Coaches & Fighters


Brown Belt
Dec 30, 2008
Reaction score
Something I've been thinking about lately was the places people chose to train. I've recently found the gym I've chosen to train at, which is a small, hole-in-the-wall place. Decent instructors and an adequate facility round it out, so I'm more than satisfied.

As for other folks, I always hear about how they'd love to train at "this gym" or with "that team", because of the fighters that come out of there, or who teach there. I'm not saying it's bad. Given the chance, I'd probably want to train at one of the more well-known MMA gyms. However, something that's really made me dwell on this is the chemistry between coaches and fighters. Greg Jackson has been turning out some pretty good fighters as of late and before him, Pat Miletech worked with a few UFC champions. So there's something that could be said about the quality of the training.

What I have been wondering though is, what makes that combination that takes a good coach and decent fighter, and turns them into a champion and trainer of champions?

Dagney Taggert

Green Belt
Aug 22, 2006
Reaction score
I just read this, and I cannot believe no one has responded! This is an excellent question.

I am a student, so I can only answer for one half of your equation.

I have been competing in BJJ for about three years. Last year, I competed in the Pan Ams, which was my first international tournament. What an eye-opener. I am a purple belt, but I walked on that mat with white belt mind. I had trained my body, but I had not prepared my mind for the saturation of competition. I became nervous as I walked around, allowed my nerves to run the show, and lost.

I watched footage of that fight, and I could not believe the mistakes I made, laughable stuff. I know how to escape side control. Not that day. I looked like a scrambling mess. I allowed my nerves to display their wares in the form of my poor form.

I got mad of course, threw my sucker in the ground and all. Made a fuss about "these people who get to train all the time and what an unfair advantage they have." Whine Whine Whine.

Then I focused. So what if my opponent is 10 years younger? Trains 10 hours a day? Everyday? Has been doing BJJ since she was a kid? I tossed these remnants into the air and kicked them into oblivion. I focused my life, and thus my training into well defined edges. I started a strict regimen of 2-3 training days during the week, plus two hours on Saturday. I started showing up early to warm-up, and staying late to train more. I started seeking out opponents who were better and/or stronger. I restructured my eating, and my weight/running routine.

One of the things that inspired me was something Lance Armstrong said when he made his comeback. I cannot remember the exact quote, but he talked about being a middle ground athlete, facing death, and then being given a second chance to go out and make your mark; so he grabbed that second chance and electrified the bicycling world.

I have not experienced anything nearly as daunting as Lance, so I thought, jeez, I am perfectly healthy, I have no business making some stupid excuse about schedules and age. Time for me the step up to plate.

My teacher is Fabio Santos, who is a old school BJJ guy. The man is treasure trove of technique, movement, and finesse. I cannot speak for him, but I think he might be a teacher who feels that a student must bring his/her own "champion" focus to class. This is my goal, to train hard, train well, and train focused.

I will approach my next competition with a calm focus. My emotions and nerves will rattle, but I will harness that noise and distill it into sweet, crystal clear, physical moonshine.



Senior Master
Jan 20, 2009
Reaction score
San Jose
Well I just got into coaching but I will try to answer to the best of my short time.

As a fighter it helps to know that your coach has been there. I have been coached by some coaches that have never stepped into the ring and it shows. They just want you to do some technique but there is no rhyme or reason for it. So as a fighter you need someone you can respect as a figher as well. You also want them have knowledge that you don't have. It does not matter if they can't do what they are telling you, but rather if they can transfer the knowlege to you and make you understand it. As a fighter, lights should come on when you coach speaks. You need to go into the ring with your game plan in mind but your coach should be able to see things just a little different than you, to help you take advantage of the things you may not be paying attention to. A coach should compliment you not tell you step for step what to do.

Now that I am a coach I understand the ring much better than I ever did as a fighter. Many times as a fighter you rely to much on your physical than you do on your mental. That is why everyone needs a coach. The coach is there as an extention to the fighers mind. I ofter will ask my fighter what are they (the oppnent) doing just to see where their minds are. If they can tell me some things then I know they are relaxed and thinking. If my fighters just come back and have no answers then I know they are not thinking and that they need to relax.

A good coach will make sure his figher is well prepared. By this I mean that he will have drilled the basic into them so that they can take advantage of any opertunity presented. A well trained fighter with just the basics should be the hardest fighter to beat. If you basics are solid and you are well conditioned then you should be able to take any fight the distance.

The best thing a fighter can bring to any good coach is listening skills. When in the gym and just sparring or moving around, I will sometime give new fighers a command that I know will get them into trouble. I do this just to see if they listen. I can remember being coached in a match and my coach telling me to do something and not listening. I would hear him say do X. But because I did not understand why and did not see X as working I did not do it. He would get so mad at me that he would walk off at times. It was only after doing X one day, when he told me just to keep him happy, and X worked that I then had a light come on and then started listening. I was not the best student before that but then got better.

So to sum it all up, you need the coach and the fighter to trust and respect each other. Both must have some abilities to win, but if either are not on the same page,then niether will be any good.


<center><font size="2"><B>Martial Talk Ultimate<BR
MTS Alumni
Apr 9, 2004
Reaction score
Grand Prairie Texas
Well here is what I do for all my competitors and that is have a game plan for them each and everytime, this means to know your opponets and be able to help them make adjustments during the fight. Also a good coach will have there fighter mentally ready before getting into the match, everything is not always physical, sometimes a fighter just needs that little thing that a great coach has and they know when a coach moves lft or right what they are thinking to me this is being mentally prepared for the ring. One thing that I notice is alot of people do not know ring management this is a major factor in any competition.


Green Belt
Jun 27, 2009
Reaction score
McHenry County, Il
There's alot to be said as well for those places that have access to promoters ears. Nothing will help you along like being on board with a gym known to already turn out good quality fighters.

The down side to this is that these places tend to focus specifically on whatever it is that they are turning out fighters for. So, a great MMA gym probably won't spend time working knife and gun defenses and such. You really have to go in knowing what you want and be willing to commit totally to that program.

More multi-function facilities typically do not have the focus to spearhead a competitive team as well as persue other avanues such as specific sd concerns. Not that it dosn't happen, just that it's not common.

The other thing that makes these camps turn out streams of fighters is the sheer number of different combatants that they have to draw from in training. This makes prepping fighters much easier than if you're scrambling for training partners.

Larger facilities specifically geared to prepping fighters will also typically have a staff large enough to provide adaquate training time for all their fighters. This is something most smaller facitlites just don't have. These staff in turn are more likley to be highly experianced in their specific fields rather than generalist. This helps push preperation along quicker.

Nothing against small gyms, I come out of that background myself. But, if competition on a high level is your goal, then there is something to be said for getting in with aligned with a well established fight gym at some point in your career.