About a year ago Gabriel Gonzaga came to town for a few days of training before one of his fights. It was a great opportunity to get to work out with him while he was here. Gabriel is good friends with Eddie Mori. Eddie lives in Utah and runs a successful BJJ and MMA Academy in Roy, Utah. Eddie invited me and my team, Kacey Jackson, Koffi Adzitso and Noah Jenkins (of Fusion Academy) to come up and train with Gabriel, specifically for his wrestling and grappling.
Roy is about an hour or so away from where the rest of us live so it was a bit of a drive to get there. When we got there we found out that Gabriel was about 30-45 minutes out from getting to the gym so we kind of just milled around a while till he got there.
Once he arrived we started drilling takedowns and some pummeling. Gabriel was strong and moved pretty well. He was quick and had good grip. He didn’t look as big as he does on the UFC screen though…I guess what they say is true about how TV really does make you look bigger.
We drilled for a while and then we did some live takedowns. That was pretty fun. It was nice to see how my guys and I faired against a BJJ World Champion and professional MMA fighter. I got the better of him on the takedowns and he got the better of my guys. Something that helped me see where we needed improvement at the time.
Gabriel and I had a few good scraps and it would have been fun to get more time training with him. It was great to have one of the top UFC fighters come through town.
Training with Gonzaga helped drive home why so many wrestlers are dominating in MMA right now. They work hard; have good balance and strong takedowns and defense. Even a lot of the better ‘strikers’ like Chuck Liddell and Quinton Rampage Jackson had pretty solid wrestling abilities before their striking really became what it is today.
Things I took away from this training session were:
1. You are probably a lot closer to the ‘higher level’ guys than you might think. This goes for all of us. Training is not necessarily an indicator of a competitor’s gameness but judging from this workout I feel that I would have faired very well in an actual grappling match. We often don’t give ourselves a fair chance because we may not have an accurate gauge of our skills. You must consistently train/compete with other athletes of roughly your ability
to get an accurate gauge of your current skills and abilities
2. Conditioning is ALWAYS going to be a factor. I felt good but Kacey had problems maintaining the pace. It affected his otherwise good technique. If you are going to compete you must have the stamina necessary to attack and defend over the course of your bout.
3. Looks can be deceiving and people move differently from each other. Gonzaga was harder to
move and knock off balance than I expected. His movements were smooth and then
choppy at the same time so it threw me off a little. Once I got the rhythm down
I was just fine. Train with more partners so that your reactions can become
consistent against more body types and movement styles. This can take some time
to develop so get started sooner rather than later. In some cases you may be
limited in the number of workout partners available but try to expand out as
much as possible. Go with little guys, big guys and everyone in between.