May
25

The NFL Takes to the Cage

Kudos to the Atlanta Falcons for being the first professional sports team to implement their own team-sponsored MMA training program in their off-season workouts. This is a voluntary workout program run by MMAthletics, a company founded by FOX Sports NFL Insider Jay Glazer and UFC legend Randy Couture. As the popularity of the UFC and MMA as a sport has grown over the last few years, MMA training has been on the rise in the NFL. Athletes looking for an edge when it comes to strength, both physical and mental toughness, and explosiveness, need to look no farther than the full body workout that is mixed martial arts. Developing the “fighter mentality” into the NFL players seems to be the ultimate goal of MMAthletics who take a break you down to build you up approach to their training.

“If you hit me once, I’m gonna hit you back five times,” Glazer said of importing a MMA mentality to the NFL. “When the cage door shuts, your job is to break the will of the man across from you. It’s the same with football. When the game starts, essentially that cage door shuts. It’s your responsibility not to lose. We find what a player’s breaking point is and re-establish it every few days. By the end, football has become easy.”

It makes sense for teams to enlist the services of the MMAthletics team. Instead of an individual player going out on his own and participating with whatever random MMA gym he finds, this method allows teams to supervise the workouts to make sure that their player safety is coming first. Also, I believe that instead of working out individually, participating as a team will surely help to build comradery. Players aren’t sparring with one another during these workouts, and it coincides with OTA’s and other team activities, so it doesn’t interfere with the football side of things.

Falcon linebacker, Curtis Lofton had this to say about the MMAtheltics training program,

“You get some great conditioning out of it. Plus, there’s a lot of carryover to what we do on the field. We do some Muay Thai for core-muscle and hip development, wrestling, working on our hands and getting guys off you. We work on body leverage, too, which is important. Whoever is the lowest man controls the other man. It’s really intense. This is our second workout for the day. Some of this is just pushing it to do whatever else you’ve got to do to get better.”

Even the head coach of the team, Mike Smith, is embracing this new form of training and is impressed with the early results.

“There’s a lot of carry-over to football with some of the disciplines they were talking about — wrestling, leverage (drills) and martial arts with the kicks to open up hip flexibility. That sparked my interest. I felt if guys were going to go out and do this on their own, why not bring this service into our team and make it available for the guys? I’m very impressed with what’s happened the first two weeks. I think the players are really enjoying it. It’s just another part of their repertoire of things they can do to prepare themselves for a long 16-game season.”

I look forward to more teams participating in such training and think it could even lead to a rise in post-football career MMA fighters. It will be interesting to see how this affects the Falcons performance this upcoming season since the NFL is a copycat league where teams rely on immediate results to gauge their successes.

Click here to watch a video of Matt Leinart training with MMAthletics.

Please post any questions or comments you may have and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @ZachLipari