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Maggie Hendricks

You want to be a fighter? Where to start, according to the pros

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The beauty of mixed martial arts is that when done well, it can be a true blending of boxing, wrestling, Muay Thai, jiu-jitsu and sometimes, judo and karate thrown in. But most fighters start with one discipline of MMA and move onto learn the rest of the sport. So what should a young man or woman who wants to be a fighter start with? Cagewriter asked the fighters themselves, and today's post shows that most fighters agree, wrestling is where to start.

Mark Munoz, UFC middleweight (pictured): "Wrestling is the best base. It's evidenced by the fact that you look at all the top fighters, and they have good wrestling. Position, tenacity and relentlessness is what the fight game is all about, and as a wrestler, that's ingrained you. Wrestling is about a struggle. Being able to rise above it, and being able to rise above any adversity you may come across, and break down the barriers and come out on top."

Bas Rutten, MMA legend: "It's a real difficult question to answer, but I think the middle ground is wrestling. If you're a wrestler with good hands, you can keep a fight on our feet because with a wrestling background, you know how to defend a takedown. If you're a wrestler with good submissions, you know you can take someone down. If you're a wrestler and fighting someone with submissions, you can make it a lot harder by avoiding the ground and by controlling positions. And if you want to ground and pound someone, you take them down with your wrestling ability. The one thing you should learn as an MMA fighter is how to wrestle."

Clay Guida, UFC lightweight: "Wrestling is the best because first, it teaches you self-discipline. It teaches you sacrifice, as far as cutting weight. It teaches hip pressure. Most jiu-jitsu guys struggle with good wrestlers because they can't sweep them, they can't take their back, they struggle underneath them, because wrestlers can defend that. It teaches mental toughness. We've been through the fight. If you've wrestled 1,000 matches in your life, you've been through war. It's second nature. Don't get me wrong. Jiu-jitsu and Muay Thai are great, but wrestlers dictate where the fight goes. Good wrestlers have been through everything."

Jake Shields, Strikeforce welterweight: "It's a really hard question because I think jiu-jitsu, kickboxing, boxing and wrestling are all really crucial. But if I had to pick one thing, it would be wrestling. It takes the longest to learn, it teaches you great work ethic, strength and conditioning, discipline, all that. I think that's why you see so many successful wrestlers in fighting. Wrestling is what taught me my work ethic, and my jiu-jitsu is more effective because of my conditioning and because I'm physical, and I learned that from wrestling."

Joe Benavidez, WEC bantamweight
: "Definitely wrestling. The mentality you get from wrestling through all the years, you can't replace that. The game is eighty percent mental, and after you've wrestled for a lot of years, you're just so mentally tough. You're used to the tough practices, you're used to being in the tough positions. Also, the facts don't lie. When you look at when the UFC started, after the Royce Gracie Era, wrestlers were dominating everyone with just the wrestling background. Now, the champions are great wrestlers, and if they're not great wrestlers, wrestling is what they want to learn more than boxing or kickboxing. Right now, all the fighters are all well-rounded, but I'm sure if they could pick one discipline to be good at, it would be wrestling."

Tomorrow, check back with Cagewriter for the guys who weren't sold on wrestling.

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