By: Travis Brown
When looking around the MMA landscape there is one thing that’s becoming very important. Fighters and coaches are looking to strength and conditioning trainers to make sure they are performing at an optimum level. On a more causal basis you are seeing combat styled workouts populating group fitness classes and gyms across the world. These differ from what’s happening at places like Fight Syndicate were a dedicated professional and father of 7, John Davis calls home. An active competitor in jiu jitisu, former military and police officer, John has dedicated his life to the fitness industry. He now has the opportunity to bring his bevy of knowledge to the athletes at Fight Syndicate which houses fighters such as current Gladiator Challenge champion Demarcus Brown. As a person who aspires to be an elite performance trainer for combat athletes myself I was honored to be given the task of interviewing John. Read ahead for our exclusive interview dealing with his upbringing, family, martial arts and what he is working on with the athletes at Fight Syndicate. I truly want to thank John for his time and wealth of knowledge that can inspire us all.
Tell us about your upbringing as a child’ were you into sports and fitness all your life?
I was raised by my mother and at an early age she put me in sports. I grew up playing football and baseball. My passion was football and at age 12 and a coach told me to be good in high school I needed strong legs and to eat bananas. This simple statement started my life’s passion of understanding the relationship between, nutrition, strength training and performance. At 12 years old I began reading everything I could on strength training. Unfortunately in the 80’s bodybuilding was permeating strength training. Muscle and Fitness and Flex Magazine was the main source of information. I began lifting at home with a set of plastic weights and doing sprints almost every day. I made progress but my biggest jump in strength was the summer I worked with my grandfather who did plastering. My days were filled with shoveling sand and carrying buckets of cement up scaffolds. I remember how much stronger I felt that season of football.
What kind of certifications do you possess and why was it important for you to be in the health and wellness and fitness industry?
I am certified USA Olympic Weightlifting Coach, RKC Russian Kettlebell Instructor, Ginastica Natural Instructor, Speedburners Speed Coach. Police Use of Force Instructor. Coaching is my true passion, as a young athlete growing up without a dad my role models were my coaches. I knew I always wanted to give back what I received as a young athlete. When I was a freshman I ran a 4.7 40 yard dash at 145 pounds, two years later I weighed 190 pounds and squatted over 400 pounds and had ran 2 years of track. I was timed in the 40 yard dash again and ran a 4.9. I had no idea how this happened at the time but years later when my oldest son at 7 years old wanted to play football and remembering this, my focus on Performance Training really began. This sequence of events of getting stronger and then slower is a driving force in everything I do. Nothing I do is random just to get a good work out, everything has a purpose and it is to perform better.
How long have you been involved in Combat Sports as an athlete?
I played football from 9 years old until I went into the army at 18. In the Army I trained in Wing Chun for 3 years and Choy Li Fut for 1 year. After getting out of the Army I trained in Brazilian jiu jitsu, boxing and Muay Thai on and off for my 10 years. I have 1 mma fight, 2 Muay Thai fights and actively compete in jiu jitsu. I am a purple belt in jiu jitsu which is my primary focus now. I’m also a former Sergeant in the 82nd Airborne Division and a retired police officer. These are two combat sports where your physical readiness can determine life or death. My Combat Athlete System is also designed to prepare Military and Law Enforcement for the rigorous demands of their profession.
What brought you to Fight Syndicate and how are things going so far with the gym and their athletes?
Beau King, the owner of Fight Syndicate and I both own Dogo Argentino dogs. Beau wanted to breed our dogs and during this time we began talking about strength training and his philosophies as a coach. I really liked what he was about and how much he cared about his guys and he ran a true Martial Art gym not just a MMA gym. Beau, Josh [the other co-owner] and all the fighters have made me feel more then welcome. It is an extremely humble and hungry group of fighters. They have all been eager to learn and are willing to work extremely hard to reach their goals.
How can great fighters like Demarcus Brown benefit from your knowledge and expertise?
I have been coaching for over 20 years in a number of sports; I am a competitive martial artist, with a background as a soldier, police officer, coach and a father of two grown men. More than anything I hope to bring them a coach that understands them and cares about them as a person. When your athletes know you care about them and their best interest they will buy into what you are coaching them and push themselves as hard as they possibly can. My purpose in life is to help, mentor and coach others and I am blessed with this opportunity at Fight Syndicate to serve in that purpose and to work with Beau King and Josh Bartlett who have the same purpose.
Demarcus as well as all the fighters can benefit by me being there in several critical areas: Number one it will take care of all the guess work out of what they need to do in regards to Strength and Conditioning. I have set up a specific training program for Demarcus where all he needs to do is show up and do the work which he is always eager to do. In addition I am there to monitor their work loads. The nature of fighters like DeMarcus is to work until they drop and then work some more. Part of my training is with them is teaching them how to balance all the work they need to do as fighters.
What is the one thing you wish athletes in combat sports would do to better prepare themselves for the rigorous work they put on their bodies?
I wish athletes in combat sports would train consistently in preparing for a fight or not. They need to understand that training is not just done in the gym but 24 hours a day. Their rest, nutrition, training of every discipline including strength and conditioning is an everyday priority that should line up with their personal goals. If a strength coach purpose is just to make you throw up and tired get a new strength coach, any moron can do that. The strength coach should be able to give you an answer for everything he does and how that specifically will prepare you for a fight. Throwing up, being tired and exhausted is not a factor in an effective training program although there will be times when all the above will happen! Be a professional and never forget you are in a hurt sport where the goal of your opponent is to hurt you, knock you out or break limbs and your training and life style should reflect this. It’s not about wearing cool shirts and having sweet tattoos, it’s about becoming a true warrior mentally, physically and spiritually.
What is a typical day for you look like and do you also have clients outside of the gym?
I wake pretty early making Bullet Proof coffee for me, my wife and son. I take this time in the morning to prepare and review all my work outs for the day, I take care of any business aspects and research training. I train every morning at Carlson Gracie Jiu Jitsu in Temecula, after I head to Fight Syndicate for my first Strength class. I usually train with the fighters during this class as well as coach them which I think motivates and nothing is better than leading by example. I have a break for a few hours for lunch at which time I have been writing a book on training. I head back to Fight Syndicate for my evening classes. I only train clients out of Fight Syndicate. I balance all this with having an amazing wife who supports every aspect of what I do, trains with me does jiu jitsu and teaches strength classes at Fight Syndicate. I also have a 23 year old son who plays college football, 3 young boys 14, 13, 11 who all play football, a 25 year old son in Law School and 2 girls in college. Yes that is 7 kids so we stay pretty busy!
When someone asks “what does strength and conditioning coach in a MMA gym do?” what is the best and simplest way to explain that?
I train the fighters as well as all the Martial Artist at Fight Syndicate in the energy systems, mobility, and specific conditioning needed to maximize their skills and increase their endurance in training and fights.
Fighters need to be explosive and performing at an optimum level, are you and outside the box thinker or more grounded in just your core values and discipline?
The answer is yes to both those questions. I am grounded in my core values in establishing a strength, explosive and isometric base and incorporating movement, Ginastica Natural. I have always been outside the box in the sense I don’t do what everyone else does but I never discount anything without evaluating and seeing if it can be beneficial. I didn’t take a traditional path to being a strength coach, getting the normal certificates, getting a degree in Kinesiology or any of the like. I didn’t start out to be a strength coach. My son wanted to play football and I didn’t want him to make the mistakes I did. My two sons became my test subjects at a young age. I researched great coaches from all over the world, including the Bulgarian, Russian and Eastern Block countries. These coaches think of strength training as a skill like a martial art not as a workout. The greater your skill is the stronger and more explosive you will be. When my oldest son was 17 he did the Olympic lift, cleans and hit 331 pounds. People were saying it was all technique and my thought was exactly but he was moving 331 pounds and an extremely fast rate and he was moving 331 pounds! At the same time he was breaking strength records he was also running electronically timed 4.5 in the forty range and jumping close to 40” in the verticle jump test.
What is one goal you hope to achieve as the strength and conditioning coach at Fight Syndicate?
My number one goal at Fight Syndicate is that every fighter strength and conditioning is a high level skill that every opponent will have to account for.
What would be your advice for a young person who aspires to one day work in the gym with fighters?
First be a Martial Artist, train at least in a grappling art and a striking art to be at a competent level. If possible compete at least at an amateur level. Be open minded in learning different strength and conditioning philosophies. Remember without a strong base of understanding any idea or system will make sense and seem like the end all. Start getting certifications, reading everything you can on strength and conditioning, spend time researching the internet, go to seminars and most of all be a sponge but don’t ever think you know it all. Performance training is a science that is always evolving, you can never think you have learned it all and “don’t be a sheep”
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