I was first introduced to the world of (watching) UFC when I met my husband over six years ago. He and his friends would watch fights and try to predict the results: who would win, and whether by points, knock out or submission. I’ve always thought the fighters must train hard, but never really had an appreciation for just how much work goes into becoming as strong and powerful as they are until I met two of Britain’s The Ultimate Fighter contestants.
The Ultimate Fighter
The Ultimate Fighter on BT Sport (TUF) is an American reality tv series and Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) competition. The show features professional MMA fighters living together in Las Vegas, following them as they train and compete against each other for a contract with the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).
Many current and past UFC fighters were once on the show, and many winners have gone on to become UFC champions. Just some of the big names from previous TUF series are Stephan Bonnar, Diego Sanchez and Nate Diaz along with Brit Michael Bisping. Irish Conor McGregor also went on to coach on the series in 2015, of course, causing controversy as he does almost everywhere he goes!
Women have competed in the series since 2013, when Ronda Rousey and Meisha Tate coached teams – also the first female coaches in the series. This year, Britain has three female hopefuls: Lanchana Green, Kate Jackson and Helen Harper. I met Lanchana and Kate for a workout, along with four other bloggers and journalists. Here’s what went down…
Trial UFC Workout
Led by Lanchana and Kate, at London’s Fight City gym, we learnt a mixture of agility and coordination drills, grappling and clinches, punching, kickboxing and a push-pull drill. Each element challenged me in new ways and reminded me just how rubbish I would be in a fight.
- Ball drill – the aim of this drill was to move around throwing a small ball to the floor and catching it again, while keeping your fighting stance (one foot forward, one foot back, soft knees and hips, shoulders back and head up). Sounds simple, but it’s surprisingly difficult to keep a consistent bounce on the ball while moving around and focusing on your posture.
- Clinch hold – we learnt how to try to dominate the clinch by turning your opponent, oh and throwing in a knee for good measure. This involved a fair amount of coordination and understanding of which direction you need to go in to get the right momentum behind your movement. These are skills I don’t currently possess… but I did my best!
- Tap drill – to elevate our heart rates and get us moving a bit more, we worked in pairs trying to tap each other’s shoulders. We worked in 15 second intervals, switching opponents every time. We then added in tapping the hips, followed by the knees, for an extra challenge. Even working in short time intervals really got my heart pumping, and that’s just tapping and dodging – I can’t begin to imagine how tiring it is when you’re throwing punches and kicks, and receiving them too!
- Push-pull drill – this involved getting in a grappling hold (which was actually kind of like a hug!) and trying to push your opponent to the other end of the cage while they resisted. This is a good move for building strength and power in your posterior chain (the back of your legs, glutes, back and shoulders), like a sled push, while working on your technique and hold.
- Punching – we did a simple combination of jab and cross, working on our fighting stance and technique in throwing punches. Quite often in boxing classes you don’t need to worry about defending, but in UFC dropping your arms is suicide, so we worked on keeping our arms up to protect our faces (not so nice when your hands have just been in a sweaty pad glove!!)
- Kicking – we learnt a simple round kick, aiming to make contact with our opponent’s outer thigh using our shin. This involved pivoting on the front leg while rotating the hips to drive more power into the kick. I found it hard to consistently get the same movement, and ended up landing the kick with a bent leg rather than straightening it fully out. Definitely in need of some work!
A Typical UFC Training Week
So just what does a typical week in training look like for a UFC fighter?
Lanch started Thai boxing after leaving school, but looked to MMA after being beaten up by a group of girls on her way home one day. Specialising in Muay Thai, Lanch focuses on striking sessions. Kate, who took up karate aged 15, also focuses on striking training, and typically mixes this in with jiu-jitsu training in the morning, followed by another jiu-jitsu session in the afternoon.
Both girls train six times a week (multiple times per day) with one rest day. The main disciplines trained across the week, with varying levels of focus, are:
- Muay Thai
- Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
A photo posted by Kate Jackson (@kpajackson) on
The balance of technical and strength work is really important in MMA. There’s no weird chicken chasing to be seen (think Rocky!) but Lanch tells me that she’s heard of people being held underwater as “training” in Brazil. Naturally, it you’d wanted to kill whoever did that to you when you eventually came back up, so maybe it helps give you fight! Either way, these girls clearly work hard. As is often said in fitness “the more you sweat in training the less you bleed in battle”… clearly no-one told Stephan Bonnar that.
The Ultimate Fighter airs on BT Sport at 3am on Thursday mornings, and is repeated again at 10pm on Thursdays. Watch Lanchana and Kate (both Team Claudia) as they take on Team Joanna.