What you should know about MMA Training and Fantasy
Have you ever wondered how your favorite NFL players train for the upcoming season? A high percentage of NFL players are adding mixed martial arts training or MMA to their offseason workout regime. Football is a sport filled with alpha males that are constantly trying to gain a competitive advantage. It is a sport that boils down to moving another man against his will. The same mentality can be found with the millions of men and women who play fantasy football each year. One aspect I personally found fascinating was learning about what type of offseason workout program players that I’m researching for my fantasy leagues were taking action on.
MMA is a grueling sport with a massive audience that love every event, match-up, ring girl and of course the wide range of MMA betting lines. The sport itself taxes the body in a different way than football and brings out a primal instinct as your fighting in a cage like an extra in Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. Yet, the training provides numerous benefits to NFL players.
The first benefit revolves around conditioning. It is not how you start the game, but how you finish. The goal is to still be able to physically give 110 percent in the fourth quarter while your opponent is exhausted. The goal of MMA training is to physically prepare someone to punch and kick and absorb contact for up to 15 to 25 minutes at a time.
The second benefit revolves around body control. If an NFL player has better balance and can leverage all of their power the results can immediately be seen on the football field. Weight room strength and play strength are two completely different things.
The third benefit revolves around mental toughness. MMA presents a scenario that no one can hide from. In the weight room you can rest in between sets, but in the octagon when engaged with a combatant if you give in then your will was broken.
The three benefits that I mentioned above can relate directly to a running back or a wide receiver in football. These players can benefit from being properly conditioned to run numerous plays in a row without needing a break. The striking MMA drills can help when physically engaged with a defender as a running back or fighting off press coverage as a wide receiver. Is this a player that has the mental toughness to give 110 percent regardless of the context of the game? Here are three active players that have added MMA training to their offseason conditioning program.
1. Odell Beckham Jr. WR, New York Giants
Beckham Jr. was phenomenal for fantasy football owners last season. Despite only playing 793 snaps he finished as a top eight fantasy wide receiver in standard and points-per-reception leagues. Beckham was targeted 129 times, had 91 receptions, 1,305 receiving yards, and 12 touchdowns.
Beckham had one of the lowest drop rates last season according to Pro Football Focus. It measures who hangs on to catchable footballs most often. Here is a breakdown for wide receivers with 60% or more of the targets.
|Player Name||Team||PFF Drop Rate|
|Odell Beckham Jr.||2.15|
Beckham’s Pro Football Focus yards-per-route-run last season was also impressive. It takes into account the number of snaps a player went into a pattern and provides a better indicator of production than yards per reception or targets. Here is a breakdown for wide receivers with 50% or more of the targets last season.
|Player Name||Team||PFF YPRR|
|Odell Beckham Jr.||2.74|
Beckham benefited from the absence of fellow Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz in 2014, but is still a solid fantasy football WR1 heading into the 2015 season. The addition of the MMA training will only add to his competitive toughness as he engages defenders this season.
2. Frank Gore RB, Indianapolis Colts
Gore finds himself with the explosive Colts offense in 2015. He is currently RB14 according to Fantasy Football Calculator. Gore is at the end of career at age 32, but is the best running back quarterback Andrew Luck has played with at this point of his career. He finished as a top 20-fantasy running back in standard scoring leagues. Gore was not used much in the passing game, but still finished with 255 carries, 1,103 rushing yards, and four rushing touchdowns. This was his fourth straight season playing 16 games, 250 or more carries, and over 1,100 rushing yards. The Colts were very efficient in the red zone last season. Gore will have an opportunity to improve on his touchdown total from last year.
3. Martavis Bryant WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
Bryant had one of the highest fantasy-points-per-touch as a rookie last season and is currently WR19 according to Fantasy Football Calculator. He finished 2014 with 48 targets, 26 receptions, 549 receiving yards, and eight touchdowns. Bryant’s 30.7% touchdown rate is not sustainable, but that doesn’t mean he cannot be productive in 2015. He has earned more snaps on the outside this season because fellow Steelers wide receiver Markus Wheaton should primarily line up in the slot. Bryant received 20 targets that were greater than 20 yards in 2014. He incorporated MMA training into his offseason training regime to improve in two areas. Bryant wanted to strengthen to his hands in order to more effectively fight off press coverage and to become more efficient with his hand/eye coordination when catching the football. He is a prime second year breakout candidate as evidenced by his rising average draft position.
MMA training brings a number of benefits to NFL players. This applies whether you are a wide receiver, running back, defensive lineman, or offensive lineman. The players who have incorporated it into their training routine likely do not have aspirations of stepping into the octagon once they retire, but the principles they learn from the training can obviously apply on the football field. The number of NFL players gravitating to this type of training is only growing. The knowledge of which players are participating can be another element to help fantasy football owners when stack ranking players.
Eric Moody is a member of the FSWA (Fantasy Sports Writers Association) and writes exclusively about fantasy football. He has a lifelong passion for the game and played on the collegiate level as an offensive lineman. Eric also participated in Dan Hatman’s Scouting Academy in order to learn the process of player evaluation at an NFL level by using game film. When he provides fantasy football advice he prefers to “play the piano with both hands” using game film, analytics, and statistics to help you understand his perspective. Eric enjoys Netflix, listening to music, playing bass guitar, drinking coffee, and spending time with his family. He lives in Dallas, Texas