Boxing Vs MMA : Teams
One of the major differences between professional Boxing and MMA is the emphasis on teams rather than on the individual fighters. In boxing everyone knows all about Mayweather and Pacquiao but not too much about their training partners. It’s usually the opposite in MMA. If there is one successful fighter from a team there are usually plenty more where they came from.
This has been the case right from the start. The first major team that had a lot of success was the Lions Den which featured Ken Shamrock, Frank Shamrock, Guy Mezger and many others. Following on from their example many other successful teams came along over the years such as Miletich Fighting Systems (Pat Miletich, Matt Hughes, Jens Pulver), Chute Box (Pele, Wanderlei Silva, Anderson Silva, Shogun Rua), Team Punishment (Tito Ortitz, Chuck Liddell, Ricco Rodriguez) and Brazilian Top Team (Nogueria Brothers, Mario Sperry, Ricardo Arona).
The Team System
The team system has worked so well that pretty much all the successful fighters in the history of MMA can trace their success back to being part of a successful team. This has continued up to the present day with the results of teams such as Jacksons MMA, Roufus Sport, AKA and Tristar Gym.
The career trajectory of a professional boxer is usually a lot different. Boxers typically start off at an amateur club where they are taught by volunteers a few evenings a week. If they ever become good enough to turn professional they will need to hire full time trainers and managers. They will also need to pay sparring partners to come in and help them prepare for fights. The big difference here is that in MMA the sparring partners are usually working together to help each other improve. Boxing sparring partners are just there for the benefit of the star fighter. The sparring partners are not told to ‘look after’ each other. In some cases sparring partners would get paid a bonus if they could knock out the star fighter in training.
Iron Sharpens Iron
MMA camps usually consist of teams of people who train together all year round not just before fights. All members of the team try to improve each other and develop the others skills especially in sparring. In the long term this will lead to each fighter having better and more skilled training partners to train with. In professional boxing all of the sparring partners are just there to improve the big name boxer. The star boxer isn’t really concerned with developing the skills of the sparring partners.
Right from the beginning MMA has been a team focused sport. Pretty much all the champions in UFC and Pride have come through the tried and tested team system. Over the years there have been a few examples of MMA ‘superstars’ who tried to follow the professional boxing model instead such as Brock Lesnar and Alastair Overreem. These fighters usually have very limited success when they try to break away from the team system and are eventually faced with either retiring from the sport or returning to a successful team.
Advantages of a Team
What are the advantages of a team? Firstly, you get out what you put in. If you turn up consistently and train hard with a good, helpful attitude you will have good training partners who will in turn help you to develop into an even better fighter. If you come to the gym sporadically, train with the wrong attitude and injure your training partners nobody will be willing to train with you. This will make it very difficult to be successful as a fighter. You will be faced with the option of having to pay sparring partners. However MMA fighters don’t get paid enough to justify paying sparring partners and there aren’t really any MMA sparring partners for hire like there are in professional boxing.
Another advantage is that it is possible to produce multiple good fighters using the team system rather than just being focused on one person. This is because the trainers, sparring partners, training systems and structure remain consistent and if they have produced good results for one person then they can continue to reproduce the same results and success for others.
When a fighter steps into the ring or cage they are in there on their own but what happens and how they perform once the bell rings is determined by the team that they have been surrounded by up until that point.