Fight Like A Champion

Conor Heun - Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Here is an interview I did for www.fightlikeachampion.com

I hope you like it

What's your training schedule leading up to competition (peaking & pulling back)?

I don't really have a set training schedule. I just listen to my body and do what feels right. I always get at least four striking sessions a week, two wrestling sessions, four grappling sessions, and two conditioning sessions. I add in extra runs to keep my weight down and work on whatever feels like it needs work. I don't really tend to tapper off too much because I'm usually cutting a little bit of weight and need to keep my calorie expenditure up to keep the furnace going.

What is your diet philosophy during training and off training?

I always try to eat pretty clean. In general, if you can't hunt it down or pull it out of the ground I don't eat it. I eat a lot of oatmeal, broccoli and chicken. My weakness is that I have a big sweet tooth though and have been known to polish off a few pints of ice cream during my typical week but I definitely cut out the ice cream as the fight gets closer. I usually start my day off with some fresh vegetable juice that I make at home from carrots, celery, beets, tomatoes, cucumber, ginger, and sweet peppers. I drink this after my morning run and mix it with some protein powder. I feel this starts my day off right with a lot of vitamins and nutrients. I eat oatmeal with almonds and blueberries two hours before my hard training session and finish the day with broccoli, chicken and rice.

How do you offset fear or nervousness before competition?

I started competing in wrestling when I was five so I think I have pretty much overcome most of my nervousness. I really focus on performing to the best of my ability rather than focusing on a result. I sort of take winning and losing out of the equation and this really takes all the pressure off so I am able to just relax and have fun out there. I think all the hard work and stress is in the training and that the fight should just be a fun time to show off all the hard work I have put in.

Do you believe being first to attack in the fight or wait to get in rhythm? Why?

It really depends on the fight. I usually watch my opponents previous fights and come up with a specific game plan for each fight. I have found that when I bring the fight to my opponent and force them to deal with my offense rather than the other way around I usually am more successful. I am trying to become a fighter capable of avoiding my opponents attacks and launching a perfectly timed counter offense a la Anderson Silva. Unfortunately my striking isn't at that level yet so I just try and push the pace and outwork my opponents. I am very durable and have tremendous cardio so no matter how much damage I take early in the fight I gain the upper hand as the fight progresses.

How do you adjust your game plan during your fights?

I have a hard time changing my game plan mid squabble. The one thing that helps is getting hurt or rocked. This usually turns on the autopilot and thankfully I have pretty good instincts. I just force my opponents to fight my fight by pressing forward and throwing everything I have at them. If I had to back off in a fight I am not sure if I would be able to. I go out there with the intention of overwhelming and destroying my opponent and fighting in a more passive manner, as Machida often does, does not interest me.

How do you develop mental strength to perform your best?

I developed my mental toughness growing up with my father. He was a wrestling coach and I always really looked up to him. He taught me to always try and out work everyone. It didn't matter what the task was, I was taught to always push my self farther and harder than I thought possible. If I was told to go out for firewood, I would always try to impress him with how many logs I could carry back to the house in one load. Or if it was doing chin ups, I would always strive to do one more than I had the day before. In practice when everyone did 20 push ups I did 21. At first it was because I knew he was watching and I wanted to impress him, but it eventually just became a habit. In workouts we would do what we called adversity training. For example we would be doing situations in practice and he would say that I was down by a point. I would get the escape to tie it and then the takedown to win before the time would run out. I would think the match was over but then he would say something like, "Oh, no! There's some confusion at the table and it looks like the Russian judge is indicating the takedown came after the whistle. We are in sudden death overtime." Then I would have to start on my feet with a fresh opponent and I would have to wrestle 30 second matches with fresh guys until I got the takedown. He taught me to always prepare for the worst and to make sure your training is tougher than your competition.

How do you remain motivated?

I am motivated by an internal angst and uneasiness that doesn't allow me to remain satisfied with anything. I need a constant challenge or I become bored. I fear mediocrity and am unhappy unless I am being challenged. Because of these feelings it is easy to remain motivated. The idea that someone else thinks they can beat me eats at me and drives me to prove them wrong. As long as I feel that there is a good chance my opponent will beat me, I am extremely motivated by my own fears and self doubt. I train hard to be sure that I am outworking my opponent and to give my self the confidence to stand in the cage and face my fears. I remember being almost paralyzed by fear when I knew that there was a bully waiting to fight me after school. I was so scared before hand but felt so good and such a sense of accomplishment after I choked the asshole out that I vowed I would never allow my fears to dictate my behavior. Looking at my profession, I guess that's more than a little ironic.

How do you build your strategy prior to your fights and adjust during your fights?

I watch tape with my trainer and look for weaknesses in my opponent but mainly I just rely on my strengths and ability to push the pace and bring the fight where I want it. I don't adjust much in the cage I just push forward and force my opponent to deal with my game.


LIST QUESTIONS

Favorites:

5 favorite fighters to watch Why?
Wanderlie Silva, Anderson Silva, Fedor, Shinya Aoki, Uriah Faber

Favorite products that you use (food, supplements, equipment, clothing, etc.)
AstroGlide

Favorite songs to train to:
House music and anything by Eminem

Physical:

Most common training mistakes you see:
Stopping 'cause it hurts

Most common mistakes you see with people during a fight:
Stopping 'cause it hurts

Favorite technique combinations:
Short sonic boom to suplex

Most important drills or exercises:
Adversity Training

Mental:

Most important things to remember during the fight when you're WINNNG:
Hands up, chin down, and keep working

Most important things to DO during the fight when you're LOSING:
Keep your hands up, your chin down and work harder.

What are ways to mentally prepare prior to your match?
Get warm, stretch, and imagine having the most fun you've ever had. I ride through my favorite snowboard trail in my head until I can visualize landing every trick and making every turn perfectly. This helps me focus and relax without the stress of thinking about the fight.