Cricketers. Rugby players. Figure skaters. Olympic sprinters. The Athletic & Personal Development program has trained them all.Two recent trainees, though, brought a new sport to IMG.
Chuck O'Neil and Jimmy Quinlan, mixed martial arts (MMA) fighters, recently spent a week working with Performance specialists in Physical Conditioning, Mental Conditioning, Communication by game on and Vision Training. For two people who spend countless hours training, it was an eye-opening experience in previously overlooked elements can help them become better fighters.
"IMG was even better than I thought," Quinlan said. "I thought we would come down and it would be strength and conditioning as we know it, with a couple little tweaks. But this week has changed our whole thought process and how we approach everything."
Added O'Neil: "To be completely honest, I was trying to keep an open mind when I walked into Vision Training, but I was skeptical. When I left, I was blown away. It's huge in the fight game to be able to see tiny openings and have strong enough eyes to be able to pick out opening and react on them."
O'Neil and Quinlan took a couple minutes to chat about some other MMA-related topics:
On the appeal of MMA...
Chuck O'Neil: It's the ultimate man challenge. It's me and you, one on one - who is the top dog? You get to challenge yourself. And it's a huge team environment for such an individual sport. When I got into a fight, Jimmy is like my right-hand man, because I know he helped me get there.
On the mindset before a bout...
Jimmy Quinlan: Mine is a little different than the average person. I've wrestled my whole life, and you see a lot of guys slapping themselves in the face and stuff, but that's never been me. I smile on my way to the mat. My mentality is very smooth, calm and cool. I don't even factor in every around and watching. I treat it just like another training day. I actually enjoy training more than fighting. I'd just as soon go to the gym every day, but fighting pays the bills.
On their dream fight:
JQ: I'd like to fight Michael Bisping today. People always ask about the top-level guys. Take someone like Jon Jones. I know that I could beat him, but chances are, he'll beat me. Michael Bisping, I feel, stylistically, is someone I would match up well against. He's the top-level guy I'm really chomping at the bit to fight.
CO: I actually had the opportunity to fight someone I've always wanted to and actually got a win with my fight against Marcus Davis. He was a guy from our area, a 15-time UFC vet and we got to fight each other. It was huge for me. Afterwards, it was very respectful. He said he was glad to lose to someone like me who is up-and-coming and not going to be a punk about it.
On the biggest misconception about MMA fighters:
CO: That fighters aren't intelligent. People think we're just unsophisticated idiots smashing each other in the cage. Both Jimmy and myself went to college and got legitimate degrees. We both have careers outside of fighting, but this is our passion and something we love.
JQ: Most people fight to make money. I don't need the money. I fight because I like doing it.
On the worst part about MMA's rise in popularity:
CO: Everyone thinks that they are a mixed martial artist. Everybody and their mother, father and brother come up to you and say, âI do MMA.â I'm like, âYou do Tae Kwon Do down the road.â
JQ: It's tough to justify at this point. Take football, for example. If you're a professional football player, you are in the NFL. In MMA, you can be a bum off the street, take one pro fight and tell all of your friends that you're a pro fighter because you don't have to fight UFC to be considered a pro. When someone says they are a professional MMA fighter, most people don't know that could mean they fought UFC or fought in a local show and got beat up.
On what they would change about the sport:
CO: Once you get to the elite level, like UFC or a couple others, have access to better health insurance and benefits. I'd like to see better pay at the elite level, too, because you're putting your body on the line, especially when you see boxers making millions and millions per fight.
JQ: I'd like to see more decision-makers at the top. You essentially have only Dana White with the power to hire and fire. In the NFL, you don't have one guy saying these are the players that are going to make the team and these are the guys who are going to get cut. In MMA, one guy has the power to let you in or keep you out.
I'd like to see more of a structure in training and more of an organized funnel to the top ranks, like the farm leagues in baseball. In MMA, you kind of just do your thing and hope the UFC notices.
CO: Right now, you have guys that go 8-0 or something against the average Joe off the street, they get to UFC and have their head ripped off because they aren't ready for the level of talent.