Coach Doug Balzarini The Ultimate Fighter Update: My First Week!
Every week or so I plan to share a couple thoughts and experiences I had while out in Las Vegas for the MMA reality show, “The Ultimate Fighter”. For me, week 1 began on Tuesday (3/6) when I made the extremely windy drive out to Sin City first thing in the morning. I got settled in to my condo which will be my home for the better part of the next 3 months. I met up with my 3 roommates, UFC Champ Dominick Cruz, Tigger, and Marley. The first guy you probably know, the other two are Dom’s cats. It was abundantly clear that the cats would rule the roost when they made quick work of one of the foam rollers I brought out with me (FYI – foam rollers make great toys for cats to sharpen their claws on).
It was then off to the TUF Gym to sign some paperwork, get our ‘Team Cruz’ attire and get a lay of the land. It was a fairly typical gym, except for all the lights and cameras of course. The strength training area was decent size and had some of my favorite tools there including; TRX, Concept 2 Rower & SkiErg, Woodway Treadmills, and plenty of tires.
We left the TUF facility, coordinated with the 10 or so athletes and coaches that were all there, and made the 20 minute drive to Wanderlei Silva’s MMA facility for a strength and conditioning session that I led. Having never been in the facility, I wasn’t familiar with the layout so I had to quickly set up two circuits that the 10 athletes would do simultaneously. It’s a good sized facility that had many of the tools that I like to use with the guys. My athletes for the session included Dominick Cruz, Alexander Gustafsson, Ross Pearson, Cyrille Diabate, Papy Abedi, Jeremy Stephens, Wilson Reis, and Shannon Slack. Yes, a bunch of studs. We had a solid 45 minute session that included some mobility work, wrestling drills, and some power development with plyos and resisted sprint work. After the session, it was back to the condo to relax for the night.
Wednesday began with some personal early morning sprints (I still have to train too) and then off to find some local grocery stores. In addition to training Dominick, his training partners, and the TUF athletes on Team Cruz; I also have the responsibility of stocking Dom’s fridge with quality food. I’ll be handling a lot of his nutrition while I’m out there so I wanted to make sure we had the right “fuel” in the house. I found a Costco, Trader Joe’s, and Whole Foods and got lots of fruits and vegetables, organic meats and eggs, potatoes and rice and quinoa, and fish oils & Vitargo which are two “supplements” that I do recommend. After shopping, I joined the fighters for a trip to Drysdale Jiu-Jitsu for an intense 2+ hour training session. I got to participate…well, “participate” may be the wrong term. I got man-handled during the training but I did learn a lot. The highlight was a new arm-bar escape that I had never seen before (which is sweet since I’m often on the receiving end of arm-bars). I returned to the condo to prepare some food, then met up with Dom and the team for some evening pad work. We all returned to Silva’s gym where I helped a number of the guys with some mobility work, stretching, and some foam roller movements to help with their injuries and imbalances. After their pad session, it was back to the condo to chill.
Thursday morning included another personal morning workout and then back to Silva’s gym for a morning sparring session. Again, I helped a number of the guys with their “pre-hab” routine and then observed Master Lloyd Irvin train a few of the athletes on their ground game. We left the gym, had lunch, and then went back to the TUF gym where we got to meet all 32 contestants for the first time. It was a great experience to meet all the guys, learn about their unique backgrounds, and get to know their personalities a little bit. Without naming any names, you could see right away that some guys came off more calm and confident than a few of the others. I had my top 3 already picked out after 5 minutes. I’ll reveal their names after the show. They had all just weighed in for tomorrow nights live premier so everyone was eating and refueling their bodies for battle.
Friday was back to Drysdale for some more ground work. I observed today since I was still pretty sore from my Wednesday beating. It was another “who’s who” of athletes on the mat. I learned a lot again even if I was just observing this time.
After the session, we had to eat and then get back to the TUF gym to prepare for the premier. You could feel the energy in the air as the contestants filed in to their respective locker rooms. I’ll admit I got fired up when Dana popped into the room, gave a 20 second speech that included an F-bomb or two, and then quickly left. I don’t remember exactly what he said, but I was ready to hop the octagon fence when we was done talking and go a few rounds.
We were given 16 of the fighters and helped warm them up for the fights. Coach Eric and Ross held mitts for them while Wilson and Shannon did some light wrestling and BJJ to help them prepare. I stretched a few of the guys out and helped them stay loose. The temperature in the room was high and when Stitch Duran came in to tape the guys up, we knew it was almost go time. Once the fights started, the night flew by. With 16 fights on the card, they were all only 1 5-minute round. Just 5 minutes to decide your fate. Just 5 minutes to determine whether or not you make the show, get in to the TUF house, and give yourself a shot at a UFC contract. It was a whirlwind of emotions once the fights got rolling; joy and happiness in the room when our guy won, and frustration and tears when our guy lost. It was up and down the entire 2 1/2 hours.
After the show was over, I took a moment and looked around the room…there were still winners and losers in there. A small room filled with big emotions. It was an intense moment. I congratulated a few of the winners and consoled a few of the losers and then left the building around 9pm. The next 5 hours would be spent in my car as I drove home to San Diego to train clients for the next 2 1/2 days before driving back. This coming week I get to train the 8 contestants on ‘Team Cruz’ for the first time. I can’t wait to see how these guys handle some conditioning work. My sessions will be a bit different in set-up since one of the guys will be fighting every Friday.
I’ll fill you in on the training sessions once we get started. The future posts will be more about our training sessions (after the show airs of course) throughout the season. Be sure to tune in every Friday night on FX and be sure to root for Team Cruz! If you don’t watch I’ll tell Tigger and Marley…and you don’t want that.