Tyson Jackson was the third overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft. The defensive end out of LSU has yet to truly impress in the pros and spent most of his sophomore season dealing with injuries. So, when the NFL lockout was taking place, Jackson was in no position to treat the break like an extended vacation.
That is when his agent suggested something different for his off-season routine:
"I was training with an MMA fighter and I also trained with a football guy some tough hours every day, training five days a week for about three months, so I'm in pretty good shape," Jackson said. "Football shape is something totally different but at the same time I'm in pretty good shape right now."
"Lateral quickness I think is the biggest part," Jackson said. "I gained a lot of lateral quickness training that way. A lot of side to side movement, a lot of jumping boxes and constant moving in the hands and feet preparing your body for those quick twist movements."
The idea of NFL players going through mixed-martial-arts training is nothing new. There are similarities in many explosive movements. Last year the Atlanta Falcons fully embraced the idea of MMA training for their players, working with MMAthletics (formed by Jay Glazer and Randy Couture):
Unlike with their UFC brethren, there isn't sparring during these hour-long workouts. But the physical and mental stress endured makes Falcons players feel as if they've just gone five rounds with Georges St-Pierre.
"You get some great conditioning out of it," Lofton said after Wednesday's workout inside the Falcons field house. "Plus, there's a lot of carryover to what we do on the field. We do some Muay Thai (for core-muscle and hip development), wrestling, working on our hands and getting guys off you. We work on body leverage, too, which is important. Whoever is the lowest man controls the other man.
"It's really intense. This is our second workout for the day. Some of this is just pushing it to do whatever else you've got to do to get better."
Glazer said that "fighter mentality" is what MMAthletics tries to instill in NFL participants.
Glazer flew to Atlanta 1½ weeks ago to run the first two sessions before handing the reins to renowned MMA fighter Frank Trigg.
"When you're an athlete on the field, you need to be able to stretch," Trigg said. "We do a lot of Muay Thai to get guys to open their hips and be more athletic and explosive. A lot of people talk about how they need a half-second off their (40-yard dash) time. We're talking here about 1/100 of a second. That's the difference in opening a hole so a running back can get through it or closing the hole and stopping the back from coming through. It's the difference between a 25-yard gain and a five-yard loss."
The crossover between the NFL and MMA has also heated up with things like newly signed New England Patriot, Chad Ochocinco, signing a sponsorship deal with Tapout. As well as A.J. Hawk signing with Clinch Gear and Michael Vick agreeing to a recent deal with MusclePharm.
The unfortunate thing in the case of Tyson Jackson is that one wonders how much good the MMA training did him as The Kansas City Star reports:
Jackson said he's in "pretty good shape," adding that he still has work to do before he'll be conditioned enough for the season. He said he hopes to avoid injuries, and he'll try to replicate whatever he did in that season opener - before the injury - in which he had six tackles.
Still, we're likely to see much more offseason MMA training by NFL players going forward.