April 29, 2011: There’s more to MMA training than toil and sweat
Proper recovery, right attitude as important as gym for top fighters
After a hard week of training, Claude (The Prince) Patrick is sore all over. Beat up and a little burnt out, he’s due for a tune-up and on this Friday in February he ducks into a converted bungalow in southeast Mississauga to see his mechanic.
Dr. Paul Biondich isn’t just a chiropractor, massage therapist and nutritionist, he’s also a huge fan of the fight game. The walls in his office feature pictures of Biondich with boxers like Floyd Mayweather Jr., MMA stars like Randy Couture and just about everyone in between.
For fighters like Patrick, preparing for a fight depends on a keen understanding of the relationship between training and recovery. Going hard in the ring and weight room break your body down, and without an expert like Biondich to build it back up, a fighter runs head-on into every athlete’s most dreaded foe: a plateau.
So, twice weekly, Biondich meets with Patrick and for 45 minutes uses his hands, thumbs and elbows to knead Patrick’s muscles, break up scar tissue and keep the fighter moving smoothly.
“The guy who wins a lot of fights is the guy with the least injuries,” Biondich says. “It’s like a Formula One car. If you don’t change the oil and strip the engine, you risk blowing it out. If you’re training like an F1 car but not getting that care on the other end, you’re not giving yourself much of a chance.”
On Saturday night at the Rogers Centre, Patrick faces Daniel (Ninja) Roberts on the undercard of UFC 129. The bout is the biggest of Patrick’s career, and an impressive win could propel the 30-year-old martial artist into the elite group of welterweights with a legitimate shot at the title held by Montreal’s Georges St-Pierre.
Two weeks after his visit to Biondich, Patrick will shift his training camp to South Florida, where the workouts will intensify as the bout approaches.
Ironically, the fatigue will decrease markedly.
On its own, training doesn’t overburden him. But training for a big fight while operating a gym you co-own? Weekly sparring sessions with top fighters interspersed with teaching classes and running errands? Three-a-day workouts jammed in alongside meetings with sponsors and a mountain of paperwork?
That’ll wear you out.
* * *
Patrick is nine weeks away from trading punches with Roberts at the Rogers Centre, but tonight he makes a confession that sounds strange coming from a professional fighter.
Fighting solves nothing.
“If I hate you and you beat me up, I’ll hate you even more,” he says.
So Patrick views his showdown with Roberts as less a fight than a marital arts contest, and he’s held that attitude since he was a teenager in the Mavis Rd.-Paisley Blvd. area of Mississauga picking fights with older kids.
Patrick didn’t consider himself a neighbourhood menace. Instead, he was a young martial artist looking to test his evolving skill set against teenagers eager to shut him down.
Most of them crumbled but Danny Brown humbled him. As an adult, Brown would qualify for Canada’s national wrestling team, but back then he taught Patrick the difference between a guy learning to fight and a guy who already knew how.
Patrick accepted the lesson and moved on.
He hasn’t lost a pro bout since 2002 and has never mustered much anger toward any opponent.
When producers filming a preview to his October bout against James Wilks asked Patrick to talk trash he refused, even though it left them with little footage to edit.
“I’m just not that guy,” Patrick says. “I respect my (opponent). He’s a guy doing the same thing as me. . . . Without him I wouldn’t be fighting, so I appreciate him.”
Roberts, meanwhile, was already manufacturing animosity toward Patrick. In the bedroom of his home in suburban San Francisco, Roberts had a small photo of Patrick taped to the wall.
“When I don’t feel like training I look at his ugly face and I get up there and train,” says Roberts, who is 12-1 as a pro.
Like Patrick, he’s athletic and a skilled grappler. But he didn’t travel to Toronto for a martial arts contest. He’s here for a fight, and he plans to win.
“I’m extremely confident I’m going to smash Claude,” he says. “You can call it talking noise, but I’m just being confident.”
* * *
On the final Saturday in February, the Maple Leafs’ shootout loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins has most of the downtown sports bar captivated, but the game gets no traction in the back room of Shoeless Joe’s on King St. W.
At 10 p.m., that screen switches to UFC 127 to accommodate the crew that has gathered to celebrate the birthday of Patrick’s business partner, D.J. Dallaire.
Many of the people present are martial artists but only Patrick is a UFC veteran, so he watches the action with a different degree of detail.
Earlier in the day he’d been thinking about the best way to escape a certain type of choke, and half an hour into the undercard an Australian fighter applies that exact move to his American opponent. Patrick imagines the way he’d break the hold, and within seconds the American executes it, slipping his head free from his opponent’s noose.
Patrick chuckles to himself then settles in to watch the rest of the bout.
But as the fight card moves toward the evening’s featured bouts, his attention jumps ahead to his Sunday schedule — morning boxing and afternoon grappling.
The main event involves B.J. Penn and Jon Fitch, a pair of big-name welterweights Patrick may face one day, but on this snowy Saturday they’re abstract ideas. Tomorrow’s workouts are a concrete reality.
He rises and grabs his jacket from the back of his chair.
“I can’t do this,” he says. “I’m out.”
He has a contest coming up against Daniel Roberts, and a dwindling number of days to prepare for it.
Copyright 2011 Toronto Star
Article originally appeared HERE
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