Cole’s mother told the New York Daily News of the tragedy. “I’m a bit devastated at this time.” He is survived by his wife Kimberly and their 4-year-old daughter.

Ryan Jimmo
November 27, 1981 – June 26, 2016

Ryan Jimmo was born in Saint John, New Brunswick. He took up karate very early in life and soon added football, bodybuilding, and chess to his arsenal. Making his professional MMA debut in 2007, he racked up a 19-5 record over the course of his career, which included a three-year run in the UFC. On June 26, mere hours after proposing to his girlfriend (whom he charmed with karate lessons and Gordon Ramsay impressions), Jimmo was killed in a hit-and-run incident in Edmonton, Alberta. He was 34 years old. In September, two men were charged – one with murder – in connection with his death.

Amar Suloev
January 7, 1976- June 27, 2016

Suloev faced the likes of Chuck Liddell, Phil Baroni, and Chael Sonnen over the course of his decade-long career that included stints in the UFC and PRIDE, but his post-combat career was far less admirable. Turning to a life of organized crime, Suloev became a contract killer (his fall is detailed in this Bloody Elbow feature). While on trial for murder, he was diagnosed with stomach cancer, and was released on bail in May. He passed away in his childhood home in Anapa, Russia on June 27.

Josh Samman
March 14, 1988, October 5, 2016

In addition to his promising MMA career—the Ultimate Fighter 17 star had a 12-4 record—Samman was also a promoter and a writer. He was a contributor to Bloody Elbow and UFC.com and published a memoir earlier this year. The Housekeeper: Love, Death, and Prizefighting chronicles the many struggles of his young life, including injuries, drug addiction, and the tragic death of his girlfriend in 2013. Six days after he was found unresponsive in his Florida apartment, Samman was pronounced dead on October 5. His death was ruled a probable drug overdose later that month.

A Brief History of Outsiders Insulting MMA

Before our multinational art rock collectives and ennui-ridden pop stars took over the charts and our shiny-haired Prime Minister captured hearts and loins across the world, Canada’s self-esteem issues were painfully obvious and comical. Our red carpet reporters would ask whatever random celebrities they could grab “what do you think of Canada?” instead of “who are you wearing?” We’d get disproportionately excited if someone else said something nice about us in passing—or acknowledged us at all. But if someone sad something even remotely negative, we’d be overcome with flailing rage and compensatory posturing.

I bring this up now because, in some ways, being a person who cares about MMA today feels an awful lot like being a Canadian in the ‘90s. Every random celebrity who shows up at a UFC event is flung in front of the cameras for proof of the how beloved the world’s fastest growing sport really is. Each mention in pop culture is received and analyzed with the same intense passion with which Angela Chase used to treat her every interaction with Jordan Catalano. And any misunderstanding, misrepresentation, or criticism of mixed martial arts from the outside world is met with an exponential and opposite reaction. For example, if a much-lauded actress takes an awkward shot at MMA and claims that they’re not The Arts in a awards show speech, we lose our heads and turn into raging philistines who question the genius of Death Becomes Her (which is, in reality, an underrated classic better than at least 70% of the fights I’ve ever seen).

As we pick up the shattered pieces of our souls in the wake of Meryl Streep’s devastating blow to our glass-jawed egos and, to paraphrase La Streep’s quotation of her departed friend Carrie Fisher, take our broken hearts and make them into mixed martial arts, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the other ways in which prominent politicians, boxers, and scribes have used their platforms to denigrate our sport and hurt our MMA-loving feelings.

MMA is human cockfighting.

In 1996, John McCain uttered the phrase that launched a thousand dismissals from boxing fans, upstanding citizens, and your relatives who just don’t understand you.  After being horrified by a viewing of an early UFC tape, the Arizona Senator, declared the activity “barbaric,” “not a sport” and, most infamously, “human cockfighting” and sent letters to 50 governors in an effort to ban the UFC. Although McCain’s opinion of MMA has evolved along with the sport—in 2007, the lifelong boxing fan told NPR that “They have cleaned up the sport to the point, at least in my view, where it is not human cockfighting any more. I think they’ve made significant progress. They haven’t made me a fan, but they have made progress.”—his way with words lingers on the lips of many an uneducated MMA-detractor. In 2012, Fox Sports columnist Jason Whitlock randomly shot down MMA as “caged human cockfighting” because he had some unresolved football feelings.

MMA is not a real sport.

McCain isn’t the only person to drag out this particular talking point. Multi-time and multi-weight boxing champion Adrien Broner took a similar shot at mixed martial arts a few years ago. In this case, though, his concern wasn’t the ostensible viciousness of the activity, it was its… lack of divine intervention in the training process? “I’m really not too big on MMA. I really don’t look at it as a real sport because anybody can come into MMA and learn that,” he said in 2013. “You can learn that. You can’t just come into boxing and be a world champion. You got to be born with it. Right now, you can go into MMA, learn all the submission moves and be a world champion.”

MMA is barbaric.

“MMA is barbaric” is the “rap music? more like CRAP music” of the sports world: a tired reflexive strike tossed by old, unaware and overwhelmed people who are scared of a changing society and think they’re making a devastating point.

1NEWS presenter Peter Williams went for “barbaric, animalistic and crude” in his invective against MMAlast March. He followed that up with other sick burns like “I sometimes think it should be grouped with the nature and wildlife channels.”

The Brisbane Courier Mail’s Phil Rothfield went with “barbaric savagery” in his wildly misinformed 2013 column.

Sunday Independent columnist Paul Kimmage admitted to feeling ambivalent about the sport in an interview on RTÉ Radio 1′s Today With Sean O’Rourke in 2015. “I’m intrigued by it. I’ve been asking about it now for a long time as whether we should engage with this because there is a lot of pantomime to it. There’s a lot of show,” he mused. He then went on to drop the b word, though, and say that he was also repulsed with MMA after watching it.

And, in 2005, none other than Hulk Hogan declared that MMA was “pretty barbaric” and will always have a narrow audience on an episode of CNBC’s The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch. And we all know that the Hulkster would never do anything niche, barbaric, or untoward.

MMA is gay.

The favorite anti-MMA argument of anonymous message board assholes and playground and bar bullies everywhere occasionally makes its way into the public discourse. Most infamously, New York State Assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell brought it up wile arguing against the legalization of MMA in his state last year, jokingly calling it “gay porn with a different ending.”

Light heavyweight boxer Bernard Hopkins also went that route back in 2009. “Everybody is different. I don’t want to watch two grown men wrestling with panties on. I’m from the hood, we don’t play that. To me, I’m not buying a ticket to watch two grown men with panties on, sweating, [with] nuts in their face. That’s not me. To compare that to boxing is ludicrous. It’s a porno. It’s an entertainment porno. I’m not wrestling a guy with panties on and his nuts in my face, and they call that a sport,” he told BoxingScene. “I’m not criticizing people for what kind of entertainment they like. I think most of those people have chains and masks in their closets. There is something out there for everybody. I can understand if 90% of women were going to those things but I can’t understand a grown man sitting there with a couple of guys watching two grown men with panties on, sweating. That’s just my opinion. It’s not a good look.”

LEARN HOW TO COMBINE WEIGHT ROOM TRAINING WITH MMA TRAINING!

THE PURPOSES OF THE WEIGHT ROOM

Dave’s point was this: Strength in the weight room, conditioning on the track and never the twain shall meet. I disagree a bit. And in a bid to keep Dave pissed (since A. he’s a lot more fun, and B. I am now thousands of miles away instead of within throttling distance) I am about to present the fact that we can use the weight room for another purpose besides strength work.

What Dave does not understand is that there are some people out there who have goals outside of squatting 1,000 pounds and bench pressing 700. This is the world he lives in. He does not live in the world we all live in.

Some of us came into strength training for different backgrounds; sports – health – personal training etc. We use the weight room for a myriad of different purposes.

I came from a competitive martial arts background – Taekwondo and kickboxing. In our world we were more interested in how to hit harder, faster and for longer. We used the weight room solely as a means to improve our end goal – never as an end it itself.

Those of you involved in fighting sports or training other athletes know what I mean. It’s not always about improving max strength. It’s about max results. So while Dave lives in his world, we need to live in ours. This program is not about building a 700 pound bench press, far from it. This program is about using the weight room for conditioning.

STRENGTH BEFORE ENDURANCE

Before we get into the actual exercise prescription, I should point out that I still believe that maximal strength levels should be achieved prior to endurance or energy system development. My theory is this: when we are talking about endurance – we are talking about power endurance or speed endurance or strength endurance.

If we haven’t built up appreciable levels of power, speed or strength, then what the hell are we trying to endure? A low level of power? A low level of speed?

Conditioning coach Mike Boyle once pointed out that,

Based on the results to the recent EFS survey, you guys want to hear more about Mixed Martial Arts. Fighting sports are pretty unique in that they are the only activity where your sole goal is generally to render your opponent unable to continue.

No matter how far behind a fighter is, there is always the hope that one perfectly delivered strike will knock out an opponent; thereby winning the battle. Sport Combat is perhaps the ONLY activity whereby one of the participants can be hopelessly outclassed and even further behind, and yet at a stroke – Win. Decisively.

“IT IS SIGNIFICANTLY EASIER TO GET AN EXPLOSIVE ATHLETE ‘IN SHAPE,’ THAN IT IS TO MAKE AN ‘IN SHAPE’ ATHLETE EXPLOSIVE. THE FIRST WILL TAKE WEEKS THE SECOND MAY TAKE YEARS.”

In this article I’m going to combine conditioning in the weight room with MMA training. However this advice could easily be utilized in other sports.

ENDURANCE TRAINING

Traditionally endurance training for combat sports of mixed martial arts has looked something like this:

  • Run.
  • Repeat.
  • See A.

This is an effective approach if we think of competitive fighting as an aerobic dependent event. But it’s not. We are dealing with repetitive, albeit sub maximal power movements – which running does not replicate too well. Traditionally power athletes have over-trained their aerobic system to prepare for their anaerobic power sport.

So doing long distance work for anaerobic athletes can often make “joggers” out of “jumpers”. Let’s not build endurance at the expense of the power and strength components we have taken so long to build up.

What about sprinting? While again being effective, some conditioning coaches use sprint training as their sole method of energy system development (ESD). This is at best a short-sighted approach. It is not uncommon to see well conditioned fighters who have used sprint based ESD fatigue rapidly in hard matches.

The reason for this is although their cardio system is well conditioned the effect of lactic acid on their localized muscle groups is devastating. If we do not condition the muscle groups themselves to handle high levels of lactate, the cardio system will feel fine, but that area will lock up and shut down.

Kickboxers call this “heavy legs.” Motocross athletes experience the same phenomenon but call it “arm pump” – where despite feeling fine – the forearms become so pumped up and unable to move that the rider is toast anyway! And besides – no one wants to run! Can’t say I blame them.

No one I’ve ever met likes running. Except runners. And no matter what they tell you, they don’t like it either. The commercials that have the hot chick running along the beach with her dog smiling are lies. All the runners I see on my drive to work are miserable old fat bastards who look like they hate life.

The only other runners I see are my running sport athletes who are getting the crap beat out of them doing agility or conditioning with me. And they don’t like it either – trust me.

COMPLEXES

So what’s a good way of improving metabolic power, or doing interval training without running? By doing it in the weight room (can you hear Dave getting pissed?) using a method of lifting called complexes. Now I’m not the first person to ever use complexes. But after talking to my colleague Robert Dos Remedios (strength coach at College of the Canyons in Santa Clarita, CA) we felt the need to define the term:

Complexes are performing two or more exercises in a sequence with the same load. You complete all your reps with one movement first, then complete all your reps with the next movement.

Good Role Models in MMA and Boxing

On a lesser note – as there really are no instances of poor sportsmanship worse than the one noted above- the UFC’s Tito Ortiz got his rematch with Guy Mezger at UFC 19: Ultimate Young Guns on March 5, 1999 ( after losing to the same fighter back on May 30, 1997 ). He took advantage of this, winning the fight via TKO. Unfortunately for sportsmen everywhere, Tito Ortiz put on a t-shirt that read “Gay Mezger Is My Bitch,” after the fight and promptly flipped off Mezger’s Lion’s Den teammates. This, of course, started his well known rivalry with Ken Shamrock.

You almost hate to use Ortiz as an example since it appears he has done a lot of growing up since that time. In fact, a strong argument can be made that he has become a considerate athlete in recent years, as his stint as a coach on The Ultimate Fighter 3 would seem to indicate.

That said, there was a time when he was a pretty terrible sportsman and role model.

Couple these incidents with the constant issues regarding Terrell Owens of the NFL, and the sports landscape begins to seem kind of grim. Sometimes, you have to wonder if there are any good role models left out there.

Gratefully, there are. In fact, many of these can be found in sports where being a role model is harder to pull off. You know: the kind of athletic endeavors that involve punching, kicking, and trying to choke your opponent.

Like boxing and MMA.

Thus, let’s take a look at four guys you wouldn’t necessarily be ashamed to have your son follow in the footsteps of at this time.

Four excellent MMA and boxing ambassadors

Randy Couture

Okay, Randy Couture beat Chuck Liddell for the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship Title on June 6, 2003. Then he defeated Tito Ortiz to become the Undisputed Light Heavyweight Champion. After taking on Vitor Belfort in two successive matches ( he won the second after taking a finger in the eye in the first ) Couture found himself on TUF 1 coaching against Chuck Liddell, the man he was about to take on in UFC 52: Couture vs. Liddell 2.

During the show, Couture could’ve been talking junk to “The Iceman” the entire time. Fortunately for us all, he’s not that kind of guy. In fact, neither of them said anything negative about one another during the entire show.

Liddell deserves some props for this as well.

Regardless, after getting knocked out by Liddell in their rematch, Couture once again showed the class we’ve all become accustomed to. In fact, he almost seemed to be happy for Liddell, citing the problems Liddell had in getting a shot at the belt from Tito Ortiz after the fight to Joe Rogan.

On February 4, 2006, Randy Couture once again tasted defeat at the hands of Chuck Liddell. Afterwards, he made no excuses before announcing his retirement from the sport. He is now a UFC Hall of Famer and as respected a person and fighter as there has ever been in MMA.

By the way, he’s also coming out of retirement on March 3rd to fight Tim Sylvia for the UFC Heavyweight Title.

Randy Couture is a great role model and sportsman because he respects MMA and the people fighting in it. Enough said.

Kassim Ouma

Sometimes being able to simply persevere where others could not have is what makes someone a role model. Such is the case with Kassim Ouma.

Ouma was born in Kampala, Uganda on December 12, 1978 and lived there rather uneventfully until he was seven. It was at that time he was kidnapped and forced to serve in the National Resistance Army for the next ten years of his life.

In fact, it wasn’t until he started boxing that he got a reprieve from being a soldier. Further, during a national team amateur boxing tour in the United States in 1998, Ouma used boxing to his advantage again by defecting to America where he was granted political asylum.

Starting over in a foreign land, Ouma leaned on the thing that had helped him twice before.

Boxing. Soon after, this proved to be a good move.

In May of 2002, Ouma stopped Jason Papillion in eight rounds to win the USBA Light Middleweight Crown, capping off a set of stunning achievements considering his early years.

But just when one might believe that things had finally turned the corner for Ouma, he was shot in the abdomen. Think that stopped him?

Then think again.

Ouma rattled off multiple wins after the injury before finally getting the biggest fight of his career. He took advantage, beating Verno Phillips by decision for the IBF Middleweight Championship.

You’d think that the terrible things that have happened to Ouma would have left him bitter. Not the case. In fact, it’s the opposite. He’s really quite thankful for what he has.

And for sure, when Ouma sits down and prays at night he is thankful for the sport of boxing.

Perseverance and strength are what put Ouma on this list. We could all learn something from him. He clearly respects the sport that saved him.

Georges St. Pierre

Okay, St. Pierre had already been submitted by Matt Hughes before they ended up on TUF 4 together as coaches ( in Hughes’ case, a guest coach ). While on the show, Hughes clearly believed that he was in St. Pierre’s head and was trying to stay there; it was obvious that he wanted to remind him at every given juncture that he was the UFC Welterweight Champion.

So after St. Pierre came in and dominated Hughes, taking his UFC Welterweight Championship Belt at UFC: Bad Intentions on November 18, 2006, one might have expected some, ‘I told you so’ kinds of comments from the Canadian. Perhaps just a little something to rub in Hughes’ face. Instead, St. Pierre promised him a rematch and told him that he was the best fighter he’d ever faced.

Huh? Well, that’s kind of rare.

By the way, while Georges St. Pierre was a coach on TUF 4, he was actually helping welterweight fighters that would be slated to face him if he were to beat Matt Hughes ( which again, he did ). He could’ve been like Rich Franklin ( another guest coach ) and played things close to the vest, avoiding coaching like the plague. Instead, he came in with the attitude that he wanted to help each fighter achieve their goals regardless of how this philosophy might impact him later.

In the end, though, St. Pierre is a great role model and ambassador of MMA for one simple reason that pervades everything he does: his humility. Everytime St. Pierre talks, he comes across as someone who is happy to be around you, not someone who thinks that you are privileged to speak to him.

Which is why he deserves placement on this list.

Jermain Taylor

On December 3, 2005, Jermain “Bad Intentions” Taylor defeated the legendary Bernard Hopkins for the second straight time via decision. This time, however, the decision was unanimous and clear.

Taylor had arrived. All told to date, he has accumulated a 26-0-1 record during a boxing career that boasts wins over Bernard Hopkins ( twice ) and Kassim Ouma.

Let’s face it, the sport of boxing has hit some rough times; its popularity is clearly waning. That said, boxing is still an influential sport, particularly in the inner cities. That’s why it’s so nice to hear Taylor speak up in an HBO piece the way he did.

“I’m hoping that I can be a role model for the kids. Not the earrings, the long hair, the sagging pants, and big clothes. I think kids need a new role model.”

Lucky for everyone out there hoping to teach the kids right from wrong, Taylor seems not only willing to be a role model, he seems able. After all, this is a man whose father walked out on his family when he was only five years old. Unfortunately, this is the kind of selfish act that is becoming less and less rare. What people oftentimes forget is that such a decision leaves a single mother with only one way to support her children.

She needs to work.

And that’s what Taylor’s mother did. While she did this, Taylor took care of his three younger sisters, changing diapers and other things that kids his age never had to do. Still, Taylor’s unfortunate childhood left him with a better perspective on things. You see, the extra responsibility and early poverty that caused his family to miss so much has him knowing what’s important in life- time with the people you love.

“I want my kids to know me – to know what I like, and what I don’t like – to know my facial expressions. And the same way for them. I want to know the way they look when they’re mad, when they’re sleepy. Little things like that are part of being a dad.”

Nothing else needs to be said. Jermain Taylor is a an excellent role model and sportsman because he truly understands what’s important and embraces his role model status.

In sum, the world has changed a lot; thus, so have athletes. Further, bad news sells and the media is certainly buying. Oftentimes, it seems quite difficult to find sportsmen and role models competing in the professional sports world.

But they are certainly there. Randy Couture, Kassim Ouma, Georges St. Pierre, and Jermain Taylor serve as proof of this. These are special men that many of us can look up to.