The Problem with UKMMA Coaching Today?

The growing poularity of mixed martial arts has led to a large demand for mma coaching. Unfortunatly the number of high level or even competent coaches is nowhere near to matching this demand. The scary part is that anyone can call themselves a Mixed Martial Arts coach its not like there is a governing body to regulate.This regularly happens when someone looks around and sees there is no mma in an area and decides to give it a go.

They convince a small cult like following that they are the shit and strut around in the head coaches shirt teaching utter nonsense.  Beyond tarnishing the good name of the sport this is all harmless fun. That is until these coaches decide they want some fighters and throw a few of their most talented guys in the cage with a professionally trained athlete. This problem is compounded when traditional martial artists market themselves as running MMA programs with no relevent backgrounds. They simply do what theyve always done but replace the karate gi for some venum shorts.

This all comes down to paying your dues. With any other sport or industry an athlete is coached themselves. Then when that coach decides they are ready they get to coach on a limited basis. As they develop the athlete gains more responsibilities and after a while they may be adept enough to run their own gym. The problem is that a lot of us OG mma guys are self trained and the guys who had coaches often had bad ones. This first generation of coaches has a responsibility to constantly strive for better practices.

Even a successful career in Mixed Martial Arts is not sufficient, in my eyes, to warrant the title Coach. This sport evolves so fast, the requirements for success change all the time. I began competing at a time that if all you had was a good overhook triangle you were a total bad ass. You could amasss an undefeated record just with that skillset. You’d also get a lot of guys killed if thats all you brought to the coaches role today. A few years ago no one in the UK had any wrestling, now they do. Do you know how to use the cage as a tool? If not then it will cost you as this is where fights are lost and won in modern mixed martial arts.

The distinction must be made between the informal training group and the mixed martial arts business. A group of guys working among themselves to get better is a very cool thing, it is how a lot of us got started. But when someone decides to make money from the enterprise without having put the time in thats upsetting. If you are coaching MMA you have a duty to continually improve your coaching skills. This is not a job where you clock in and clock out. When you are not coaching, you are training to improve your own skill set, when you have done that you are watching fights and instructionals, but then again you can’t slack on your strength and conditioning knowledge, but theres that book on sports psychology to read and before it all you have to update the weight cutting and reconstitution stuff.

What Makes a Good MMA Coach?

Technical Knowledge

You dont need to have won the Mundials, an Olympic Gold Medal and a belt at Lumpinee Stadium to justify a coaches role, but a high degree of technical competence is a prerequiste. You need to know the fundamental principles in each of MMA component sports before you can coach mma as a whole. Can you imagine a jits coach glossing over stuff like posture and weight distribution or a striking coach not starting with balance and stance? The more proficient you are in the technical aspect of the component sports the more of an asset you will be to your fighters.

The better you are technically the better you will be at reading a fight and the gameplanning aspect of the coaches role. Last year at the Superior Challenge event in Sweden I was lucky enough to watch a UFC card with a bunch of guys like Urijah Faber, Pedro Rizzo, Thales Leites, Rich Clementi and Kyacey Uscola. Listening to these guys talking about fighting was eye opening. They were experts at reading a bout, they understood fighting. At times I thought big Pedro was playing a Jose Aldo videogame, he would say what Aldo should try and seconds later it was happening.

If there are technical areas you are lacking in make sure you have access to someone who can plug these holes and having multiple sport coaches is great for differing perspective. This is one of the reasons the griphouse has on last count  16 different coaches, 10 of which work directly with the pro team.

Having a coach who has competed in a lot of different combat sports is uusally a good sign.

Communication skills.

There is more to coaching than being a bad ass. No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care. If its evident by their actions that a coach does not give a crap the guys will pick up on it and their compliance with the system will suffer. The role of a coach is to bring a positive learning atmosphere to every session. The coach is the guy that has to make a room of people battering each other way more enjoyable than it could ever be.  I met Martin Rooney recently and he’s a master of this aspect of coaching, I was literally working my ass of during glute activation drills that I had done a million times and rarely paid much attention to anymore. That intensity continued throughout the workout as the level of coaching was so high.

Being a great motivator is not something anyone is born with and can be trained just like any other skill. A great coach will read up on different learning models and constantly be trying out new techniques to get people to do what they want. If fighters does not buy into the system the coach cannot do his job.

Project Management

I spoke about this in the previous blog post and its probably the aspect of coaching thats done least well. Rest assured you will need a black belt in excel, an never ending to do list app to work from and a calender which might as well replace sat and sunday with the words @ a fight show.

This is still the weakest part of my coach game but it is something I am working to improve upon all the time. For a guy who gets punched in the head a lot my organisational skills have improved despite the impact related damage to short term memory.

If your coach is covering all these bases congrats you have a keeper.


This revival of the blog has been in many ways inspired by the new year, our imminent catastrophic deaths (2012 mofos) and a desire to be more productive. Playing the crap out of Skyrim has been a lot of fun but after 80 hours you realise that all your doing is chores for other people. Running around collecting their shit, cooking food and sending messages to people. Pretty much exactly what you were doing in real life but with less dragon slaying

I am currently a tiny bit crippled with an elbow that hates me and for the first time in many years I find myself not able to grapple, wrestle, punch or generally be a sparring asset for our fighters. Ive been pretty lucky with injuries and this is the first time anything potentially a bit dodgy has raised its nasty head.

So instead of self harming or closing the gyms fire door on my head I decided to throw myself into coach mode in a much bigger way. This got me thinking about what is an mma coach, what qualifies somebody to become an mma coach,  what makes a good one and what are their responsibilities?

What is a mixed martial arts coach?

For me this guy is the problem solver, organiser, policy setter and motivator of the fight team. Hes the guy that tells everyone whats going too happen on any given day of a camp. He  gets the fighters to the appropriate people and organises the appropriate sessions. Hes the guy that remembers to buy albolene in 100ml tubs because you only have hand luggage on the flight. Everything to do with the fighters and fighting is in some way his responsibility. The growing professionalism in the sport means this reguires even more work. You need databases with fighters passport numbers, records and addresses, you need to know somewhere to get bloods done , have access to a sauna 24hrs a day and knowing someone who can hook up an IV will make you a fighters best friend.

So we are looking at someone who has mad project management skills and thats before we even discuss stuff like technical ability in the various ranges of fighting, strength and conditioning knowledge and game planning ability.

I think the best definition is this: Hes the dude the fighters rely on to ensure that all they have to do is  train ridiculously hard and assualt a guy in a cage with very few clothes on. It can be a crap tonne of work and If your managing the same fighters its an even bigger ballache.

But when they compete you get to bask in the reflected glory and take a bit of pride in the fact that you did your part in helping an individual experience something that very few people have. Totally worth it.

And with the relisation that anything over 600 words will never be read by anyone ill leave it there. Part two will be on its way tomorrow, What qualifies someone as an MMA coach?