Like most high-level professional MMA fighters, Brock Larson, (37-8) can often spend his training camps obsessing about a coming opponent. In these days of specialized camps, coaches watch tons of opponent film and tailor training towards beating that one guy, on that one night.
But, as he prepared for who knows what (or who) as a participant of the Battlegrounds MMA 8-man one night tournament, which takes place tonight in Tulsa, Larsen was involved in a more basic, truer training camp. Like the other seven participants in the tournament, Larson hopes to fight and win three times in order to be the evening?s champion.
Because the brackets were not made until after weigh-ins on Thursday night, Larson and his fellow welterweight tournament competitors had no idea who they?d face at any point in the competition. This type of challenge is almost of unheard of in modern MMA, and quite daunting for any fighter.
Fortunately for Larson, his career extends much further back than ?modern MMA,? and he?s the veteran of a number of tournaments where he fought and beat multiple men in a single night. Like July 23, 2005 in a place called Hayward, WI, on an Extreme Challenge card where Larson beat Ryan McGivern, Ryan Jensen, and DeMarques Johnson in succession.
Or, on March 12, 2004, when Larson submitted Brian Maceachern with an arm bar, took a breather, and then stepped back in to submit Alex Gasson with another arm bar at the International Cage Combat trials in Minnesota.
?Back in the day, there wasn?t much film on anybody so you just kind of focused on what you were good at, during training,? Larson remembers and tells Cagewriter during a break in training several weeks ago.
?Now a days there?s a risk of us over analyzing things. It?s kinda refreshing to have been in training and work on what I?m good at, and work on my own weaknesses instead of trying to replicate another specific opponent.?
For Jesse Taylor (27-10), another Battlegrounds welterweight tournament participant, the challenge of something like a one night tournament is mostly psychological. ?It?s a psychological game,? he says.
?Don?t get me wrong, I?m training hard. But there are things you can?t train for and that?s heart and the mental side to fighting. You?ve got to have a bad-ass mental game if you?re looking to fight and win three times in one night ? which, of course, is my goal. I enjoy that type of fighting. It?s old-school, and a throw back.?
Battlegrounds MMA executive and former MMA fighter and Olympic gold medalist Kenny Monday is quite familiar with competing in tournaments from his lifetime of wrestling, and he agrees that these welterweights face particularly mental obstacles. ?In tournaments, confidence and being mentally strong are so crucial,? he says.
?You don?t know who you?ll come up against so you?ve got to be certain in your own preparation and abilities.?
On the physical side, both Larson and Taylor have adjusted the way they train to hopefully be prepared for the toll fighting multiple times in one night will put on their bodies. At home in Minnesota, Larson takes time each week to mimic fight night.
?We?ve done things a lil bit different this time,? he explains.
?Twice a week I kind of go through the tournament. I?m doing three, five-minute rounds, then I?ll rest for ten minutes, and then hit it again. I do that a total of three times with fresh guys in on me every round.?
Across the country, Taylor utilized his long days of training and driving from gym to gym in Southern California to help him get ready for the grueling tournament, tonight. ?It?s just been a lot of old-fashioned training,? he said.
?I?ve just thought about fighting for all that much time. It?s basically like we?ve had to get ready to fight all day long. I?m getting a lot of sparring rounds in. I have to be careful doing it, but we do a lot.
?There are three days a week where I?m sparring all day. I go up to Team Quest to spar in the morning, then I have a little break, and drive back down to San Diego and spar more at The Arena from 4:00pm to 8:30pm. It?s perfect for what I?m going to be doing in the tournament.
Although tonight?s tournament may just be another day in the office for professionals like Taylor and Larson, in many ways, doing what they do for a living, both men seem keenly aware that this is something special. Accordingly, they each have particular reasons for taking part in the 8-man tournament.
?I think it is an interesting twist for me in the later part of my career,? Larson says.
?I did [tournaments] a lot when I first started. I thought, heck, I did this when I was 27, might as well do it again when I?m 37 (laughs). The guys in this tournament are pretty tough, so that makes it even more exciting.
?At this point in my career, I?m looking for new challenges. I?m looking for some fun stuff.?
The younger Taylor won?t have the same full-circle experience as Larson, but he can?t wait to make it is own. ?I?ve always wondered what it would be like doing a tournament,? he says.
?It?s definitely something on my ?bucket list.? It?s going to be a really cool story to tell my grand kids (laughs). I?m looking forward to it?I?m just doing this for the challenge.?
Follow Elias on Twitter @EliasCepeda & @YahooCagewriter
martial art mma fight