So You Want to Be a Fighter?

Good Looking Loser contributor, Lubomyr, is the Maryland Light-Heavyweight Muay Thai Champion.

He also teaches it for a living.

He's not just a guy that talks about MMA online and critiques other's YouTube videos. In the day and age of the Internet, it's rare that you'll come across someone that actually has legitimate experience with what their talking about. Just like very few guys online have experience with picking up women and holding their legs up in air, even fewer guys have experience in kicking the shit out of people for a living.

If you are interested in Martial Arts, I suggest you take his advice to heart.

He knows what he's talking about and has the scars and championship belt to prove it.

So You Really Want to Be a Fighter?

The rise of Mixed Martial Arts in the United States has helped rekindle the American fighting spirit, and people are starting to associate themselves more with martial arts.

Society is beginning to realize that fighters are people just like everyone else, and that maybe we too could be fighters in the big league. A mean stare followed by a sucker punch can make you a tough guy on the street, but there’s still that itch to test yourself in the ultimate arena.

When a guy walks in to my class and tells me that he really wants to be a fighter-

I always ask him-

"Why?"

He often says-

“Because I love to fight.”

Wrong answer.

If you want to be a REAL fighter, you had better love to TRAIN.

Lubomyr-champion-md-stateWhile I’m currently making a career in MMA, Boxing has always been my first love, and I currently work part time as a Boxing coach at the Yamasaki Academy in Rockville, MD.

Aside from Boxing, I also compete in Muay Thai, Mixed Martial Arts, and Jiu-Jitsu. I’m the reigning Light Heavyweight Champion for a regional Muay Thai promotion in Virginia, and was a member of the US Men’s Thai Boxing team at the WKA World Championships last year; I was lucky enough to earn a Bronze medal for the United States. During my time with the US Marines, I worked as a Marine Corps Martial Arts instructor where I taught the basics of Judo, Muay Thai and Tae Kwon Do to incoming Marines. Prior to going into the Marines, I earned a 1st degree black belt in both Aikido and Hapkido.

If you ask me what I do, I don’t say that I fight; I say that I’m a fighter.

It’s a lifestyle that has taken over the momentum and direction of my life.

I have had to change my career twice in order to allow myself the proper time to pursue my training.

I left a job with the federal government in order to be a group fitness instructor. The work was less stable, but I had the opportunity to exercise at my job, and this complemented my martial arts training better than sitting behind a desk for nine hours.

While I have no regrets about my decision, I would ask all would-be fighters to consider what they are willing to sacrifice in the pursuit of this goal.

It’s not a failure if you decide that this isn’t worth your time and effort.

The payoff can be small and infrequent, the road is long, and there has to be a greater purpose in your heart than just loving to fight.

But let’s say that you’re comfortable with the requirements and you’ve got the discipline to go the whole way.

What’s the first step, how do you balance your training, and what should you do to give yourself the best head start possible?

First and foremost, you have to find a good school.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu schools are opening up everywhere these days, and this is usually a good place to start.

Ideally, your academy would have a grappling, striking, and MMA coach.

However, be wary of the striking programs at certain Jiu-Jitsu schools, as some of them are taught by people who have minimal experience in the ring.
(Good Looking Loser says: Do you see why I like this kid so much?) 

Many grappling based martial arts academies are trying to branch into MMA, and are quick to name someone “head instructor” provided that he/she looks the part.

Basic knowledge is good, but it isn’t nearly enough.

A mediocre striking coach might not know that the best way to beat a rookie opponent is to put the pressure on until he breaks and starts to doubt himself, or that you need to sit back in your defensive stance in order to keep your field of vision from narrowing too much. These are skills that are best taught to you by a true expert of his field, not by someone who’s had a handful of amateur kickboxing matches.

Remember that even the highest ranking instructor is still a human being.

Everyone makes mistakes, but the mistakes of a coach will hurt his fighters.

Lubomyr-cut

I’ve separated a rib, broken my sternum, torn my quadriceps, and have suffered a major concussion all because of the negligence of a trainer. These people didn’t intend for me to get hurt, but an honest mistake in the fight game can have heavy repercussions.

Experience is key, and many instructors have an online paper trail that you can follow and see what they’ve actually achieved. Someone’s online profile on their own website may not tell you everything you want to know. Some martial artists simply lie about their accomplishments because it’s hard to substantiate certain claims.

However, competition records are a good way to look back and see if your would-be coach has walked the path that you’re about to walk. If your coach was never a competitor, then be wary of their methods. Granted, there have been good fight coaches who have never fought, but they are few and far between.

They don’t have to be a former world champion, but they have to have walked the walk.

It makes more sense to seek out the best coach in each respective discipline, and then have a veteran MMA fighter/coach to help you put your skills together.

Second, you need to have a productive (yet efficient) training schedule.

I train 4 days a week at an academy that teaches Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Muay Thai, and MMA. However, I also spend 2 days a week with a very seasoned Boxing coach at a different facility, and spend 1 day per week training with a local university Wrestling team.

While I don’t knock the quality of my MMA academy, I realize that I have to give proper time and respect to each fighting style involved in MMA. I can’t just learn Boxing or Wrestling only as it applies to a Mixed Martial Arts fight because an MMA fight can quickly turn into a Striking Only or Grappling Only match. Your opponent may be a superb college wrestler, and your Jiu-Jitsu coach may not know all of the tricks taught at Iowa State Wrestling.

While this type of schedule seems like a tall order (and it is), I recommend that you start with three martial arts training sessions per week, and an extra day in between to do your own strength & conditioning.

I would recommend two days of grappling, and one day with a striking coach.

The reason that you want to train more grappling at first is because striking can be practiced on your own as well. Spending an hour in front of the mirror, or a punching bag, is time well spent. While mitt work and sparring are essential to developing your striking skills, you can still make up a lot of ground by working solo. However, it’s very tough to develop good dexterity and flow without a training partner. It’s easier to understand the technique of striking by watching it.

Grappling has a lot of subtle pressure and balance factors that determine how you react; these are harder to understand by simply watching a grappling match. A good coach that you can bounce ideas off of is vital especially at the beginning of your grappling training. You will quickly learn whether or not this type of lifestyle is worth your time and effort. Like I said, fighting for the sake of fighting won’t be enough to keep you motivated and disciplined as your grind through months and months of training in preparation for a single fight. I’ve had fights that have lasted less than 1 minute, but the work that went into preparing for that 1 minute fight was extremely demanding and time consuming.

grappling-example

The good news is that you don’t have to be a professional fighter in order to fight.

Fight gyms (whether they be Boxing, Muay Thai, or MMA) give you the luxury of fighting right away.

It’s called sparring, and it’ll quickly test whether you’re emotionally ready to fight someone who is going to hurt you. Before you decide to throw your hat into the cage, make that sure you’re psychologically ready to walk into a gym every day knowing that there are people ready to put pain to you.

By the time you step into the cage for your first fight, you should have already sparred hundreds of rounds.

It takes a while to become the best guy at your school and, when you finally do, you will have to then travel to another gym where you’re not the best. Essentially, you’re on the constant lookout for people that can kick your ass because that’s the only way to get better.

This is why I would recommend AT LEAST a year of constant training before you’re ready for your first amateur fight.

ufc-hector-lombard

Maintaining this kind of schedule day in and day out will take a toll on your body and energy level. A clean diet doesn’t have to be Spartan; it just has to be common sense-

Keeping these things in mind will help your body recover faster, and will keep you feeling stable.
(We'll talk specifics on a fighter's diet sometime)

You will be able to stay focused on success and not on how drained you feel.

A bit off topic but my personal recommendation: hard liquor is better than beer.
Beer always leaves me feeling tired the next day, whereas liquor just leaves me feeling hung over. A hang over I can deal with; but feeling bloated, hazy, and sluggish is no good.

Lubomyr-championship-belt

Third, learn about and appreciate your sport.

To top everything off, it would be wise to become well studied in the history of your sport.

Youtube has become an encyclopedia of Boxing and MMA fights. You can spend hours simply watching different fights, and it’s all for free. The sport has evolved over time, but the fundamentals have not.

All great fighters have made their own claim as the prototypical martial artist, and it’s a good idea to see them in action when they were in their prime. Guys like Frank Shamrock, Bas Rutten, and Kazushi Sakuraba are a good start if you’re looking for whom to research. To put it in perspective, Mike Tyson’s managers bought him the largest video collection of boxing matches in the history of the world. Why? They wanted him to know absolutely everything he could about the sport. Knowledge is power, and it starts by you making a concentrated effort to learn everything you possibly can about your craft.

With this, I wish you all good luck in your training.

From my experience, the best memories I’ve created from my fighting career haven’t been from the fights themselves.

Instead, I value who I’ve become through this lifestyle, and I value the friends that I’ve made over the years. It really is a band of brothers, and it’s good to know that your brothers can wreck shit if things get dicey. We win together and we lose together.

Like Renzo Gracie said-

“A good friend doesn’t break up a fight.
A good friend comes in with a flying kick.”

For further MMA discussion or to reach Lubomyr, check out our MMA Forum and/or leave a comment below.