Editor’s note: Greg Jones is a three-time Division I national champion wrestler out of West Virginia University. Today, he trains some of MMA’s top stars in Robbie Lawler, Michael Chandler, Volkan Oezdemir, Gilbert Burns, Logan Storley, Steven Mowry, and numerous others at Florida’s Hard Knocks 365. Following is his unique insight and knowledge as it applies to the mental aspect of combat.
“The coward and the hero… they feel the same. It’s what they do that makes them different.” – Cus D’Amato
There is a broad misconception among developing athletes that being nervous prior to competition or before pursuing a given task is a bad thing.
We all have had thoughts of “What is wrong with me?” or we allow the negative energy to control our mind and body, leading to a negative experience. Emotions don’t define you. We define how they affect us, so we must embrace these feelings and emotions.
Realize this: It is simply a natural response that your body is producing. It is nothing more than a physical manifestation of you preparing to do something great, something awesome, and it’s the same feeling you get before every competition, big or small. So do not shy away from it. In fact, embrace it. Allow it to empower you.
MMA Today recently caught up with Viktor Pesta who now plies his trade in the Fight Nights Globalpromotion. Pesta talked about why he believes he struggled in the UFC, his training situation, contract details and future ambitions.
Pesta feels that the call to the big show came way too early for him. He began training only five years prior to joining the UFC and unlike the majority of fighters on the roster he didn’t have a combat sports background to build upon.
There are guys who in the UFC quicker than five years but they maybe did wrestling their whole life. I didn’t do anything, just five years of training and that was it.
Another reason Pesta believes that he didn’t fully show his potential in the UFC was his training situation. He began training at a small gym in his native Czech Republic and even set up a website www.letmebeyoursparringpartner.com in order to find opportunities to train in more optimal conditions. Having spent time in AllStars in Sweden, Pesta found out the importance of training with people your own size.
“They don’t really have heavyweights. I figured it out after my fight with Derrick Lewis because he was such a big guy and I only trained with light-heavyweights in Sweden.”
Pesta also ventured to California to train with Alliance MMA, however, he ran into a similar problem – not enough sparring partners of his own size. Luckily, however, he did meet Neil Melanson there who was heading to Blackzilians. Melanson recommended Pesta to join him, as the Florida-based team would be a better fit for him due to the number of heavyweights who train there.
Having linked up Henri Hooft and the HardKnocks 365 team in Florida, Pesta believes that he has improved a lot in the last two years. He is now able to train with people his own size including heavyweights such as Matt Mitrione, Stefan Struve and Steve Mowry. As well as light-heavyweights Volkan Oezdemir and Linton Vassell. Although his results in the UFC may not have shown his improvement, Pesta has an explanation for that.
With a new four-fight Bellator MMA contract in hand, Dominic Mazzotta (13-2) has a date set for his next fight, as “The Honey Badger” is set to face Josh Sampo (11-5) at Bellator 197 in St. Charles, Missouri.
Mazzotta announced the bout in a FloCombat interview with James Lynch.
The bout will be Mazzotta’s third with the promotion, as he bounced back from a knockout loss against A.J. McKee at Bellator 178 to earn a win over Matt Lozano at Bellator 186 in Pennsylvania in November.
The Pittsburgh area native has recently made some big moves in his life, including getting married in Las Vegas last month and moving to Florida to train at the Hard Knocks 365 gym.
Mazzotta entered Bellator last year as one of the hottest prospects in the sport, riding a nine-fight winning streak with big wins at both featherweight and bantamweight.
ONE middleweight champion Aung La Nsang (22-10-0, 1NC) added the light heavyweight crown to his mantle with a spectacular knockout victory over Brazilian Alexandre Machado (8-3-0) at ONE: Quest for Gold in Yangon, Myanmar on Feb 23.
“The Burmese Python,” fighting in his native country, unloaded a right leg head kick through the guard of Machado to send him to the canvas. Follow up strikes forced referee Olivier Coste to call the bout at 56 seconds of the first round. The stoppage was the fastest in ONE’s light heavyweight history.
La Nsang now joins Martin Nguyen as the company’s only dual champions, with Nguyen looking to become the company’s only three-division champ with a win over bantamweight kingpin Bibiano Fernandes in March at ONE: Iron Will.
“One thing’s for sure. Myanmar, if we are united, nothing can stop us,” he said in the post-fight interview, while thanking his team, Hard Knocks 365 and striking coach Henri Hooft of The Netherlands.
Steve Mowry (3-0 MMA) is a young heavyweight in age (25-years-old) and experience (only 3-0 as a professional). Mowry has a lot of hype behind him with his tall build at 6’9″. MMA Today had the pleasure to talk to the prospect, Mowry about his future and many other facets.
First of all, How did you get into MMA? Do you have a background in any other sports?
I had heard about a sport where everything was legal and had seen commercials for UFC and TUF on TV but I got into it when I had read about it in a magazine. At that moment I knew it was something I wanted to do and be successful at.
Is MMA your full-time job or are you working somewhere else as well?
I train full-time 2-3 times a day but I also teach kickboxing three times a week and work part-time security on the weekends.
What would be your favorite striking technique and grappling technique?
My favorite striking technique is the uppercut. My favorite grappling technique is the rear-naked-choke.
You train out of Hard Knocks 365, how were you introduced to the camp? Who are some of your main training partners? You trained with the Blackzilians in the past, correct?
Yes I joined The Blackzilians in 2016. The move to Hard Knocks 365 was the next logical step. When Henri [Hooft] and Greg [Jones] left the Blackzilians, I followed them. My main training partners are Linton Vassell, Stefan Struve, Viktor Pesta, and Volkan Oezdemir.
UFC 221 wasn’t a card that likely drew a lot of eyeballs on pay-per-view, but for those who did watch the event, it offered some thrilling moments. It’s often hard to predict which MMA events will stand out the most. Some fights like Dustin Poirier-Justin Gaethje are pretty much can’t-miss ventures, but MMA in general delivers more surprises when it comes to action than other sports. Jake Matthews’ perseverance against Jingliang Li and Tyson Pedro’s deft submission of Saparbek Safarov were highlights on Saturday in Perth, Australia, but arguably the biggest thrills came from three destructive knockout finishes.
Israel Adesanya generated buzz ahead of his Ultimate Fighting Championship debut because of his glossy record: all wins, all knockouts. UFC 221 was a nice teaser of the promise he offers. Adesanya acknowledged himself it wasn’t his most impressive performance, but you could still see all the tools: the speed, movement and precision in his striking. It was also hard to miss the way Rob Wilkinson reacted to his strikes, as even Adesanya’s jabs landed emphatically. By the end, Wilkinson’s face was a mess and he was just covering up to protect himself from Adesanya’s barrage of offense.
If it was a bad night for Wilkinson, it was an even worse night for Cyril Asker, who was tasked with taking on young knockout artist and beer shoe enthusiast Tai Tuivasa. Like Adesanya, Tuivasa has knocked out every opponent of his MMA career. Unlike Adesanya, it has never taken him longer than a single round. That power was on display against Asker, as Tuivasa delivered incredible damage to the Frenchman’s face in very short time. It was the sort of performance that fans love from heavyweight fighters.
Much has been written about Luke Rockhold’s decision to train with Hard Knocks 365 in Florida rather than at American Kickboxing Academy (AKA) in California where he has been based for most of his career.
The decision was scrutinized because Volkan Oezdemir, his AKA teammate light heavyweight and champion Daniel Cormier’s opponent at UFC 220, also trained at Hard Knocks 365.
“I think that he’s looking for something a little bit different right now and I think as his brothers, we have to really respect and applaud him for that,” Cormier told the Sammy and the Punk show during an interview prior to UFC 220, indicating he was okay with Rockhold’s decision.
To those who felt Rockhold was being disloyal to his AKA teammates, he puts the blame on a narrative created by Conor McGregor. During The Ultimate Fighter season 22, McGregor accused T.J. Dillashaw, a coach on Team Faber, of turning his back on his camp, Team Alpha Male.
“Back in the day, people were jumping and changing training camps and doing what they needed to do to build upon their repertoire and their game and now one stupid Conor McGregor comment has driven everybody into this disloyalty, ‘snake in the grass’ bull[expletive],” Rockhold told The TSN MMA Show. “It’s just stupid. People need to wake up and learn.”
Throughout the first episode the UFC’s Embedded series for this weekend’s pay-per-view event in Boston, light heavyweight title challenger Volkan Oezdemir is shown training alongside former middleweight champ Luke Rockhold.
The same Rockhold who came up alongside Daniel Cormier at the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose and who remains close friends and training partners with the main he’ll face in the first of Saturday night’s twin title fights.
It’s an odd situation, but one that has had little impact on the unflappable Swiss challenger, who looks to complete an incredible initial 12 months on the UFC roster by claiming championship gold this weekend in Boston.
“We keep it really professional,” Oezdemir said of working alongside Rockhold at Hard Knocks 365, the South Florida facility that has become home to a number of elite talents over the last year. “I know he’s close to Cormier, so I’m not trying to get any insight or information. We’re training side-by-side, but basically I’m doing my stuff and he’s doing his stuff.
One of the top non-UFC flyweights in the world will be back in action next month.
Jose Torres will defend his Titan FC flyweight title against Alberto Orellano in the main event of Titan 48 on Feb. 16 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., officials told MMA Fighting on Friday.
Torres (6-0) is also Titan’s bantamweight champion. In his last fight, he successfully defended his 135-pound belt over Gleidson DeJesus by fourth-round submission at Titan 46 in November. The Chicago native last defended the flyweight belt in January 2017 and has held the gold since August 2016. Torres, 25, has spent his entire pro career to this point in Titan.
Orellano (5-2) is coming off a unanimous decision win over Mauricio Gomez Oquendo last March at SFC 22. Orellano is a native of Colombia and trains out of the 10th Planet school in Barranquilla.
In the co-main event of the card, Raush Manfio defends his lightweight title against Lee Lilly. Manfio (10-2) won the belt in November. Lilly (6-2) is on a six-fight winning streak.
As the New Year rolls in, so do new obstacles and challenges to overcome. There is no such thing as a holiday in our dictionary; Henri Hooft was busy training his troops on both Christmas and New Years day. There is no room for complacency in this industry and Hooft knows this better than anyone.
First up, is a rescheduled fight that will take place as part of the main card of UFC Fight Night 124 on January 14th. Kamaru Usman, will finally bump heads with Emil Weber Meek. They were originally due to fight at UFC 219, but Meek allegedly had visa issues. Now, it seems all the pieces are in place for this battle to happen. Though Meek is not a top 10 contender that Kamaru has long desired, his victory over him will surely secure him a top-10 opponent thereafter.
Michael Johnson will be in-tow with Kamaru, as he too is fighting on the card. It will be his first stint at featherweight and his imminent victory should see him be immediately propelled into the top-10 of the division, given that his opponent Darren Elkins, is at the 10th spot himself.
Next is a long-awaited fight in Volkan Oezdemir challenging Daniel Cormier for the light heavyweight title at UFC 220 in Boston. After some friendly back-and-forth banter on twitter, the gloves are starting to come off, as both held nothing back at the UFC 220 press conference. After only 3 fights, Volkan is in line for the title and it is without a doubt one of the quickest rises to the belt the UFC has seen in years. Though the bout was perceived as the main event, it is now in fact the co-main, as the UFC has booked Stipe Miocic versus Francis Ngannou for the heavyweight title as the de facto main event.
February 11th will see normalcy restored to the Middleweight title debate, as GSP has vacated, leaving Robert Whittaker the undisputed champion. Up steps, Luke Rockhold. The bout will take place at the Perth Arena in Australia, and serve as the main event. That’s right, Rockhold wants his belt back, and given his recent training-regime, he seems nothing short of hell-bent on getting it back, even though he’s fighting on Whittaker’s home turf. The main event is due to begin at 11 am, local Perth time, in order to accommodate the primetime broadcasting over on the western hemisphere.
Gilbert Burns will be next up, taking on Oliver Aubin-Mercier at UFC Fight Night at UFC on Fox 28, on February 24th at the Amway Center only 3 hours north of Hard Knocks 365, in Orlando. He is coming off an emphatic over-hand KO over Jason Saggo, and will look to improve upon his 13-2 record.
And finally, at UFC 222 on March 3rd at the acclaimed T-Mobile Arena, The Skyscraper, Stefan Struve, will make his return to the octagon versus UFC Heavyweight Veteran, Andrei Arlovski. Struve is coming off a loss versus Aleksander Volkov at UFC Fight Night 115 last year. No matter, as he is still in the top 15, and after beating Arlovski, he’ll be back in the top-contenders in no time.