Competition is anxiety producing. Each athlete has to discover their unique coping mechanism that allows them to perform at their best despite the stress of the event. Regardless of how rigorous the training environment may be, this is not a solution that is found within the walls of the gym. No, this skill is only acquired through the exposure of standing across from a someone you know is going to do everything in their power to beat you. It is all but undeniable that wrestlers make the smoothest transition to professional MMA competition. However, I do not believe this is because wrestling is the best base skill for mixed martial arts. The vast majority of techniques from wrestling do not translate to MMA and many wrestling habits will get you destroyed when faced with a competent grappler or striker. Also, most of the wrestlers who find success in the cage only do so after adopting a striking or BJJ intensive strategy. Johnny Hendrix is known more for his devastating right hand than his great inside trip. So why then do wrestlers reach such high levels? In my estimation it is because wrestlers endure hundreds of matches in a grueling format of combative competition. Just as amateur boxers have hundreds of bouts before stepping into the professional arena, wrestlers are groomed from an early age to stand across from someone and keep themselves together. I’m sure Ben Askren cried, threw up, had rubber legs, under performed, over trained and mentally quit in many a wrestling match coming up the ranks. Somewhere along the line though he zoned in and found his way to win and that mental fortitude laid the foundation for a successful professional career. For those who dream of wearing UFC gold, delay the gratification of being a pro and enjoy your time as an amateur. Take your loses in stride and find new ways to challenge yourself across as many disciplines as possible.
Even more important though, find a good gym to train at, if you’re in the Poughkeepsie area check out Precision MMA in LaGrange, NY and if you find yourself in Morris County, NJ check out Pure Mixed Martial Arts.
In the sport of mixed martial arts there are two distinct groups of people – fighters and martial artists. To the uninitiated they appear one in the same. Prior to bouts they prepare and perform the same, as a result many do not recognize or appreciate the difference. The distinction is one of motivation and lifestyle. A fighter enters the ring chasing fame, fortune, excitement or glory. A martial artist seeks self-knowledge, physical expression, creativity and truth in combat. They take the ideals of the arts – discipline, courage, wisdom, gentleness and efficiency and internalize them. Training is not seen as an activity or preparation, but a way of life. Take away the money, fame, crowd and cameras and the fighter will go elsewhere, the martial artist will remain. Sadly, at the professional level of MMA the fighters have strength in numbers. When fights aren’t booked the training mats are desolate. Strength and conditioning coaches and nutritionists are given higher esteem than jiu-jitsu and muay thai instructors. Training is seen as a means to an end rather than an end unto itself. Learning the nuances of the art is secondary, winning is king.
Among the sea of combatants stands a notable exception, a pure martial artist – Andy Main. I first met Andy as the quiet teenager who somehow always had a black eye. He wasn’t the strongest or the fastest guy in the room. He didn’t boast any elite credentials or come from an athletic pedigree, but he stood out in his own way. He was the grinder, the guy who showed up to practice the day after a major tournament, the guy who never stayed home no matter how many shots he took the day before. Along with this quiet toughness was a thirst for knowledge. While most on the fight team barely knew how to tie their belt he was a staple at every gi class. He became an unpredictable striker learning to fight from both stances and learning Judo to break out of the typical wrestler mold.
Andy began racking up victories making a name for himself at a blitzkrieg pace. At just 21 years old he became one of the youngest cast members of The Ultimate Fighter. While his dedication paid high dividends his grueling pace took a toll on his body. His bright fire was extinguished after a bout of shingles, mono, flu and every other ailment known to man. He was sidelined from competition for two years, at the time he didn’t know if he’d ever fight again.
While he was forced to tone his training schedule back he maintained his martial arts lifestyle. Learning as much as he could; working his mind when his body wouldn’t cooperate. Helping his teammates prepare for their bouts he discovered his love for teaching.
Fast forward and Andy’s endurance has paid off. He’s riding a 4 fight unbeaten streak that includes battles against some of Japan’s top competitors. He’s teamed up with his brother to open the top Denville MMA gym and is now spreading the martial arts lifestyle to people across Morris County.
As a student Andy has been willing to do what others could not or would not. He made the 90 minute drive to train at my gym. He’d seek out the top minds in the sport for seminars and training camps. He’d put his ego aside and commit to training outside his comfort zone day in and day out.
So it was with great pride that I stood alongside his fellow instructors Jamey Cruz and Yanni Hronakis as his black belt was tied around his waist.
Train with Andy at his Denville MMA gym Pure MMA Free for 14 days call 973-784-3777 or visit www.puremixedmartialarts.com