Rich Walsh - UFC PI Mental Training

I Interview Rich Walsh In Episode Number 44 Of The Sonny Brown Breakdown Podcast. Richy Walsh is a  Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Black Belt, a veteran of The UFC, The Ultimate Fighter television show and he now works as an MMA Coach at the UFC Performance Institute in Shanghai, China. 

We discussed the goals of the UFC P.I and their expansion into China, how they run the MMA Combine and scout for new talent on the local scene, the process of running their fight camps, professional sparring sessions and how he game plans and breaks down footage for the athletes. He also explained the process behind the development and periodization of MMA Skills training and his thoughts on building a system to apply the same process for mental skills training. 

Links to the UFC Performance Institute Research Journals are contained in the Resources section at the bottom of this page. Also, if you want to learn more from the staff working at the UFC P.I then listen to my interview with Reid Reale who also works there as a Performance Nutritionist.

Listen To Rich Walsh





UFC PI Combine

The UFC combine is conducted to bring out potential MMA athletes and take them through a battery of tests. The tests range from anthropomorphic, where the height, body mass, etc., to Non-Technical tests like strength test, deadlift strength, grip strength, reactionary drills on the lights, and punch throw. In total, there are 11 tests consisting of technical, non-technical, anthropomorphic difficulties, etc.

In a nutshell, the combine is based loosely on the NFL combine, where they bring a batch of college athletes to recruit. 

“We see them in the domestic scene, bring them in, invite them in, ask them to try out our physical, technical, or non-technical, and anthropomorphic tests.” 

– Richy Walsh

The Non-technical Tests

He says, with the non-technical stuff, we’re just seeing their actual physical capabilities, where they sit in that division, and against the other people who are combining. They continually test them. And have a testing week to keep track of their constant progress on the gym floor.

The Technical Tests

For the technical tests, coaches will put them through a grappling test, where they do positional stuff. Generally, they are asked to do inside control, in mount position, starting on the back, and run through positions, right in a rotation. And they’re going to be scored for submission and passes, sweeps, etc. It’s much like a Jiu-Jitsu competition, but the coaches are just isolating the positions for the times. So that gives a good spider graph of where their strengths and weaknesses are in grappling.

Getting the baseline of strength and weakness

Richy says, “We’re getting a baseline on every athlete with their strengths and weaknesses. For example, on the anthropomorphic basis, it could be just where they sit in that division. Are they tall for that division? What is their actual division? What is their body type? We also have a scoreboard that’s live, so the athletes can know where they stand. “

The Wrestling test

He says, “We want to see their variety of takedowns, their technical execution of takedowns in some parts, and how many they can do in that as against a metric. But this time, we added in the combine and some wall work together. They do takedowns in the open for one minute and then punches in the takedowns. And also, against the wall under hooking into the wall doubles, or singles. So we want to see that mix of MMA because it allows them to get their mind away from too much of the isolated art and more into the transitional sections, which is where most of the good fighters are good.”

Selecting the fighters from the local China regional circuit

He says that they constantly keep tabs on the local events. So that they can know most of the fighters who are in those promotions. He says, “We’ll be keeping tabs, and we’ll have a list of potentials. And then we’ll go through that list myself and watch all their flights. And we’ll see who we like, who we don’t like and invite those.” 

Preparing Mental Skills Training

Richy says that there’s a lot of considerations about the mental side of fighting. And you have to do an objective analysis on your fighter in your gym to see where their strengths and weaknesses lie on a psychological or physical level. Then see what best fits into their training plan. You might have someone who’s just a freak, and it doesn’t matter what you say or do. They’ll just go out and fight. For this type of fighter, you need to focus on different aspects than someone who is worried or nervous. He says, “We need to focus on getting you through the fight camp. Maybe it’s injury prevention; maybe it’s getting you to every session because you’re always late.” So this is where you objectively try and look at the person, but then there has to be the subjectivity of what best fits each individual. 

Getting negative thoughts is natural

Getting negative thoughts about the competition is natural. He says, “even if you program it, you just set it aside. We set aside two times a week where we think for 30 minutes, all the good and bad things that come into our head because it’s going to happen, doesn’t matter if you’re the best. You’re still going to have a moment where you will have negative imaginations about the competition. “I could be knocked out and embarrassed” those thoughts are going to pop in your head because it could happen. So you’d be stupid not to think it. It’s like if I’m doing something dangerous, I want to know what the consequences are. In my head, I don’t want just to be utterly ignorant because I want to be prepared for those sorts of things that are going to happen. 

Mentally evaluating the fighters

The idea is to create a mental preparedness score, just like a mental survey. They are not doing it currently, but this is something that he’d like to incorporate in training. Richy says, “Like on the training front, the staffing, the physio, the sports science, and everything like that. These things don’t just happen overnight. If you’re doing the best job in the world, then things’ll constantly evolve. And that’s where we’re tightening the screws on things, but also getting to things where can we improve on, where can we be world-class, and trying to create new or different ways to do it right, without just like getting testing fatigue. So we don’t want to bamboozle them with too much stuff at once. And it’s the best way to get them in the system.”

Tape Watching

You can’t just watch the tape once, and they usually already have background information on their own fighter and the opponent. Richy says, “You can sit down and just watch the fights a few times, because sometimes even when you watch a UFC fight, you’ll notice you tend to focus on one fighter you like watching. There’ll be fighting on the domestic show or UFC for the academy athletes, so we watch the opponent’s last three fights. We watch them a few times, just get to know how he moves in general stance. And then, I’ll go through and write some notes on the opponent that specifically tells traits. So, it’s just building out those things and taking notes on the opponent.”

Early Game Planning Is A Trap

Richy says, “Through tape watching, we know the tendencies of the opponent’s keys to victory for our guys. And then we work that game plan within the three weeks before the fight. Because if we do it six weeks before fight camps, opponents change a lot on the domestic scene. So putting a lot of time into game-planning for things that are going to change is another thing. And then game-planning too early for somebody is another trap. Because you’re focusing on the opponent, you’re mentally training yourself to focus on their movement and what they’re going to be doing. And if they don’t do it, suddenly you build this expectation of what they were going to do, and it’s not what you want. You want to focus on how you’re going to win, how you’re going to be fighting, and how you’re moving. And then added to that, knowing how the opponent will move in his traits and tendencies and how to trap him and the do’s and do not in certain situations, their strengths and weaknesses, etc., is going to help you. So, in a nutshell, you have to note down things that they do that are common.”

The First Game Plan

It’s always a good question to ask your fighter questions like, how do you want to fight and if they’re going to be specific to the person they’re finding or what they want to do, then allow them to do their thing.


[00:00] – Introduction
[01:41] – Hiring Role Open for an Editor and My Patreon Account
[03:04] – About Richy and His Martial Arts Journey
[07:13] – His Advice to People Who Want/Are Pursuing a Career in This Field
[11:49] – His Plans for His Chinese Students and UFC
[14:32] – Pros of Being Part of a Multi-Billion Industry
[16:27] – About UFC Combine
[19:40] – The Wrestling Test
[22:17] – Selecting the Fighters From Local China Regional Circuit
[27:07] – His Way of Preparing the Athletes for the UFC Competition
[31:03] – Periodize Skills Training
[32:16] – Preparation in Mental Skills
[34:12] – When You Start Visualizing Things Negatively
[36:56] – How He Evaluates the Mental Preparedness of the Athletes
[40:03] – What Is Tape Study, and How He Uses It?
[46:04] – The First Game Plan
[47:48] – Discussing the Opponent’s Traits With His Student
[48:52] – His Thoughts on Technical Sparring and Hard Sparring
[52:15] – Dealing With the Problems of Switching Between the Real Fight and Practice
[54:55] – His Secret Tricks for the UFC
[59:01] – Richy’s Future Plans
[01:04:07] – The Best Way to Contact Richy Walsh

Rich Walsh Resources

Rich Walsh Quotes

“You need to have the skill. That’s the ultimate requirement to be in that real top echelon of fighting.”

– Richard Walsh

“No matter how good you are, bad things still gonna happen to you. You’re still going to have a moment where you could be knocked out and embarrassed.”

– Richard Walsh

“If you’re focusing on the opponent, you’re mentally training yourself.”

– Richard Walsh

Rich Walsh Links

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Richard Walsh - MMA Periodisation