Pros vs. Pros
How two top NFL players get into fighting shape
Through his profession, Glazer has built solid relationships with players in every NFL locker room in football. He began getting requests from guys around the league, asking if he could help them make off- season strides like Allen. "It's the first time, I think, in sports that athletes have come to a reporter and said, 'OK, make me great,'" Glazer says. "And I'm interested to see how it goes." Recognizing potential, Glazer reached out to Couture about turning his informal idea into a business. "I presented it to him for five minutes, and he said, 'Jay, I'm in. I see it, and I love it,'" says Glazer.
"It actually made a lot of sense to me," says Couture, 46, who remains one of the UFC's top heavyweights. "Anytime you open your mind and get new perspectives and take them back on the field, it's a positive thing." MMAthletics charges athletes a weekly or monthly fee for access to the trainers, equipment, and workouts that pro fighters like Forrest Griffin and Couture themselves use. For another fee, they're permitted to come and go as they please during their off-season. There's no live sparring, but there's plenty of pad work and circuit training with med balls, body-weight exercises, and rounds of grappling. "We will find what you think is your breaking point and get you to blow past that to a new breaking point," adds Glazer. "And we'll get you past that."
Leinart and San Francisco 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis are living (barely) testimonials. A two-time national champion at USC, Leinart has been a disappointment in his first three NFL seasons. The 2004 Heisman Trophy winner came to Las Vegas hoping to absorb the kind of toughness Couture and his MMA peers ooze from their pores. By contrast, Willis, a third-year player out of Ole Miss, is already a bona fide star, leading the NFC in tackles and making the Pro Bowl in both of his first two seasons. Texting with Glazer in early July, Willis asked if he knew about any new workouts that would help him sharpen his killer instinct. "I wanted to get him around a world-class fight team," says Glazer, "so their attitude gets in his head."
Each athlete's workout regimen is customized for his respective sport and position. Leinart and Willis both start with jump rope, Leinart on one foot at a time to improve his balance. They both do pad work next; Leinart, whose long and lanky build is best suited for Muay Thai, works combinations in the boxing ring, while Willis throws punches against a trainer's mitts in the Octagon. Striking helps them improve hand-eye coordination, reflexes, and core strength. Sometimes, when Leinart is throwing knees at the heavy bag, Glazer will shove him around to imitate the chaos in the pocket.
A few feet away from Willis, Couture pushes through his own strength and conditioning session. He's six weeks out from a late August fight with Antonio Nogueira at UFC 102 (he lost on points, but afterward signed a new six-fight contract with the UFC) and is alternating timed-interval sprints on an aerodyne bike with sledgehammer swings, med ball throws, and overhead squats. Everything is built to make athletes, whether they're football players or fighters, as fit as possible.