UFC 102 – solid. All the fights on the card were entertaining. I especially loved the Nog/Couture fight and wished it could have gone 5 rounds. I was surprised how tough Randy was against Nogueira’s chokes. That guy is a stud.
Anyway, the pleasure of viewing 102 was so awesome, I created a few “motivational posters” to commemorate it.
John McKean (left) and I chilling after some training at FusionBJJ
Salt Lake City is a fascinating place. For our population, we have an incredible amount of MMA goodness: fighters, trainers, gyms, venues … we’re pretty stacked. I have been fortunate to meet a number of them and I wanted you to be able to get to know them too. Namely, I had a chance to catch up with local fighter John McKean, and ask him a few questions.
SLCMMA: Tell me a little bit about your background in martial arts.
John: I started training BJJ in 1998 in New Orleans, La. I was living in Mississippi at the time, so me and a friend made the journey a few times a week to train. A few years later we opened up a “school”. I use that term loosely because we trained everything from batting cages to Karate. At the time, we used books and VHS tapes to learn and no one in Mississippi even knew what BJJ or MMA was. My friend attended a seminar with Professor Pedro Sauer and shortly after we became affiliates of his. This was pure luck – or whatever you want to call it – because his JJ is some of the best out there. In 2004 we managed to get one of his top black belts, Allen Hopkins, to move to Mississippi and take over our school. Later in 2005, I lived in Brazil for 6 months training with Royler Gracie. After coming home from Brazil I decided to move to SLC to train with Professor Sauer and start fighting MMA. Since then, I have been traing Muay Thai, MMA, and wrestling.
SLCMMA: With all of your influences in jujitsu, what can you say about your fighting style? Do you focus on winning fights on the ground?
John: I want to finish the fight by whatever means necessary. The ground is were I am most comfortable but I love the whole stand up game, and really, I enjoy every aspect of it. My goal is to be the most well rounded fighter I can be.
SLCMMA: So what was it that initially made you want to compete in MMA?
John: As soon as I saw UFC fights in the 90′s I wanted to do MMA. I did sport JJ for many years and MMA felt like a natural progression. Although sport JJ and MMA are very different, I think competing sport JJ helped me a lot in the cage. I also wanted to test myself to see if I could apply what I had learned.
SLCMMA: How did you first get into your MMA fight?
John: SLC has a weekly fight show called the UCE. All I did was contact them and they put me on a card. (Check here at Ucombat’s website to find out more)
SLCMMA: What advice could you give guys who are looking to get into MMA, either as a hobby or as potential professional? Also, how might their approach and training differ?
John: First off, find a gym that fits your personality. We are very fortunate to have many MMA gyms to choose from so finding one that fits you is important. Don’t be in such a rush to get in the cage either.
Take the time and learn the arts, roll with guys that just do JJ, box with guys that just box, and then put it all together. Fighting should be the reward form training hard. So many people wanna skip all the work and just jump in the cage, and those people are the ones who get hurt or are only around for a short time.
The main difference in a person doing it for a hobby or someone who wants to compete is time and hard work. A fighter is gonna eat sleep and breathe fighting – there is always something you can be working on. I train 5-6 days a week because I don’t want to lose. If you’re doing it for a hobby and want progress, at least 2-3 days will get you there. The thing with martial arts is the more you put into it the more you get out. You can’t say that for a lot of things in life.
Don’t forget to have fun either.
SLCMMA: I’ve rolled with you a number of times and something I’ve noticed is that you have a very clean open guard and just a difficult guard to pass in general. What are some of the things that you’re doing to keep control, guard-wise?
John: I try and move my hips a lot. Your goal is to control my hips so I have to make it hard to do that by moving them. Its hard to control something that’s moving compared to something that is still. I also use my hooks a lot … but most importantly I got my ass kicked by a lot of good guard-passers.
SLCMMA: What are a couple of your favorite moves in the ring?
John: Anything that works. For submissions, I like chokes. I also like arm locks but they are hard to get if the guy is slippery from sweat.
SLCMMA: When you hit the gym to prepare for a fight, what kind of stuff do you do technique-wise?
John: Once I start training for a fight learning new stuff is put to the side. I try and focus on sharping my overall game and working hard on my weaknesses. Every fight is different so I might concentrate on one specific aspect, depending on the opponent. I also up the cardio and reduce the heavy weight lifting.
SLCMMA: Now in terms of that physical aspect of the game, I know you train down with the guys at Gym Jones. They train a number of fighters and are pretty hardcore dudes. (Gym Jones trained the cast of the Spartan 300 ) Could you sound off a little about the training philosophy there and what kind of workouts are they putting you through?
John:Mark and Lisa Twight have helped me so much, both with training and life in general. One of Mark’s things is mental toughness. He has a way of making work outs both mentally and physically hard. This is very important for a fighter, being able to continue to work hard when things get tough. We do a lot of Olympic lifts, circuits, kettlebells, rowing, and the king of all cardio machines the Airdyne bike. Mark has a gift for putting all this together in a scientific way to help us as fighters.
SLCMMA: What about nutrition?
John: This topic is just as important as learning grappling or boxing, its something you need to keep in mind 24/7. I fight at 155 but walk at between 170 and 180. So this means as fight time comes I have watch what I eat. I try not to eat past 7 and eat lots of fresh fruit and raw veggies. I am also not a big supplement person, and try to be as natural as possible.
SLCMMA: What are some of your long term goals when it comes to MMA?
John: I am 35 so I have no real plans to be the next UFC champ. I just want to fight and have fun doing it. The sport and the lifestyle are very rewarding, so the goal is to stay healthy and compete as long as possible.
SLCMMA: When is your next fight, and what can we do to support you?
John: I am looking for a fight right now, so I don’t have an exact date. Before then, come and check out some of the gyms I train at. I do my main training at the Bernales institute of martial with WIll Beranles. He has a strong Muay Thai background and BJJ black belt – he really helps my overall MMA game. I teach BJJ there on Thursday nights. I also roll with the killers at Unified Jujitsu in Sandy – Johnny Carlquist and James Gardner. The BJJ black belts in that group are some of the best in the US. I occasionally train with Eddie Edmunds and the guys at Fusion BJJ, and they are always great to train with. My friends at Mushin, Brian Yamasaki and Brandon Kiser have helped me tons. You cannot go wrong with any of these gyms, go check them all out.
It almost seems that Bas Rutten has the patent on the liver shot – it’s something he does really well. The video above is short and sweet – and easy watch. I really like how Bas delineates between the hook and the liver shot – the latter being more uppercut than hook. And the visual of shanking someone with a knife blade between your knuckles, Wolverine style, … priceless Bas Rutten.
Anyway, the local boys over at Mushin Self Defense have an longer, more in depth video (below) talking about the finer details of the liver and striking it. The first five or so minutes is Sensei Brian taking with a medical doctor about the location and structure of the liver. The music in the background cracks me up.
One other thing – this punch is sometimes called a shovel hook, or a shovel punch, because of how it mimics the way you shovel snow in the winter time, something we all can relate to. To make the punch really hit hard, you need to get your hips behind it and drive through with your feet - without changing much of your vertical height. The video below is pretty decent and you can see the hip shift and the pushing through on the balls of the feet. Since they are coming from a kickboxing point of view, there is one notable correction for us MMA guys – their starting stance is a little wide (foot to foot) and a tad too “slim” (angle to the opponent).
For those interested in the sport-science part of MMA training, there are some upcoming exercise physiology lectures up at the university of Utah that may interest you. Topics range from things like “Fatigue as a Specific Sensory System” to “Oxidative Stress and Muscle Dysfunction Following ACL Injury and Surgery“.
These talks are held on various dates, but are always on Friday starting at 2:00PM. To check out the schedule for the colloquium, see it here.
“Aikido is too dangerous, so therefore it isn’t allowed in MMA.”
“Aikido doesn’t work on trained fighters or resisting opponents.”
“Aikido masters are bound to a philosophy of gentleness and non-fighting; therefore no true Aikido master can compete legally anyway.”
“Aikido is sucks in MMA, therefore Aikido sucks.”
“Steven Seagal knows Aikido, and he’s killed like 300 people. It must be awesome.”
I’m sure you can dig up your own “nuggets of wisdom” on a Sherdog or Youtube – these sites being the epitome of truth, balance and logic. ( Personally, I love the way information and error is rolled into one comical thread of flaming, poor grammar and misrepresentation)
Aikido isn’t the only disputed martial art in MMA; I’ve heard similar jaw-jacking about Karate, Judo, Dog Brother’s stick fighting, etc. There are always fanboys and haters, no matter what you choose. I’ve recently had some people ask me about this, so I’ve decided to post my thoughts.
Anyway, there is some sorting out to do.
In the next few pages, I’d like to see if I can shine some light on Aikido and it’s relation to MMA.