What Can You Learn From Rolling With MMA Fighters?

I am very fortunate to get to train at Strong Style Mixed Martial Arts and Training Center here in sunny Cleveland Ohio.  This means many things, including that I very often wind up rolling with MMA fighters both professional and amateur.  Over the past few years, I’ve learned to appreciate what getting to roll with these stellar combat athletes means, and have learned a lot from rolling with them.  Here are 5 things I’ve learned from rolling with MMA fighters.

  1. Being in guard sucks.  I’m not saying I won’t still pull guard, or that I can’t finish from guard, but being in guard against a fighter who has even a basic understanding of grappling means that they are happy to pin me in position.  In a fight this would be a great place for them to start dropping strikes on me.  BJJ guys don’t view being inside of someone’s guard as being a viable offensive position, MMA guys are all too happy to be there and that happiness translates to my sadness.
  2. There’s strong, and then there’s professional athlete strong…  I’ve always thought of myself as being pretty strong.  Push comes to shove I can overpower a LOT of people including many who are bigger than I am.  However, if someone is putting the time in to fight in an MMA cage, their pound for pound physical strength is likely to make me feel like a child.  Again, like the guard anecdote, this doesn’t necessarily translate to failure.  I can use misdirection and technique to prevail over even a tough MMA fighter, BUT their physical strength is eye opening.  I am not strong at all compared to these people.  It’s humbling.
  3. Your rank won’t save you.  I’ve rolled well with many brown and black belts, and have had my butt easily kicked by MMA fighters with wrestling backgrounds.  A belt is nice, it’s a symbol of personal accomplishment and growth, but it’s not going to save you when you’re rolling with a fighter.
  4. The level of grappling possessed by MMA fighters is low in some ways and high in other ways.  I haven’t seen many MMA fighters who have truly slick guards.  They exist, I am sure of it, but why would you spend your time developing a skill set that requires you to be on your back when your goal should be to get on top?  I’ve also seen that many MMA fighters’ leg lock offense isn’t at as high of a level as other areas of their games.  This is not to say that there aren’t MMA fighters who go for leg locks (or for that matter who do them quite well) but the reality is that like other points on this list, if an MMA fighter is on their back, they are at a disadvantage, so the propensity throughout the sport is to avoid being on one’s back.
  5. Jiu-jitsu isn’t the only grappling martial art, it’s not the only submission grappling martial art, and it’s not the “best” grappling martial art.  Training at an MMA gym, I’ve rolled with jiujiteiros, judokas, wrestlers, catch wrestlers, shoot fighters, sambists, a Luta Livre black belt and grapplers trained in a martial art called Shin Gi Tai Jujitsu which is based in the middle of Ohio.  BJJ is a really effective martial art, but a good grappler is a good grappler is a good grappler…

If you train at an MMA gym, what have you learned from rolling with MMA fighters?


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