Fight and Train Like You Know What You’re Doing – MMA Training Advice with Nate “Rock” Quarry, the ZombieCageFighter.
FightMedicine.NET would like to welcome UFC veteran and MMA Uncenscored Nate “Rock” Quarry to the FightMedicine Team! This is the first article by Nate where he discusses the importance of finding the right coach. Surrounding yourself with the right team is essential to promoting a safe and productive training environment!
“Those who can’t do, teach.” We’ve all heard that saying. What it basically means is, if you’re good enough to do something then you spend your time doing it, not teaching others how to do it. That’s obviously not a hard and fast rule and some of the greatest coaches were terrible competitors. But fighters are built with a switch. On the scale of fight and flight, the arrow is moved extremely towards the “fight” side.
Many who coach instead of fight have worn out their body, the heart is willing but the flesh is weak. Or perhaps they never had a “chin.” While you can strengthen your jaw, Jack Dempsey would chew bark chips, some people are gifted with the ability to take a punch and others aren’t. No matter how hard you train or how badly you want it, the ability to take a punch is meted out by the cosmos and there’s not much we can do about it. Other coaches have just lost the taste for competition. I recall hearing one fighter who also coached officially retiring to pursue his love of coaching full time. “But you’re so good at fighting!” was a complaint from the crowd. “But I never enjoyed it.” It can be as simple as that.
Whatever the reason, if you want to fight, you need a coach. When I started mma training my head coach had just gotten his blue belt in Jiu Jitsu two weeks before I joined the gym and he thought pad work was worthless. So I would go to the boxing gyms for my hands. After about two weeks I noticed a pattern at every boxing gym I went to. The head coach would say to me, “You work hard and seem pretty tough. Let’s get you some fights.” To which I would reply, “Sorry coach, I do this stuff called No Holds Barred. It’s kind of like a street fight where you can box and kick and even wrestle.” “Get the hell out.” And so it went.
Nowadays you can’t throw a rock without hitting a BJJ black belt and those same coaches that sent me packing came back around asking ME to work with THEM.
But now that there is an overabundance of mma training coaches, how do you pick the best one/ones for what you want to do? First off you need to know what it is that you want to accomplish. Is your goal to win the Pan Ams as a black belt? Do you want to be pro boxer? Hold a title in Bellator? Or do you just want to get in shape? If you don’t know where you want to go, how can you expect someone to give you directions to get there?
Once you have that figured out then you have to find the right gym. Chances are you know someone that trains. If not, your first step can be as simple as googling, “MMA gyms.” Or “Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.” “Muay Thai.” Find your local gyms. Figure out how long it will take you to get to the gym every day. Because a half hour each way a few times a week can really add up. Once you’ve found a gym to look at, make the phone call. Plan to go to the gym and watch a couple classes. From there most gyms will offer at least a week’s worth of free classes.
Once you pull into the parking lot, that’s when your eyes and ears should be open. Do they have pride in their lot or is it filled with trash? Is their sign burnt out? These are tell tale signs to how dedicated the owner and most likely the head coach is to their program. You can have a run down building that is still clean and shows pride.
Now I don’t know about you but I like to be treated with respect. A lot of gyms think because you are new or have a different color belt, usually a lighter shade, that somehow you are worth less as a human being. So many people don’t listen to their “sixth” sense when they first meet the coach that will have a profound influence on their athletic future. How does the head coach treat you? How does he treat his students? What is the overall vibe of the gym? Are the classes packed with people having fun and training hard while learning to be better all around athletes and competitors?
We’ll talk more about what to look for in a coach but today I want to focus on one thing. By this time you’ve decided what your goals are for starting to train but now you have to determine if they are in line with what your coach’s goals are.
When I was training MMA and fighting for a living people always asked me why I didn’t teach more classes. “Because I’m a fighter which means I’m selfish. I have to be. Training takes a lot of time and energy. If I have the energy to teach a class then I should be taking a class.” I was blatant that it was not my time to give back quite yet. I needed to be #1 in my training. Conversely, a coach knows that his athlete is #1. My first coach is what you would call a “Gym Superstar.” Meaning, he never fought. Not once did he step in the cage. Oh, he said over and over how he wanted to but for one reason or another, he never gloved up. But his fighters knew how tough he was. Because his goal was to beat the hell out of his students. Especially if they were smaller than him and of course they were less experienced than him as well, that’s why we were there in the first place, to learn from someone who knew more than us. I would regularly leave the ring bloodied and with a broken nose. Once he even knocked cold a beginning student whom he outweighed by a good 100 pounds with a shin kick to the face. A “gym superstar” or a “club pro.” That’s the guy that wants everyone to know how tough he is without actually competing against someone who could beat him. Essentially a bully.
My goal was to be the best fighter I could be. To test myself against the best in the world. His goal as a coach was to be the best HE could be not the best coach he could be. And to do that meant regular beatings for his students. Our relationship came to a head one day after I had a particularly tough fight. I had fought Mike Whitehead for over a half an hour. It sounds crazy now but our fight round went for 27 minutes then we came out for a 5 minute overtime. While I was in the ring at the end of the fight I looked at my coach and said, “I just proved I will fight till I have nothing left. You don’t need to make me any tougher. You need to make me a better fighter.” He nodded and said, “I will.” Within a week he and I were back in the gym sparring. He with an 8 inch height advantage and about 20 pounds on me. I was wearing my 20 ounce sparring gloves, he wore his usual 10 ounce bag gloves. The scene played itself out like it usually did, with him trying his best to knock me out. But I had had enough. I threw him against the wall, “I told you I’m NOT here to be your punching bag! I actually go out and compete! That’s where I fight! Not in the gym!” To which he replied, “The problem with you is, you’re no good and you never will be so I just use you to make myself better.”
I should have sent him a bouquet of flowers with a thank you card. His motivations were now clear even to my naive self. He wasn’t training me to be a world champion. He was using me to make himself better. To take a bite from Forrest Gump, “I am not a smart man but I know what a coach is.” And that is not a coach. A coach lives through his athletes. When a fighter loses the coach says, “WE had a hard fight tonight. WE’LL get him next time.”
What are your goals in mma training? Do they align with your coaches goals? Train like you know what you’re doing by working with a coach that will bleed with you, not cause you to bleed for no reason but to feed their egos.