Trevor Wittman is a head coach at the Grudge Training Center, which is located outside Denver, Colorado. Grudge is home to Nate Marquardt, Brendan Schaub, Gerald Harris, Shane Carwin, and many others.
Wittman will have his hands full on March 19th, with three of his fighters competing at the long anticipated UFC 128:
Eliot Marshall, vs. Luiz "Banha" Cane;
Nate Marquardt, vs. Dan Miller; and ,
Brendan Schaub, facing the toughest challenge of his career against the legendary Mirko Cro Cop
Anton Gurevich Many people confuse the Grudge Center with Greg Jackson's Academy. Can you explain once and for all what's the difference between the two?
Trevor Wittman: You know, the thing is that we are a united gym. And what I mean by "united" is that we share training partners, we share sparring partners, but still are in different locations. So if someone from Greg Jackson's fights a guy who's bigger and stronger, we'll get him over here to train with all the Heavyweights we have. If Nate is fighting Akiyama, we'll get him to Greg who worked with Akiyama before to get some ideas. I think it's a key for success and a good co-operation, especially when you have such a great fighters in both gyms.
AG: Arguably the biggest fight of the night is between Mirko Cro Cop and Brendan Schaub. What do you think about Cro Cop's striking, and do you still consider it dangerous?
TW: Cro Cop is a legend, and also a veteran of the game. Now what happens when you are a veteran, you're having a tendency of waiting for your big shots to make a payment. His big shots are left body kick and left high kick. He was a super wrecking force back in PRIDE, but it's a whole different story when he was in the ring. There's a huge difference between fighting in a 20ft space to 31ft space, which is the Octagon. So there's two situations there, one that he's getting older and tries to save energy by picking the right shots and another is that he simply can't fight the way he wants in a much bigger space. Cro Cop likes to fight in close corridors. And that's one of those things, when you're fighting him inside the Octagon you can fall asleep by fighting him, or get caught by the great power he produces.
AG: Speaking about Fedor in particular, do you think it's the same thing with him, that he simply can't adjust to the cage?
TW: I don't think it's the case with Fedor. Strikeforce cage is smaller, so there's no such big difference from the PRIDE ring. But I think that his problem is to adjust himself to the sport as a whole. He was a great fighter back then and still a legend in my mind… but the thing is that the sport is growing so fast... The level of striking in MMA right now is simply unmatched to what we had back then. During his last couple of fights he won, Fedor was outstruck but still managed to land a shot and win the fight. Still, it's not enough and you have to adapt yourself to changes in the game. The big key in this sport is that if you want to win, you have to evolve. And then again, you're getting older and then it's hard to keep your old tricks effective.
AG: In your opinion, as a coach, how important is the mental aspect of the game comparing to a technical one?
TW: Mental aspect is more important than the technical one. You can learn all the technique in the world, but if you don't go there with the right mindset – you're not going to win your fight. Mental preparation is the key. Speaking of the guy like Chael Sonnen… Sonnen doesn't bring all the great attributes and he's very basic in his game. But, he has that second to none mental aspect that breaks people. He's going to be in your face all night. So mental aspect is the key, and any fighter out there has to be mentally tough to compete at high level.
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