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Takedown: New program designed to make MMA more accessible

Jordan Cieciwa, TSN Radio 1290

11/27/2012 9:22:21 PM

UFC 151, does anyone remember it? If you say yes, you'd be lying. That was the UFC event cancelled due to an injury.

Since then the injury bug has plagued a few other organizations. StrikeForce cancelled a recent show due to injury, and now Luke Rockhold is out of their finale in January.

As a strength coach for pro athletes it is my ultimate goal to make sure athletes do not over-train. Over-training is a major cause of injury, but how do you protect an MMA professional?

Fighters need to compete to earn a paycheque and unlike most pro athletes, they don't get paid for practice. Their training can be as dangerous as the actual competition, so how do we create a sport that cares for its athletes?

Lots of talk lately has revolved around a fighter union. That may not be the answer, but something needs to change. I spoke with Urijah Faber and his team at MMA Draft to search for some answers.

"I'm trying to help young athletes be safe and maximize their potential in MMA as a career or as a hobby," explained Faber. "I would like to create a roadmap for them to follow to become successful."

That road map is what mixed martial arts needs.

The simple answer on how to prevent fight cards from being cancelled is by creating more volume. There are not enough top tier fighters to ensure great cards, and in the case of UFC 151 no one (other than Chael Sonnen) was ready to fight.

Not only are there not enough fighters, there are not enough sponsor dollars. Don't get me wrong, the guys at the top have huge contracts with sponsors, but there is little to no money for the young up-and-coming talent. It is a vicious cycle.

The starting fighters aren't paid well and can't get sponsors, so they stop training and head back to the "real world" having had their fun with the sport of MMA. It is usually the really talented ones who leave. Why? Because it takes talent, dedication and some business sense to succeed in MMA. Those talents are very well compensated in the business world, not as much in the start up in MMA. It's a grind and many move on to start families and careers.

Nexersys hired me a year ago to create programming for their fitness products. The coolest moment for me was seeing Faber using it at a trade show. If you ollow Faber's career, you find he is always on the cutting edge - searching for new products, sponsors and ideas. That reputation is what led him to create a team and bring the MMA world MMA draft.

MMA Draft has a lot of the answers to the problems in the fight game, so I went to Tommy Schurkamp, the COO of MMA Draft, to find out more.

If you are a fan, follow closely, all the next big talent in MMA will be directly involved with them. If you are a fighter, get in touch with MMA Draft, they will make sure you don't make the common mistakes. Need proof? Look at their lineup of fighters.

The best part of MMA Draft, which was founded by Faber, Phil Davis, and Will Farrar, is who is involved and what they are trying to do. 

"MMA Draft was created on the idea that we needed to create opportunities for amateurs to be recognized and highlighted for their hard work and accomplishments," outlined Faber. "We want to provide opportunities for young athletes that make the jump from the amateur to the professional ranks to get a head start in their careers."

For MMA to be successful someone has to take care of this sport at the grass roots level. The UFC and big promoters are too busy just trying to promote themselves and get people to the big shows to give fighters paid days worth showing up for.

The questions is, what is MMA Draft going to do for the grass roots guys.

"Our goal at MMA Draft is to create an environment where parents and amateurs can come and educate themselves in the different discipline of MMA. We provide a place where amateurs can learn as well as an outlet where amateurs can promote themselves and be seen by scouts and promoters, and matchmakers in the business," stated Schurkamp.

Where most sports have this in place already, it is the missing link in MMA.

"Our target audience is not only the future stars in MMA. We will also be covering the amateur side of wrestling, jui-jitsu, judo, and boxing. We will be covering all the sports that lead into MMA even though MMA may not be in the future of all our athletes."

This approach taken by MMA Draft will help many young athletes make this sport a career and by expanding the roster, promotions may be able to avoid full card cancellations.

"Mixed Martial Arts is a sport that tests the human body both physically and mentally," said Schurkamp. "MMA Training is a process where you push your body through peaks and valleys. The goal is to get your body performing at 100 percent when you are scheduled to fight. Building a bigger talent pool doesn't necessarily mean it will reduce the amount of injuries that we see. Unplanned injuries will happen in our sport due to the nature of the beast.

"We can, however, reduce injuries by understanding your body's fatigue levels, training intelligently, and planning accordingly. Much more goes into it than that, however that is a basic guideline."

Trust me when I say that MMA Draft and the guys behind it know about training. Proper training will get more fighters to the cage. More fighters means better story lines and more interesting fights along the way.

With the goal of becoming the hub of amateur MMA, and ensuring young fighters surround themselves with quality coaches and training partners, MMA Draft is set to make its mark in MMA. With proper support you will see MMA grow, and grow in an intelligent way. The sport will be able to bring over top talent from boxing, grappling, and wrestling. Young fighters will build careers, and those careers will be watched by millions on pay-per-view.

As fans, it will be an exciting time as MMA Draft creates a road map and makes success a real option for more athletes. As fighters starting out, who better to turn to than someone who has made their career in the cage.

Jordan Cieciwa can be heard on TSN Radio 1290 every Saturday at 11:30am ct with his show The Weigh-In. You can also follow Jordan at www.twitter.com/FitCityJordan and get all your fitness tips at www.onefitcity.com.