Wednesday, October 29th, 2014

5 things every cornerman should know before working a fighter’s corner (#4 is the most important)

They often said those who can, do…and those who can’t…we’ll…the coach. LOL

Next month will mark 12 years since my first professional MMA debut Nov 23rd, 2002 in Phoenix Arizona, USA.

Since that time I have traveled the world competing in Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Submission Grappling, and Muay Thai.  I’ve had some success and made some lifetime memories.  I’ll never forget the time I soccer Kicked a Russian in Siberia, or the time I competing on National TV grappling an Olympic Judo fighter for one of those rich Oil Sheik’s everyone is always joking about. I’ve also had some tough losses, losing my TUF qualifying fight to eventual finalist Damarques Johnson, or the time I fractured my arm fighting Muay Thai in Thailand.  Through all the up’s and down’s of a 12 year career, I’ve learned a lot about the valuable things needed in a coach.

Besides competing I’ve had an opportunity to corner fighters around the world competing on some of the largest events in K1, Muay Thai, MMA, Boxing, Shanshou, etc, with great success.  Over the years I’ve learned that sometimes the Thai boxing coach with 400 fights really has never had experience showing techniques or holding pads, because they have spent 400 fights preparing themselves for battle.  I’ve also discovered that sometimes that experience is invaluable…meaning if you’ve never been wrapped in plastics in a hot sauna, or dunked in a bathtub of sizzling water…don’t expect me to have patience with you when you ask me if I’ve seen my medicals for the pre fight checkups…lol.

Below is 5 things every cornerman needs to know before working as a professional corner.

1. Keynote Speaking-

Sure you are not going to be at the front of a conference hall packed with people, but those same skills that you could learn at the Toastmasters Club are the same skills you can use to help win a fight for your athlete.  The ability to speak loud, and clearly is an important skill for a coach, especially if you are competing in front of 10,000+ screaming fans and your athlete is on the other side of the cage pinned against the bottom of the fence, taking Tito Ortiz style GNP.  The ability to feel comfortable projecting your voice in front of thousands of people (possibly millions if TV broadcast is included)…is important for a coach.  I’ve also found great benefits in being able to use hang gestures in communicate–situations where my athlete can see me and I don’t want his opponent to specifically hear the suggestion.


2. A couple words of compassion, motivation, a friendly hug-

Hmmm. It’s hard to explain, but the fights I have gone into KNOWING I was going to win, are the fights 90% of the time I’ve won.  The fights where I have went into the competition feeling less than confident, my performance showed regardless of the outcome.  I have a friend, who is a very famous K1 veteran and MMA fighter who always jokes about how his brother use to prepare him for a fight.

‘This guys a killer’…’You’ve got to kill him before he kills you’…’Don’t embarrass our family’!!!…LOL. I kid you not, if someone said that to me, I might just go to the bathroom and never return.  As a fighter the emotional roller coaster leading up to the fight is EXACTLY what makes fighting such a challenging SPORT.  The idea of getting into a Bar Fight isn’t as ‘frightening’ as the idea of scheduling a bar fight weeks in advance, promoting it on your FB, asking your Mom, Dad, Girlfriend, to watch it on TV, and then both agreeing to get in the best shapes of our lives…lol

I need a cornerman that is going to help settle my nerves.  Someone that when they see me throwing up in the garbage can will make a joke about how it is normal, and it only means my body is ready for battle…lol.  Simple things like Telling me I am doing a good job with snapping my jab BEFORE they tell me to make sure I’m bringing it back to my eye…Can boost self esteem in the locker room making that Jab an actual weapon once I step into the ring.

Training camp is grueling and long, the weight cut is difficult and mentally taxing, the pressures of fighting are a roller coaster of emotion, and win or lose, I’m going to be signing up to do this again…so having someone who makes me feel confident, relaxed, prepared, focused, is an invaluable component of being ready to fight.


3. How to wrap hands-

I’m going to take this one step further.  You have to know how to wrap hands that can be signed off by a sanctioned commission.  That means no tape over the knuckles, and limits on supplies.  Those of you who have ever fought in Thailand…having a coach that knows a few of those tricks can come in handy too…lol.  While there are shows now that provide someone to wrap your fighters hands, that does not always mean things are going to go as planned.  It is always nice to have someone who understands how to secure your hands in a fashion that will allow them to remain healthy.  Win or Lose, the biggest concern is to try and remain as healthy as possible, especially if you’re planning on having a long career in Combat Sports.  Protecting your hands with a legit wrap job is the priority of the corner–

4. Can we get Organized SON?!

What are you going to do with your mouth guard? Who is going to hold on to it before the fight? in between the rounds? Where do I get water? Do I sit down or stand? Who takes the stool?

Those are some questions that if you are answering for the first time inside the ring, you are losing valuable recovery time.  With only a 1 minute break in between rounds, it is important to maximize that time.  (or if your Yoel Romero…maybe by a few more seconds to recover…lol)

The cornerman should go out of their way to have things as organized as possible leading unto the fight.  Keeping track of the fight banner, organizing travel to the venue, double checking supplies, dealing with last minute fight ticket requests from family and friends, or any of the other million little crisis situations that come up between weigh ins and fight time at the venue are all things that distract the fighter from their task of winning, and details a good cornerman will try their best to manage for you.

5. A Keen eye to detail-

Hmmmm, This one might come with experience too, lol.  Ultimately as a fighter, the cornerman is offering a ‘suggestion’.  Win or Lose, it is the fighter who is competing, very few people can tell you who actually cornered Mike Tyson as Heavyweight world champion, they only remember those Tyson Ko’ highlight reels, lol.  So anything that is offered to the fighter, needs to be offered in a process that still gives the fighter a clear understanding of the options available to them, in a fashion that gives them the quickest reaction time, so that the information is still relevant once they’ve processed it.

If you notice the fighter is dipping his head for a knee before he shoots, or that he is circling me into his coaches corner…LET ME KNOW…LOL.  The more I trust in the coaches ability to dissect Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and Wrestling transitions, the more I will process their advice and use it.

Notice the top 5 wasn’t ‘Brazilian Jiu Jitsu World Champion’, ‘UFC Veteran’, or even ‘Professional fighter’.  While Those are important things to have in a cornerman, depending on the fight, the amount of coaches allowed in the corner (3 in corner 2 in ring for most sanctioned events)–, and other variables associated with the night…I have discovered that a coach who is able to help me manage the physiological beast that is fighting, is the coach who is going to help me defeat my toughest opponent.

As always, Yesterday was the release of Al Batal, this week featured a decision victory for Tariq…if you listen closely during the fight, you can hear an example of my cornering :)

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