Winner of 21 fights, American Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighter JJ Ambrose was recently in India to play official during the Evolution Grappling Indian Open 2 at the Oberoi Mall, Goregaon.
The MMA player, who won his 21st fight last month, also conducted a one-day MMA/Submission Wrestling seminar where he shared his skills and experience from over eight years of competing professionally. Excerpts from an interview:
Weight: 75 kg
Reach: 177 cm
Fights won: 21 (4 knockouts, 12 submissions)
Fights lost: 5
Q. Mixed martial art is a combination of different martial arts; please could you share a bit about your fighting style and the martial arts that you have learnt?
A. I’ve studied different martial arts all over the world, from Thai Boxing to Judo, but my personal favourite has always been wrestling and Jiu Jitsu. In boxing, when you knock someone out, it’s involuntary; the lights go out and they are done. But with Jiu Jitsu, they tap out willingly. There is no greater triumph than making someone quit because of the technique applied.
Q. Once inside the ring, there can be two outcomes only — a win or a loss. Fights are filled with blows and punches; how do you motivate yourself to get back to the ring?
A. It’s hard to explain to anyone that hasn’t fought the rollercoaster of emotions that go through, before and after a fight. You are filled with anxiety and excitement for days, you then touch gloves with someone that wants to destroy your dreams and face, and then you either feel the biggest “high” of your life with a win or more depressed than a girl breaking your heart with a loss. It’s a gamble that every fighter takes. It’s an addiction of sorts that I just can’t seem to quit risking it all for. It’s a hard life but so rewarding, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
Q. How important a role does mental strength play in MMA? As part of the training, do you also train on how to carry on during a fight?
A. The biggest battle is the one fought in the mind, every day. You have to convince yourself that this meal that tastes like nothing is good for you, that the third training session of the day is the one that is going to win you the fight. The mental game is everything. We out ourselves in deep water or bad positions at practice so that when the fight comes around, we aren’t in mental shock. Mental conditioning is what determines giving up under pressure or rising to victory through adversity.
Q. What do you do to relax?
A. I’m a nerd at heart. Video games, reading fantasy adventure books, dungeons and dragons. I also enjoy playing with whatever dolls my daughter makes me play with, her favourite at the moment is frozen, she won’t stop singing the songs, they fill my head all day.
HIS DAILY REGIME
>> Spends about five to six hours daily, at the gym; each day is dedicated to either grappling or stand-ups.
>> He also takes part in physical conditioning exercises every day, which include weights, sprinting and metabolic exercises, etc.
>> If he doesn’t have a fight scheduled, he goes for a bulk/strength training regiment to build size and power.
>> His favourite exercises are sprinting or pull-ups.
Why sprinting? “Sprinting is an entire body workout that tests your physical condition and needs explosive power. Nothing simulates a fight better than sprinting. When I’m in the cage against an opponent, I try to run him over, not dance around him.”
Why pull-ups? “Pull-ups are a good test for relative body strength. Who cares how much you can bench press if you can’t lift your own body weight up?”
TIPS FOR BEGINNERS
Ambrose says that consistency is the key, but it’s also important to have a plan. Decide your goal — the shape and size you want, find out workouts that will help achieve those goals, and begin training. “The hardest part is committing to go on a consistent basis. It takes time to see changes in your physique. Most people want a quick-fix or magic pill. It doesn’t exist,” warns the fighter.
>> Start small. Lift lighter weights for high reps, focus on technique.
>> After a few months of learning proper form, increase the weight and maintain perfect form.
>> There are no short cuts. Stick to the basics and do what’s best for you, not someone else. Everyone is different; there
is no right training regimen for everyone, but good form is definitely universal for everyone.
>> Make workouts fun. The latest nerd activity that he has picked up is called Dagorhir. “It’s quite similar to larp. We take foam weapons and shields; dress up like medieval characters and fight. I’ve always fancied myself a knight or barbarian; it’s been my way of fulfilling that childhood fantasy,” he shares.
Ambrose eats just once a day!
The MMA fighter says that he relies on intermittent fasting, which involves eating just once a day. “With this way of eating, I have maintained a very low body fat percentage and my energy levels have never been better. It sounds weird but I assure you my condition is through the roof when my diet is on point like this,” says Ambrose. The fighter, however, relies on relaxing and lots of protein drinks and coffee between workouts and training sessions, including Bulletproof Coffee (see box), which he drinks every morning. “After a post-workout recovery shake, I relax for a few hours then eat a large salad, almonds or avocado, a whole chicken or a kilogram of fish. Before my next training session, I may have another cup of coffee, if needed,” he shares.
It’s a special mixture of butter, protein powder, coconut oil and large Americano that Ambrose drinks everyday, after he wakes up.
Favourite heroes: Bruce Lee, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
First fight: I was 18, but I have been training since I was 9 years old.
Biggest inspiration: My dad. He’s not a fighter and doesn’t study martial arts, but he’s always supported and pushed me towards my goal. He’s been my biggest fan and gives me wisdom.
21 wins for Ambrose
JJ Ambrose has won 21 fights. His latest win was in Kuwait on May 30, when he beat MMA fighter Ahmad Ibrahim Aly via guillotine choke