Inside The Mind of Grudge Training Center’s Trevor Wittman Josh Davis May 23, 2011 UFC Trevor Wittman is the owner and head trainer of Grudge Training Center and he is considered by many to be one of the best in the business. Throughout his career as a trainer, Wittman has made average fighters good, good fighters great, and great fighters into world champions. As you walk into Wittman’s office, you will see numerous championship belts proudly displayed, as well as many pictures of Wittman with his champions and other fighters. With all of his accomplishments you would expect Wittman to carry an ego as big as his gym, but that is just not the case. Wittman is a very humble and down to earth individual. He welcomes everybody that comes into his gym with open arms and always takes time out of his day to interact with the kids that wander in.Wittman started off his career as a boxer before an injury forced him out of competition. It was at this time that Wittman faced some of the toughest times of his life. “When I had the injury it was a very tough time for me. I was going through a custody battle with my son, I could not fight and it was very hard for me. I started to see a counselor at that time and she asked what is that you love to do? I told her that I love the sport of boxing but I have had three doctors tell me that I can no longer compete. The counselor asked me if there was anything else that I could do in the sport. After thinking about it I told her that I could be a trainer, a manager, or a promoter. She told me that I needed to find something that I could do.” Wittman thought about it, and decided that teaching would be the best thing for him. “I think I could understand the way of teaching because I taught myself how to box. I always had coaches that would tell me to go in and hit the bag, I would go in and spar and they would tell me to step to the left. Every time I would step to the left I would get hit in the face with a right hand and I thought ‘what is going on here?’ So I started to watch the pros and see that every time they stepped to the left they made sure that they had their heads outside of their hips so that they did not get hit with the right hand.” It was then that Wittman started to realize his potential. Wittman started to fulfil his natural gift of teaching people. Instead of training himself, Wittman got behind the mitts and began to work with other fighters. As he was working with other people, he began to realize that he had a natural gift as a teacher. Wittman credits his athletic background growing for his success as a trainer. “Teaching comes very easy for me because I am able to think about certain things the others don’t. I think that being an athlete my entire life made it easy for me to transition to a trainer.” Much of Wittman’s empathy as a trainer comes from his childhood experiences. As a kid Wittman did not have it easy. In addition to being picked on as a kid he was diagnosed with ADD. Witman was constantly told by his teachers growing up that he would never amount to anything. Wittman stated that this was not easy for him. Finally he found a teacher, Mr. Day, who gave him positive encouragement. Mr. Day was one of his high school teachers as well as his wrestling coach and he would always give him some positive motivation. “Mr. Day would always give me some positive motivation and encouragement before he would tell me what I need to work on. He would always talk to me on my level. He would look me in the eye and talk to me like a person. This taught me a lot about the psychology of sports.” Wittman uses this psychology with all of his fighters. “Every time you hear me in the corner I am always going to start off with something positive, even if we are losing the round. Telling a fighter something positive helps them feel like they are always in the fight.” Being positive and being able to talk to your fighters in a positive light is a huge part of their success.” When Wittman first transitioned into training, he focused on training boxers. He did not make the transition to mixed martial arts until he met Duane Ludwig. Ludwig was training to fight Jens Pulver in 2003 and Ludwig wanted a boxing trainer to help him prepare for Pulver’s boxing skills. Wittman began to watch film on Pulver and determined that Pulver was a left hander that would throw a left hook instead of a left cross. Wittman immediately started to work with Ludwig on moving to the right so that it would encourage Pulver to throw his left hook, making it easy for them to counter with the right cross. Ludwig landed that punch and knocked Pulver out. The wheels in Wittman’s head began to turn and as he started to study the body motions of wrestling and other fighting styles he knew that he could transition his teaching skills to mixed martial arts. “Teaching is all about body mechanics and understanding the movement of each discipline.” Wittman began to work with a variety of different athletes and fighters but says that wrestlers always transition the best into mixed martial arts. “Wrestlers usually start at a young age and they always go head to head with their opponent and they are very competitive. They also have very strong necks, which allow them to take a punch. In addition to that, wrestlers have a good foundation, they have good balance and they understand feet position. So then it is easy for a guy like me, a striking coach, to come and say okay let’s get our hands in this position and set up our take downs. From there it is just another weapon in their arsenal.” Wittman preaches foot work, foot work and foot work. With every fighter that he trains, foot work is always a top priority. “Every fight starts out on the feet and it is important to have proper foot work. In boxing you will see that the guys that are the strong fighters are all guys that understand foot position. You have to understand foot work to be in the right position so that you can hit and not be hit.” In addition to the physical teaching that Wittman does with his fighters, he spends hours upon hours watching film to properly game plan for each individual fight. “Each fighter is different. Some fighters want to watch a lot of film, some fighters only want to watch a few minutes and other fighters don’t want to watch any film. I allow the fighter to make that decision for themselves, but I always try to make a fighter watch a little a bit of film. This allows me to see where the fighters mentality is at. Some fighters will see something on film and say I am way better than they are this or that and they can build of that while other fighters might go man he has a good right hand or he is great at this and he might start to dwell on it. If I allow him to dwell on that, then we are already fighting that guy’s fight. We are already losing the battle so it is up to me to kind of make that judgement. I will hear it in our conversation and see it in their reaction when we are watching tape and once I know where they are mentality then I can start preparing a game plan. I watch film over and over and over again. From there I talk to fighter like he is fighting his opponent every time he is sparring. That way every time he spars he can visualize he stuffing what his opponent is going to do. This all comes from watching tapes. Watching tapes is very, very important. Wittman will never tell you that he is the greatest trainer in the world or even that he is better than anyone else. Wittman just wants to be the best that he can be and stay humble while doing so. Wittman has always set very basic goals for himself and he makes sure that he achieves them one step at a time. He has a very basic philosophy when it comes to his gym. “My fighters need to win rounds. If we win rounds, we will win fights and if we win fights then we will win championships. There is one tool that I think would be great for all fighters to learn. In boxing there are three minutes, and there is two dominate minutes. The first minute is a dominate minute, the second minute is a minute that we kind of forget and the third minute is a dominate minute. We tend to remember how a person starts the round and how they end the round. I always tell my fighters that we have to win that first minute and the third minute so the judges see that we won that round. The second minute we kind of slow down, we move a little bit, we recover and we breathe. That is a huge tool to win rounds and it works great. When you piss guys off in that first minute, then they want to chase you. Once we have them chasing us we can get them to think that we don’t want to fight and start to break their mentality, then we can get them to run into our punches. This transitions well into mixed martial arts. Instead of one minute in the middle we have three minutes to take off.” It is this basic philosophy that makes Wittman so easy to work with and a very comforting person to be around and he is soon to make his style known to the world. Wittman is writing his own training curriculum that he hopes will help other trainers as well as other fighters. As the sport of mixed martial arts continues to grow so will Grudge Training Center, but you will always be able to find Trevor Wittman in his gym with a big smile, open arms and a willingness to talk to anybody that wants a piece of his time. It is this mentality that keeps Wittman honest and makes fighters want to seek out his knowledge and skills.