The knuckles of Next Round
For a long time Fedor had been considered a grappler. Fedor excelled at Sambo and Judo before making the transition to mma. His backbone is combat Sambo.
Last year he won his third World Combat Sambo championship.
Right now though it would be a mistake to call Fedor simply a grappler. During his match with Mirko Crocop, Fedor did most of his damage standing. He demolished Zulu with strikes during Pride's Otoko Matsuri on New Year?s Eve. A review of Fedor?s recent fights, it would't be incorrect to label Fedor a striker.
Does Fedor consider himself a grappler or a striker?
Fedor: "You can say I am a grappler, you can call me a striker. My strength has always been grappling. I have raised the level of my striking though."
Has it been difficult to implement striking in your matches?
Fedor: "The opposite. After becoming a better striker my fights have become more fun and interesting."
Fedor has always been a gentleman with the media, but has always refused to talk in depth about his training. To ask around reveals much more.
Fedor's boxing coach Aleksander Mitchcoff had some interesting things to say.
Mitchcoff: "Honestly when Fedor first started training with me he had zero boxing technique. In the beginning there were many problems. To win in Pride you must improve your striking though. Fedor was able to clear those hurdles."
Mitchcoff has a 22 year career in Russian boxing attaining the highst level of "Master of Boxing". Mitchcoff first taught Fedor defense.
Mitchcoff: " If you watch Fedor"s fights you realize is defense is very good. He doesn't get hit much by punches. In Russia we start teaching children defense first, without gloves. This is so they won't depend on the boxing gloves during defense. In mma they use open finger gloves that are much smaller than boxing gloves. I think it was a good idea we taught Fedor the Russian method. Because of Judo and Sambo Fedor was very nimble and coordinated. This was one of the reasons it was easy to teach Fedor. Fedor's best attribute is to realize what he needs to work on most. Fedor worked very hard to learn the finer points of boxing. Fedor learned in two years what takes most people five to six years to learn. Seriously, if Fedor wanted to box he would become a top three amateur boxer in Russia."
Besides Mitchcoff, Fedor has a grappling coach, Boronoff. And last May a third coach, Ruslan joined the team. Ruslan was a former bodyguard of President Putin. Then became a kickboxer. From 1998 to 2002 he competed in Japan where he became Seikendo super-middleweight champion. The reason why Ruslan was brought on was because of Fedor's upcoming match with Mirko Crocop. Fedor really wanted to improve his kicking. Fedor wanted a specialist to teach him the finer points of kicking. Ruslan remembers the first time he met Fedor.
Fedor: "For my match with Mirko, please teach me to kick."
Ruslan: " I understand. We will first eliminate your weaknesses."
Fedor: " I can only throw knees. Actually I have never thrown a high kick."
Ruslan: " That's your weakness. If you want to beat Mirko you must surprise the audience."
Fedor: " Surprise the audience?"
No one would have thought Fedor would trade kicks with Mirko. After 2 to 3 training sessions a day, Fedor was finally able to throw high kicks. Ruslan also would impersonate Mirko in practice making Fedor block left high kicks.
Ruslan: "In the beginning Fedor would block my left high kicks. But after awhile he was not only able to avoid my kicks but counter off them."
Obviously watching Fedor's match with Mirko you could see this. And in regards to Zulu.
Ruslan: " We had little information on Zulu. We learned he liked to throw knees, and he always threw the same one-two combination from his left. We thought of many strategies. We weren't surprised the fight ended in seconds. With the training we put in the result was natural."
Before fights it is usual for Fedor and his team to go to Kisulobokku(キスロボック) in southern Russia to hold camp. Training starts at 6 am with a run.
Ruslan: "The environment is harsh, so it will help with his fights. The air is thin, so we can increase stamina ten times more than we could somewhere else. If we do our regular routine, his stamina will increase naturally. After the run we have short training session and we also decide our goal for that day. We then eat and take a break. Then we have a second training session. This session we use to increase stamina and review the morning's training. The third session takes place in the evening. This is the strength training session. I cannot give any more information."
With several coaches it must be difficult dealing with differing opinions.
Ruslan: "The five of us(including Fedor?s brother) are one soul. For example, "your way is no good" would get no results. When we find out who the next opponent is we get together to discuss him."
How do you decide what to do?
Fedor: "For mma I understand what I need to train. I also know what advice I do need and what advice I do not need. Sometimes I do not listen to my coach's orders. In the end I decide the strategy. The coaches most important job is telling me what I am doing wrong during practice."
What about a coach specifically for mma?
Fedor: "Right now there are no mma coaches. I coach myself with my know-how."
In the case of Fedor's pound, is there a right way to pound?
Mitchcoff: "Probably during the pound you use more muscle than you would standing. Probably you use your back/lower-back most."
Ruslan: "How you use your strength standing up and during the pound is totally different. When you throw a punch you use your whole body, that is why you can knock out somebody with one punch. But during the pound there are many variables and positions. You usually have to throw many punches to finish an opponent."
Right now strikers are doing well in mma. But Fedor is looking ahead. Fedor's hope is to be able to do everything well.
Ruslan: "Fedor's greatest strength as a fighter is using everything together. Not simply striking now or grappling now. Right now we are working on his weak techniques. In training it is best to have variation everyday. It is more fun and you can feel yourself improving. Recently Fedor has a new inspiration. After surgery on his hand we might see kick combinations in his next fight. Fedor is never satisfied, that is why I like him."