The Best MMA/BJJ Trainers Just Admitted Their BIGGEST Mistakes While Training

The Best MMA/BJJ Trainers Just Admitted Their BIGGEST Mistakes While Training

Recently ESPN decided to take it upon themselves to ask a bunch of the world’s best MMA/BJJ coaches what their BIGGEST mistake to date was, they asked guys like John Kavanagh, who runs the show over in Ireland at SBG, as well as coaching the legendary Conor McGregor.

The cluster of interview snippets also includes Firas Zahabi, who’s straight out of Tristar MMA and has trained legends like Georges’ St. Pierre, as well as bringing Rory Macdonald up into a conteder spot in the UFC, as well as a title shot in there against Robbie Lawler. There are SO many amazing coaches out there and so many in this article that we can’t possibly name them all right here.

Read on if you wanna learn some stuff from the best in the world.

John Kavanagh (Head of SBG Ireland)

Maybe not a very good one, but I regret my first 10 years or so of MMA and grappling with people a lot heavier than me. I’m now left with a pretty serious neck condition that means my own ability to grapple is severely hampered. One wrong move could have me off the mats, in pretty severe pain for months. This has already happened a few times. I take comfort that I’m still able to demo and coach and use lessons learned on next generation, but I miss the mat.

Firas Zahabi (Tristar MMA)

I don’t like to give that stuff too much attention. I like to learn from my mistakes but I don’t like to glorify them or focus on them. I find that’s a great way to repeat them.

I would say, though, that sometimes I have over and underestimated opponents. It’s very difficult to estimate how hard someone will be to take to the ground. You see who has taken them down in the past and who hasn’t, try to predict off their track record, but MMA math is not always perfect. A lot of times it comes down to styles and decision-making and things you can’t equate before the fight. I try not to predict too much how good someone will be in any particular area.

I don’t know if I have one “biggest mistake” for my career, but one I think about all the time is [UFC featherweight] Artem Lobov’s physicality and how I didn’t factor that into that fight with Teruto Ishihara [UFC Fight Night, November 2016].

I looked at the breakdown of martial arts skill, and Ishihara was going to win that all day. But I didn’t realize how big Artem was until I saw him. So, you’ve got this crazy Russian-Irish guy, the fight is in Northern Ireland, and that’s just one thing from a strategy standpoint we didn’t factor in.

Artem is not a technical fighter, but he’s 170-pound guy by the time he fights. Ishihara is real small for that division. I feel like if we would have had a strategy better prepared for a 170-pound, Ninja Turtle-headed Artem, instead of a technically inferior 145-pounder, we would have done a little better.

Justin Buchholz (Team Alpha Male)

I don’t know if I have one “biggest mistake” for my career, but one I think about all the time is [UFC featherweight] Artem Lobov’s physicality and how I didn’t factor that into that fight with Teruto Ishihara [UFC Fight Night, November 2016].

I looked at the breakdown of martial arts skill, and Ishihara was going to win that all day. But I didn’t realize how big Artem was until I saw him. So, you’ve got this crazy Russian-Irish guy, the fight is in Northern Ireland, and that’s just one thing from a strategy standpoint we didn’t factor in.

Artem is not a technical fighter, but he’s 170-pound guy by the time he fights. Ishihara is real small for that division. I feel like if we would have had a strategy better prepared for a 170-pound, Ninja Turtle-headed Artem, instead of a technically inferior 145-pounder, we would have done a little better.

Duane Ludwig (Ludwig Martial Arts)

I don’t want to reiterate the error, but just making sure I am mindful of my words to the media because they have power.

I did an interview where I was trying to highlight [UFC bantamweight] TJ Dillashaw’s work ethic and commitment to being a champion — that he pursued it with the most intensity of anybody I’ve ever seen — and I needed to be mindful of what effect those words may have had on others I’ve worked with.

That was my fault and I still feel bad about it. I’m getting better at interviews as time goes on. I’ve realized the impact media has and the things they like to jump on. I’ve become more aware of what they’re looking for and how I need to be mindful of how I word things.

Mike Winkeljohn (Jackson Wink MMA)

I let a fighter take a fight when there were a lot of family issues causing that fighter a lot of stress. That fighter should have never taken the fight. They weren’t themselves. When I look back on it, it would have been better to not take the fight at all. I thought it was going to be able to be contained, but it wasn’t.

During fight week, in the locker room warming up, you can tell sometimes when a fighter is on it or they’re overthinking it. Lots of fighters get very, very nervous — well, they all get nervous — but some get really quiet. Some start making jokes when they weren’t making jokes before. It’s always something different. And on that night, I noticed the change in this fighter.

I was mad at myself, of course. In this case, because of how close I was with the fighter, I could have talked them into not taking the fight. At that point in the locker room it was too late. It was like, ‘How do we fix this? How do we get this person out of their mental freeze?’ Because they always talk about fight or flight, but the freeze part is gigantic in any situation around fear.

Duke Roufus (Roufusport MMA)

The biggest mistake I’ve ever made is being a part of [UFC lightweight] Anthony Pettis fighting at 145 pounds. What all fighters can learn from that is get better at your own weight class. Losing weight is not the answer.

It was bad in Toronto [when Pettis missed weight for an interim title fight against Max Holloway last December]. I’m the one who pulled the plug on his weight cut. He was having some bad seizures almost, it was pretty scary. I’m behind what California is doing with weight cutting. I’ve never agreed with the weight cutting culture in this sport. I hope the UFC does add more weight classes. It won’t dilute the weight classes, it will be more champions for them to promote.

John Crouch (MMA LAB)

I would have to say a couple of personal relationships could have been handled better. I’ve had some difficult relationships and I’m disappointed I didn’t do better with some of those.

As far as technical failing, I gave [UFC bantamweight] Alex Caceres the wrong game plan when he fought Francisco Rivera [UFC Fight Night, June 2015]. I wanted him to be more aggressive than usual and it cost him the fight. I should have let Alex be himself. He likes to move around and get the feel of things. We were trying to get him to be a little more aggressive. I have to put that one on me. That loss sits right on my doorstep.

Mike Brown (American Top Team)

I don’t know if this is my biggest mistake, but it’s definitely one I remember and that I learned from.

I cornered Yves Edwards against Isaac Vallie-Flagg [UFC 156, February 2013]. I was kind of new to coaching. I was actually still fighting at the time. Two rounds went by and they were close, but I thought we’d won them. I told Yves, ‘Hey, you’re up 2-0. Don’t do anything stupid. Be careful.’ He ended up losing the third round and lost the fight by split decision.

I didn’t factor in, ‘Oh, in a close round, it might go to the other guy.’ When it’s close, you have to assume you lost. Even if you’re pretty sure you won, you have to assume you lost. Now, I’ll tell my guys, ‘We’ve got to go out and win this next one.’ I might really believe we’re up 2-0, but maybe it was close enough a judge can screw it up.

Facebook Comments Master

About the author

Moses Marasco