Doctor Octagon

Now that the baseball season is officially underway, the logical step for us is to have an interview with an athlete. What is the ball player's name, you wonder? Well, he's not exactly a baseball player, though he may have played some Little League ball. No, today's interview deals with an MMA fighter - that's mixed martial arts for any newbies out there. Bob Williams, who trains at the world renowned Miletich Fighting Systems is here to answer some questions and maybe debunk the myth of the mono-syllabic, kill-at-all costs fighter. Bob was gracious enough to sit down with us and explain to us what this MMA world is all about. Strap on some 4oz gloves, grab a Xyience Energy Drink and enjoy.

Can you list your vitals?
I am 5'6, 155 lbs currently 3-1 and fight in the Featherweight Division (145 pounds).

Those who've known you for some time say it was weird to think of you as a fighter. How did you get involved in MMA? What did your family and friends think of your decision?
There were a couple reasons I got into MMA. The first was actually just a fun way to stay in shape and to do it as a hobby. The other reason was that I was taking care of my elderly grandpa full time for about 3 years, and he was a former professional boxer, so I like to think of it as a tribute to him. My family didn't really have a reaction at first, probably from not knowing much about the sport. After a little while they just thought I was plain crazy to do it when i would walk around with bruises, cuts and black eyes. Now everybody is really supportive though, except for a grandma who thinks its too dangerous.

What is your response to people who say that the sport is 'barbaric' and appeals to 'meatheads'?
I think that most people who think that MMA is barbaric aren't aware of the rules and have never really watched it. If the only thing you've seen is a highlight video of the best knockouts, then you will think that it is a lot more barbaric than it really is. The same thing goes for football too, if you watch a video of the worst injuries and hardest hits you would think that the NFL is barbaric. People feel that sports such as MMA and boxing are barbaric because they don't understand the science and skill involved in them. They also aren't aware of all of the rules in place to protect fighters such as no kicks or knees to the head of a downed opponent, small joint manipulations, eye gouges, etc. As far as it appealing to meatheads....it does, but it appeals to a lot of other people too. I've met people from all walks of life who are interested and entertained by it. Men, women, doctors, athletes, blue collar workers, and everything in between.

Did you have any sort of fighting or wrestling experience growing up?
I did karate and kickboxing as a kid and always liked it. I always enjoyed the contact from sparring.

You're currently training at the legendary Miletich Fighting Systems in Bettendorf. Obviously there are world class fighters like Tim Sylvia, Jens Pulver, and Spencer Fisher in there 7 days a week. How hard is it to start your MMA career in an environment like that?
For me it was the perfect start, but that's because I went in wanting to learn from people who have been doing it for years. So many people come and go from there that come in wanting to impress people. It's a matter of earning respect. All of the people you mentioned have been extremely helpful the entire time. I train with Spencer on a daily basis which has helped me make huge strides all around. For the most part everybody are nice guys who enjoy helping fighters who are trying to get better. They want people to represent the gym just as they do and want everybody to do well. Even though it isn't a team sport such as football, it's very much a team environment. I want everybody there to win as much as I want myself to win, and vice versa. They're all really great and genuine guys who are very supportive of the people who put in the work that's necessary to get where they are.

Can you take us through a typical day?
My typical day consists of waking up at 7, eating something light and heading to the gym. I will lift weights for an hour to an hour and half, run on the treadmill or outside for 30-45 min, and work MMA technique for an hour after that. That hour of technique could be anything from hitting pads, focus mitts or the heavy bag to ground and pound drills to jiu-jitsu. I usually get out of the gym between 11 and noon and have a protein shake and eat a high carb and protein meal when I get home. I'll relax, take the dog for a walk, and maybe watch a movie until I eat again, then usually take a nap for an hour, and then head back to the gym. Monday, Wed and Friday nights are sparring and Tuesday/Thursday are jiu-jitsu nights for 2 hours.

Many of us have seen the reality show, The Ultimate Fighter, on Spike TV and have seen how the guys train. Is that pretty realistic of life as a fighter (with respect to the training)?
Yeah the workouts are realistic on the show. I think I've done everything that I've seen on there at least once. It's not realistic in the way of the life of a fighter by taking away outside contact, TV and the internet, but then again, it is a reality show, and those just aren't 100% real.

How important is nutrition?
Nutrition is huge, one of the biggest aspects of the sport. Staying hydrated, repairing the muscles, and keeping energy levels up are the goals. We have to eat enough food to sustain energy through the rigorous hours of training, but not too much to get our weight off. Personally I walk around between 155-160 pounds, but cut down to 145 for a weigh in. By the time I fight I weigh close to 155 again. Eating clean and not drinking alcohol are very important. I won't drink any alcohol a month away from a fight.

As a guy who's never been in a fight, what does it feel like getting punched and kicked? Does it affect your level of concentration during a fight?
It depends on how hard you get hit and where you get hit. They say there are two reactions to getting hit: backing up or hitting back. The thing about getting hit is that it's not as much about how hard you get hit as it is about where you get hit. A light kick or punch to the liver is 5 times as painful as a hard strike that misses the liver by an inch. Same thing with getting kicked right above the knee or in the hamstring compared to the thigh. That's why being technical and accurate is so important. Also, the kick or punch that you don't see coming hurts the most and is usually why people get knocked out or dropped. As long as you have your chin tucked and see the punch coming it doesn't hurt as bad as you would think. Part of the reason for that is your body gets conditioned to it. Blocking leg kicks with your own shin used to be torture, but now its a natural reaction and doesn't bother me. A lot of that is because conditioning kills the nerve endings there.

How do you prepare for a fight? Do you typically know anything about your opponent? Do you and your coaches develop a 'game plan'?
My corner men and trainers will develop a game plan for every fight, but you never know what will happen in a given night. We train for the fight in all aspects off MMA so that we're always prepared for standing or fighting on the ground. Training partners will mimic the style and what you know about the guy you're fighting so you have somewhat of an idea of what to expect. If your fighting a strong wrestler then you will train with a wrestler. There are so many great training partners at the gym that push you and make you better everyday. Another important thing is having a good corner because they see things that you don't in the cage. In every fight I've had my corner walk me through it, with simple commands and adjustments to make during the fight. They are the ones who see if someone is dropping their hands or if a submission is there that you don't see. I always have great coaches, training partners and corner men.

What is your ultimate goal in MMA fighting?
I got into this as a hobby and its turned into a career. My goals are to travel and fight in places that I never would have visited otherwise - Japan, Thailand, Brazil,and Europe. I want to be able to make a good living and get into training other people when I get older. My other goal is to hold the featherweight or bantamweight for a major organization like the WEC or Shooto. Sadly, the UFC doesn't have 145 or 135 pound division yet. Fighting in the UFC would be a huge goal but I am too small to fight at the 155 pound weight class.

Fashion question: board shorts on the Speedo-ish shorts?
I have considered wearing the Speedos but just don't have the penage to pull it off. So far only board shorts but I may rock the Speedo one of these fights.

Last question, what advice would you give someone who's thinking about getting into MMA?
I do think a lot of people fight too soon when they get involved in MMA, which isn't a good idea. It's just like anything else, the more you put into it, the more you'll get out of it. Don't get discouraged and keep going. Leave your ego at home and just do it. Everybody gets beat, you just can't let it get to you. You have to be willing to get beat up and submitted in training so you know what to do next time. By taking those beatings, you get tougher physically and mentally. Nobody became a champion overnight.

For those interested, you can catch Bob Williams in action on Saturday, April 26th at The Moline Community Center in Moline, IL. Doors open at 6pm and the fights will go until 11pm.

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