While the two sports have countless differences, we are seeing a great deal of crossover between mixed martial arts and American football. In fact, many NFL players now train MMA during the off-season, which helps them prepare for the grind of the regular season and playoffs. We have even seen a few former NFL players try their hands at mixed martial arts, with varying levels of success.
NFL Players Training MMA
A major reason why so many NFL players now train in MMA is NFL insider Jay Glazer. In addition to his job as an analyst on Fox, Glazer is also an MMA trainer at a gym in Hollywood. At this gym, he has introduced a number of high-end players to the sport and feels as though it helps with their football careers. The players who have visited this gym include Jared Allen, Marcedes Lewis, Jarrad Page, Shawne Merriman, and Clay Matthews. All of these players believe that training in mixed martial arts allows them to push themselves to new limits, since they are training for 5-minute rounds.
Tim Tebow is another notable player who trains mixed martial arts during the off-season. Tebow has become good friends with UFC heavyweight Brendan Schaub over the years and trains with him at the California Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Center. Tebow’s love of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu will not take him into the octagon anytime soon, but it is notable because it shows that even a quarterback can benefit from this style of training.
NFL Teams and MMA
In addition to Jay Glazer, Randy Couture has had a major influence over MMA in the NFL in recent years. Couture and Glazer visited the training camps of both the St. Louis Rams and the Arizona Cardinals, with more teams sure to use this service in the future. At the beginning of training camp, players tend to be out of shape. Once they begin MMA training, however, they have no choice but to get into shape because of how hard an MMA-style training camp pushes them.
Former Players Competing
Although it is not common, a few former NFL players have competed in mixed martial arts once their careers have finished. The most notable former player to have fought is Herschel Walker, who is a Heisman Trophy winner and an NFL Pro Bowler. Walker currently has a 2-0 record in MMA, having won his first two fights via TKO. He is also a fifth degree black belt in taekwondo, which is a major part of his MMA training.
Former NFL receiver Johnnie Morton did not reach the heights of Herschel Walker on the field, but he was an All-American in 1993. Once his NFL career ended, Morton decided to try his hand at mixed martial arts. His career was a short one, however, as he was knocked out 38 seconds into his first professional bout. That was Morton’s only MMA fight.
Since the margin for error is so small in the NFL, it makes sense that these athletes would look for any advantage possible. Currently, once advantage involves training in mixed martial arts, as it helps with speed, strength, endurance and agility, all of which are needed on the gridiron. It is very likely that more teams will use MMA training as a major part of their training camps, since it does such a good job of preparing the players for the season ahead.
Michael J. Berry is a sports fanatic living in South Florida where he studies martial arts in Naples, FL.