In this episode of The Sonny Brown Breakdown Podcast, I talk to Erik Uresk, a Black Belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Judo, a former professional MMA fighter and coach at Alliance MMA & Phuket Top Team. We discuss his start in the MMA World, how he advocates for embracing vulnerability in his training to help conquer adversity, his coaching philosophy, and how to generate trust from athletes. They also talked about the challenges he faced while working with high-level athletes, mainly Dominic Cruz (an athlete with extensive MMA knowledge).
Listen to Erik Uresk
For him, confidence comes to preparation. Not every day is going to feel good in the gym. He believes that there is no greater confidence than overcoming adversity. But there need to be a little bit easier rounds where you can be creative like there need to be different intensities and different periods of training. It can’t be like always all hard all the time. But there has to be a regular familiarity with vulnerability and discomfort in a fighter’s training.
Get Acquainted With Vulnerability, Discomfort, and Pain
He suggests an athlete get acquainted with vulnerability, discomfort, and pain. He then justifies it by putting the questions: Can you be successful without dealing with adversity, and hiding from those vulnerabilities? Yes, you can. Can you get the most out of yourself? No, you cannot. So there’s a huge difference between being successful, and winning fights. You can win fights purely based on your athleticism, but there will come a time in a place where adversity strikes you, and then how familiar will you be with that feeling. So, an athlete must get fully acquainted with vulnerability, discomfort, and pain
A Common Trend He Noticed With World Champions
After working with so many World Champions he noticed a common trend among them. And the trend is that they get obsessed about the stuff that they’re not good at.
Not Every Coach Is Meant For Every Athlete
Fighting is not for everybody. It’s a rational choice. Generally a choice for the well-adjusted. It’s a great opportunity to learn and forge yourself in a fashion that you might not have gotten to otherwise. But not every coach is meant for every athlete. If the coach has more passion and fire for your fight career than the athlete, then there’s a problem. He says “If that’s the case, I’m fine with not working with you.”
His journey from being a fighter to a coach
He worked with Alliance MMA, San Deigo for 4 years before moving to Bali MMA. There he felt like he was in a bad place mentally and left it after 8 months. After spending some time in the UK he went to Thailand and structured his training the best way he knew, and others started following the structure he was following, which made him kind of a proxy head coach there. During a fight camp there, he realized that he wanted to retire and step into the role of a formal head coach. Within a year of that decision, he joined Phuket Top Team.
The Philosophy behind the training structure
He followed the same training structure that they had at Alliance MMA in San Diego. He liked how the team did everything together, the coach had everything prescribed what everybody was going to do, there was a memory training every morning, everybody was in the gym trying to help each other. He saw all that worked and felt that this is a recipe to success. So he took all this with him to Phuket and perpetuated it.
How did he develop the style of grappling and boxing
Because of his Greco-Roman wrestling, grinding and top pressure were always easy for him. He always understood the feel of how to immobilize people. And he got good at immobilizing people due to this. But the problem with that is in a fight, it doesn’t mean much. He states you can win around by getting side control and holding the guy. You’re not going to win a lot of fans that way. And then if you get tired, and the guy gets up, now your arms are full of blood, and you’re not gonna be able to box. So he realized that as he started to challenge his play it safe mentality, he started to understand how to get positions to progress himself. So he tried to create the perfect pedigree between wrestling and Jiu-Jitsu, using the traits they both offer.
Why did he create the pedigree between Wrestling and Jiu-Jitsu?
Because if you look at a guy like Mike Chandler in his fight against Charles Oliveira, before getting clipped with the left hand, he was shutting down the grappling, right from the top position by not engaging in the grappling. One thing that he finds interesting is, it’s largely poorly executed even at the top levels.
He says it’s because when you learn jujitsu for fighting, you often learn from a guy that has trained in the IBJJF point system. So if he is in a headquarters position, landing shots, does he need to pass to get to side control in an IBJJF tournament? Yes, he does. Being in headquarters is nothing, He is still actively trying to pass the guard. So he has to progress towards a finishing position. That’s why the hierarchy is supposed to represent energy. This teaches that side control or side mount is better than half guard.
Using Legs To Create Pins
In a lot of positions that produce pins, you can’t hit the person. That’s not great for pursuing a finish. If we’re looking to progress our position, using the arms to hold somebody down in a position. It isn’t great. So he started coming up with techniques of how to use the legs to create lower body pins. So if they can’t move their hips, then they can’t escape and that leaves the hands free to do what he is getting paid to do
(damaging the person). And then ultimately, when it’s done at its best, it becomes a dance where we’re kind of hovering back and forth between damage and then advancing position which could either lead to a TKO or ultimately a submission.
ERIK URESK QUOTES
“We all are afraid of losing, looking stupid, and not feeling in control to varying degrees. Whatever it is, it’s really important to confront it and not hide from it.”
“You don’t achieve much by telling somebody that they’re wrong. What you achieve great results with is explaining why you believe, what you believe, and then showing tangible proof of its effectiveness”
“When a fighter loses, you’ll see whether they trust their coach or not real quick, because it’s often when a lot of the blame and stuff starts to come out.”
“Learning to develop and maintain trust is the most important thing in coaching.”
“If your personal life is a mess, you’re gonna see that in the cage up to some degree.”
“Each person has the dignity to learn from their failure.”
“When you don’t know what love is, you take any positive attention as love.”
“The only thing you can control is your effort. You can’t control the outcome.”
ERIK URESK Links
[02:37] – What intrigued him to become a martial artist?
[04:51] – How and when did he start training?
[06:53] – When did he start bouncing
[07:37] – His first MMA fight with Frankie Edgar
[11:29] – How did he balance his diffidence
[15:21] – What if someone just wants to be good at training only
[17:19] – A common trend with world champions
[19:10] – His transition from fighter to coach
[22:39] – The philosophy behind his training structure
[26:42] – What is it like working with Dominic Cruz?
[30:05] – How did he develop the style of grappling and boxing?
[34:28] – The process of building trust with athletes
[42:50] – Balancing between trust and vulnerability
[48:57] – The value of vulnerability
[54:25] – Attaching your identities to the fight
[58:42] – Providing a place of safety for people to fail
[01:01:30] – Michael Chandler vs Charles Oliveira fight
[01:27:06] – The kind of life he lived before being an athlete
[01:12:24] – The best way to connect to Eric
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