MMA and monogamy don’t mix. Before I get angry letters, realize that I’m not talking from spouses, boyfriends or girlfriends. In this week’s Draft Board, we’ll talk about why settling down with for one partner doesn’t work.
Last week at the gym we had a couple fighters visit from the Netherlands. This was nothing rare, we often have a variety of visiting students come in to participate. I think it’s great that people will go to different gyms and diversify their training. Unfortunately, these particular gentlemen did not get the most out of their visit. They trained with one another for every single practice that week. Here they are, at a new gym thousands of miles away, and they’re practicing with the same person they have at home!
This wasn’t because of a language barrier (they spoke English perfectly), or because they didn’t have the right amount of skills. They chose to do this because it was much more comfortable than challenging themselves. This behavior isn’t unique to visiting students. Just look at your gym and notice how the same people seem to partner up on a consistent basis. Fighters, like people in general, will gravitate toward what makes them the most comfortable. That’s why strikers are mysteriously absent on grappling days and jiu jitsu guys miraculously have injuries on sparring day.
In order to become a great fighter, you have to constantly put yourself in uncomfortable situations. The best way to do this is by interacting with new people. During my fight career, I trained with world champion Anthony Pettis. Is he a great fighter? Absolutely. Would I have had the same level of growth if he were my sole training partner? No. It may seem counterintuitive, but it’s true. Even if you’re on the mat with a UFC champion, you’ll eventually become familiar with them. You’ll start to read their tendencies and become comfortable. That doesn’t mean you’ll beat them, but it does give you a certain advantage. Even the best fighters have tendencies. Instead of learning how to fight, you’re only learning how to beat one man/woman. Think of your strength and conditioning program. Can you do the same workout every day for 52 weeks and expect increasing gains? Of course not. In the same way, you have to give your fight IQ the same type of muscle confusion to keep it on its toes.
Most of the time when we diagnose training problems, the solutions are complicated. Luckily, the answer this time is simple — find someone else. Even if you’re in a small gym with only a few fighters, chances are you’ll have at least a few different partners. Even people that have trained for years with the same exact coach adopt different tendencies and use different techniques. Everyone has their own style and the more permutations you learn to defend, the better off you will be .
Monogamy can be a great thing (just wanted to add that in case my wife was reading), but it doesn’t have a place in MMA. If you only drill with the same person, you’re doing yourself and them a huge disservice. So go ahead, be promiscuous with your training partners. You’ll thank me when you’re older.