UFC president Dana White made waves two weeks ago when he accused "camps such as American Kickboxing Academy" of still living in the "stone ages" when it comes to training. The reason behind his comments was the high frequency of injuries to the likes of heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez.
A man that also knows a thing or two about injuries is German UFC veteran Peter Sobotta. After his first UFC win at UFC Fight Night: Munoz vs Mousasi in Berlin last year, Sobotta went right back to training at Victory MMA in San Diego. A few weeks later, during his first training session back home in Germany, he tore a ligament in his knee. After a surgery and months of rehab, Sobotta started sparring again and immediately tore a ligament in his ankle -- two back-to-back injuries that kept the 28-year old welterweight from competing for almost a year. Injuries that could have been avoided by applying a smarter approach to training, says Sobotta.
"I believe, I was training too hard, that's why I had so many injuries. The Eastern European mentality I was raised with, that more and harder is always better, is not always a good thing in sports," the Polish-born German told Bloody Elbow's Mark Bergmann. "Now I give myself a break, get massages, go to the sauna. As funny as it sounds: I work less than before, but feel better and stronger. You have to give your body a break from time to time, because if you don't, it will take a break by way of injury or illness. I had to learn that the hard way."
Sobotta can understand White's recent comments and also feels that some changes need to be made in order to prevent injuries from happening frequently. But he also adds that it is always a fine line between training enough and training too much.
"This is a hard sport and we have to be skilled in so many aspects of the game. But you don't become the best fighter in the world by training to exhaustion every day. If anything, that's when all the injuries happen," says Sobotta. "MMA is a young sport, with relatively few scientific knowledge, so we have to look over to similar sports, such as boxing and start training smart. If I don't train enough, I won't be in shape for my next fight, but if I train too much, I'll likely get hurt or ill. It takes a lot of experience to walk that thin line."
Sobotta explained that it is easier to recover and prevent injuries from happening in a professional environment, like in the big gyms in the US, simply because you can rely on the support of physiotherapists, strength and conditioning coaches, and more.
"But to see that even in those big camps people get injured regularly, tells me, that this is a general problem in MMA and we need to change our training culture to avoid injuries in the future."
Peter Sobotta is currently riding a six-fight winning streak and is scheduled to face multiple BJJ world champion Sergio Moraes at UFC Fight Night Berlin, June 20.