UFC 101 was a whirlwind of activity for me. Although Kenny Florian was fighting, I went to UFC 101 as a spectator, not as his coach. I had resigned as Kenny’s strength and conditioning coach a few months earlier. However, ending that relationship didn’t stop me from wanting Kenny to win badly!
Kenny hired me after his loss to Sean Sherk in October 2006. Kenny realized that he needed to improve his strength and conditioning if he was going to get another title shot. We worked very closely for the next two and half years as he pealed off 6 straight victories, which resulted in him once again earning a title shot, this time against BJ Penn.
Unfortunately, he would have to wait 9 months for the opportunity. After visiting Georges St-Pierre's training camp, Kenny decided to add on John Chaimberg, a strength and conditioning coach from Canada to the KenFlo team. Unfortunately, it was clearly evident from the beginning that John wanted my spot. Personally and professionally I am all about learning new ideas and working with other people. That being said, when you reach out (phone calls, emails) to someone on numerous occasions and get no response, it’s disturbing.
If long distance coaching is going to work, than you must have a colleague to work with that you can trust and communicate with on a daily basis. With John devising the programs from Canada, I was not able to provide meaningful inputs based on my history with Kenny and how he was performing under John's training programs. Eventually, I had no choice, but to resign as Kenny’s strength and conditioning coach.
While I am disappointed that Kenny wasn’t able to win his fight against BJ, I am very proud about the performance of a current client, Kurt Pellegrino, who fought and won earlier that evening on the main card.
With Kurt, I have a colleague I work directly with in New Jersey. Her name is Sharon Wentworth and she is a true professional. Although fairly new to the sport, she is willing to learn from me and I from her. Sharon had interned with Martin Rooney, who I respect greatly.
When I came on board last summer to train Kurt, he was in a difficult place. He had moved back to NJ, to open a school, and was living with his in-laws. He has just signed on for a tough fight. Kurt put his faith in me to design a program and Sharon to serve as his day-to-day coach. He was coming up against Thiago Tavares, a conditioning machine. Kurt not only won the fight, it was fight of the night, which provided a huge bonus that enabled him to buy a house for his family in NJ.
Kurt is now on a three fight win streak. The reason it works is simple - it's about the TEAM. There are No egos between Sharon and myself or the other coaches. We focus on the goal, “help the athlete win.” This mantra is what professional coaching is about.
Kurt once told a story about the great Genzo Gracie. Kurt was a blue belt at his academy and witnessed the Professor taping everybody in the room. He went up him and said, "professor that was great, I can't wait till I can do that." Genzo replied, "Kurt in life people are either a hammer or a nail, don't answer me now, but when you are awarded your black belt, you let me know which you want to be." When Kurt was awarded his black belt years later, he called the professor and said, "Professor, I know the answer, I want to be the nail!" Genzo asked, "Why?" Kurt replied, "because a nail makes everyone else look better and be better."
As coaches we are nails, we want our athletes to get shine. It takes a team to help them reach their goals.