Training A Champion

Tanner Batten | joey@paradigmsport.com


When I was a young boy I used to love watching movies like Rocky, Bloodsport, and Kickboxer. Other than the legendary fight scenes at the end of the movie, the training montages were always my favorite part. I found them to be very inspiring. I liked to see the fighters put themselves through hell, to ensure that they would be ready for whatever came their way. Of course this is just Hollywood. Real life isn’t really like this. Or is it?

For the past 16 weeks, I’ve had the great fortune to train the number one UFC Middleweight contender, Luke Rockhold. I met Luke in March, a month before his bout with Lyoto Machida. After a dominant performance defeating Machida, Luke earned a title shot against current UFC Middleweight Title Holder, Chris Weidman. Luke is scheduled to fight Weidman tonight at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, NV.

Luke came to me because he wanted to improve his strength, agility and footwork.  I happily obliged.  Luke trains with one of the best camps in the world, American Kickboxing Academy (AKA).  The work we did together was only going to compliment what he was already doing with AKA.  My job was clear, help Luke get stronger and quicker.  But more importantly, don’t break his body down anymore than he already has. 

Training a fighter is tough. There are so many unpredictable variables that make my job challenging; bruised hands, stingers, low energy due to cutting weight, an erratic travel schedule due to fight promotions. The list goes on.  The communication between fighter and coach becomes crucial. I’ve never worked with someone that is more in tune with their body than Luke. He knows when we can push and when we need to back off.

For the past 27 weeks, since the UFC announced that Luke would be taking on Weidman, this has been all consuming for him.  His training, diet, sleep, recovery, EVERYTHING has to be managed, in preparation for what could potentially be a 30 second battle.  This is something that most of us can’t even fathom.  To dedicate everything you have, and to step into an octagon to go to battle with another human being. Crazy!

As a coach, I’m constantly reminding our youth athletes that it is not the outcome that matters. It is the process and the journey that matters most.  Luke’s life-long journey to this point has been filled with highs and lows.  He has subjected his body to the same hell I used to admire as a kid when watching those epic movies.  My hope for him is that tonight he will be victorious. That he will hold that belt that he has worked so hard for, above his head and claim victory. However, if that doesn’t happen he is already a champion in my mind because I’ve seen his journey and it hasn’t been an easy one. 

Good luck tonight Luke. The Paradigm Sport Community will be with you.