After reading a Forbes.com profile of Tucker Max, a controversial Internet star who'd turned into an absurdly successful physical book author, I noticed that a very brief quote about the good qualities of MMA was almost buried into the piece. I reached out to Tucker in hopes of getting a few quick blurbs about the positive mention of MMA in a mainstream media publication and then mashing the whole thing together as a short post here on Bloody Elbow.
Tucker ruined those hopes by bouncing back and forth with me in a Q&A session that ranges from describing his discovery of the sport, the move to direct participation and the many connections he made with professionals and friends. The five-part interview is nearly 4500 words long and is interspersed with many highly passionate and profound thoughts at the positive experiences and values combat sports have for him and their applicability to others.
The first part of the interview dealt with his discovery of Brazilian jiu jitsu, subsequent humbling and the transition into training MMA at the original incarnation of Legend's in Hollywood, California. This second part looks a bit deeper into his actual training and moves us to Tucker's present, while I start to ask questions about what he gets from the sport.
This interview is done partly in support of his latest books, Hilarity Ensues and Sloppy Seconds, yet the interview is 100% Tucker, 100% relevant to MMA and there is no advertising or review thing going on here. Max was genuinely surprised by me reaching out and by my questions and welcomed the chance to talk about something other than his debauchery. I present his answers exactly as written (minus the bleeping out of a few cuss words). The books hit stores today and can be ordered online as well.
Hit the jump for the second of five parts encompassing Tucker's experiences and views on mixed martial arts, as told in his unique voice and featuring brief glimpses of some very prominent MMA fighters and figures.
Ben Thapa: How is it that Reggie Warren was able to get you to a competence point inside a year in which you could spar relatively well and we see MMA fighters who never pick up striking well?
Tucker Max: First off, he didn't make me a great boxer or anything, that obviously takes years, he basically just made into a mediocre MMA striking partner. That's not remotely the same thing. But that being said, I did learn very fast, much faster than most I think, and it was for two reasons:
1. Reggie has a very good understanding of technique, and from the beginning I specifically asked Reggie to focus on this with me and correct EVERY mistake I made, even if that meant he corrected me every five seconds. This is for a reason; the way the human brain learns, if you really take the time at the beginning and focus on perfecting your technique, it takes longer, but you form the correct neural pathways first.
This provides two benefits: You don't have to unlearn wrong habits, and your technique holds up under high stress situations because you imprinted the right habits. And yes, I read way too much neuroscience, but its cool when you apply it in real life. I think that's a big problem with fighters--they learned wrong striking techniques early or somehow developed bad habits, and either can't or won't unlearn them and relearn the correct way, because that's very difficult, and they don't have anyone in their camp that forces them to do that. It's not that they can't be good strikers; it's that they won't put in the right type of work.
2. Reggie would constantly keep my training at the edge of my competency, which accelerated my learning. In the literature, this is called "deliberate practice" and what it means in practice is that as I got better, Reggie increased his technique load or work load or his responses in sparring with me, so I was never just doing what I was good at; instead he was constantly pushing me just a little further to the edge of what I was able to do. It's the same concept behind progressive load weight training--you get better by adding weight. It takes a good teacher to do this right, and he is really f***ing good.
I guess there was one other thing that helped: I was only doing striking at the time, because I had a partially torn ACL from MMA and couldn't roll (which I later fully tore while having sex, that story is actually in Hilarity Ensues), so I was able to focus just on striking and train with him 3-4 times a week. That helps, of course.
BT: Where do you train now?
TM: I live in Austin, Texas now, and I split my time training between two places: a Relson Gracie affiliate run by Christy Thomas (and Phil Cardella, though he just left to open a place in Florida), and a new place that just started, a Gracie Humiata affiliate run by Donald Park. Both Christy and Donald are friends of mine and both their academies are great places to train, and I would recommend either to anyone interested.
The only thing that sucks now is that its tough to get true MMA specific instruction here, the way that I had it in LA. There just aren't many people who have enough experience in MMA to be effective teachers of it at this point, so in Austin, I kinda have to do everything separate; gi, no-gi, boxing, muay thai, and wrestling are pretty much all from different instructors or even different gyms. There are good teachers here for each specific thing, but I didn't realize how lucky I was in LA to have the MMA teachers who were full time MMA fighters and could put it all together the way that Mac did.
Austin has some amazing MMA fighters that train out of here. I've either seen at the gym or trained with Tim Kennedy, Kamal Shalorus, Yves Edwards and Roger Huerta in Austin. But none of them teach; MMA has gotten to the point where the big guys like this are getting paid enough they don't have to teach people like me anymore. That's cool for them, but kinda sucks for me. But whatever, its not like I'm training for a fight, it's not a big deal, there are still world class teachers here, I can't complain. Even though I guess I just did.
BT: Have you competed as an amateur or professional in any MMA? If so, did you do well or draw a positive experience from that?
TM: No man, no Mickey Rourke/Jose Canseco s**t for me. Tons of sparring of course, but never a real MMA fight. You know whats funny is, even when I was training 4-5 days a week at Legends, it never really occurred to me to actually take a full-on fight. I guess because I was training with so many guys who were all so good, and I was clearly not at their level, it never occurred to me to do it as well. I just had fun training with them, and that was enough for me.
I love MMA as a hobby, but thats very different than doing it seriously enough to take sanctioned fights. I'm not foolish enough to think I can train casually and then be ready to do a serious fight. That's ridiculous. Serious MMA competition--even at low levels--is a full time job, and a very hard one. One of the things I love about the way I train MMA is that I don't have to be totally serious about it, that I can take a day or even a week off, and it doesn't matter. It's my hobby, I love it as a hobby; I don't want to make it my job. You know the saying, "Marry your mistress, and you create a vacancy." I never wanted to do that.
End of Part Two
Stay tuned to Bloody Elbow as Parts Three to Five will appear daily until the end of the week (2/10/12).