What do most people need to know about fighting and winning, but don’t?
Liz Carmouche and Tim Kennedy know better than most.
Both are history-makers in more ways than one and have a learned a few lessons the hard way.
Kennedy was already a professional mixed martial arts fighter before joining the Army straight into Special Forces in early 2004. Nearly a decade later, he’s stronger than ever, earning his spot in MMA’s major leagues in the Ultimate Fighting Championship in January.
Since then, he’s notched up two big wins and is considered a title contender for the UFC’s middleweight division.
Meanwhile, Liz Carmouche didn’t start cage fighting until leaving the Marine Corps in 2008. Quickly dubbed the “Girl-rilla” for her wild and aggressive fighting style, Carmouche turned pro within two years and was one of the first women invited into the UFC this year. She is also the first openly gay fighter in the UFC.
Although she lost her first bout against the inaugural women’s bantamweight champion, with an impressive TKO win in her second fight in July, she’s already in the running for another shot at the title.
OFFduty caught up with both fighters as they were preparing for their main card bouts in UFC’s Fight for the Troops night at Fort Campbell, Ky., on Wednesday.
Here’s what they had to say about what most people don’t know, but should, on how to:
Throw a punch
Kennedy: Just like throwing a baseball, you’re eyes should never leave what you’re trying to hit.
Carmouche: It’s not about arm strength. It’s all about your base and your legs and your balance.
Take a punch
Kennedy: Avoid it. Barring that, buy the guy a drink first.
Carmouche: You have to be prepared for it mentally. It’s not like being in a street fight. Most people don’t realize there is actual endurance involved in taking a beating.
Get out of a choke
Kennedy: Bite him. If the guy goes for, say, a rear naked choke, just turn your head and rip his bicep out.
Carmouche: It’s all mental. If you freak out, you’re going to wear yourself out.
Kennedy: Exclusive, specific diets – like Paleo, Atkins, or South Beach – are all stupid. The approach should be an overall mindfulness of what you’re putting into your body and understanding where your food comes from.
Carmouche: You need to eat every two to three hours throughout the day. I’ve been eating the same thing every day since I turned pro. Oatmeal in the morning with about four shots of espresso on the side and a gummy multivitamin, then a protein drink midmorning, brown rice and chicken or fish for lunch, a bagel and fruit before workout, a protein bar afterwards, and then two hours later flavor-free plain yogurt. For dinner it’s green vegetables, salad and a piece of chicken.
Staying in shape
Kennedy: It is a daily choice. You can’t be going to go the gym on Saturday and working really hard and then Sunday drinking beer, watching football, and eating wings. Every day you have a choice to be healthy and stay in shape, and it’s a choice you have to make every day.
Carmouche: It’s a lifestyle. Most people think it’s something they can do three days a week or every now and then when they feel like it, but it’s really an entire way of living. Even in the military I thought I was living healthy and weight training for an hour a day and running, but I was drinking like a fish and having fried chicken and loads of other greasy crap on the weekends. Living healthy is doing it all the time.
Becoming a pro fighter
Kennedy: Be good at the fundamentals. Drill and have a coach you will be loyal to. Some guys go from sparring night to sparring night – train at this gym, train at that gym – but you’ll never get better that way. You need someone who has a vested personal interest in seeing you succeed and seeing you evolve as a fighter.
Carmouche: Find the right gym. Find a place that feels like home. You’re not going to commit everything to it if don’t feel like you belong there. And then give everything to it.
Jon Anderson is a staff writer for OFFduty. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.