MMA for Beginners: Don’t be “That Guy”

“All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien

So who exactly is “That Guy?” Can any of us ever recover from being him/her and what can we do, if anything, to avoid becoming “That Guy” in the first place? Luckily, if you are reading this post, chances are, you’re not “That Guy”. The fact of the matter is, “That Guy” has never spent an introspective moment or a single minute of self examination in his life, and that is a big part of the problem.

But, I digress, we still haven’t gotten into the nuts and bolts of what makes someone “That Guy”. I’m going to post a list of things below, but these are in no way a definitive guide. In fact, I am sure I’m going to miss a number of identifiers of “That Guy”, and I full heartedly encourage you to add your own characteristics to the comments below.

  1. If you walk into your prospective gym and ask for some sort of special deal, or deviate from the payment plans given to you by the staff or instructor, website, etc. Congratulations! You my friend, ARE “That Guy”.

    I’m sorry, but if you’ve chosen a particular gym, you’ve done so for a reason. You’ve done the research, you obviously value the services they provide, don’t haggle on price or payment scheme. Yeah, you’ve got this special circumstance, or you think that you’ve got it harder than the next guy. I’ve got news for you bro. That instructor has bills to pay just like you. They live in the same world that you do, they have the same number of hours in their day, they have kids to feed and spouses to appease just like you do. Asking to deviate from what all the other students of that school are asked to do is disrespectful. It makes you look bad, it makes the instructor feel slighted, it makes you look like someone who thinks that they are more important than all the other students that pay their due respects and do so without making a big deal about it.

    If you can’t pony up and do so in good spirits, then don’t ask for admittance to the show. Get a job, save some dough and do it the right way. I remember asking my instructor how much he charged for privates. He told me that a block of 10 privates would cost $750.00. I was fresh out of college. I picked up job as an adjunct faculty member at the Salt Lake City Community College teaching a course of Small Business Web Design. My first paycheck was for $750.00. I cashed it immediately and went back to set up my lessons. My wife and I ate Ramen for months because of it, and my worst case of cauliflower ear didn’t come close to the pain I felt after the tongue lashing she gave me. But the fact remains. To this day, I have never haggled over the price for a seminar, a camp, a lesson, or school tuition. You gotta pay to play if you don’t want to be “That Guy”.

  2. If you only train when you’ve got a competition coming up, chances are, you’re “That Guy”.

    Don’t force your instructors into a corner, making them work on bandaid fixes instead of developing sound fundamentals. If you’re training with professionals, they have a curriculum and it’s there for a reason. Kiser and I like to say, if you’re at our gym and it’s because you’ve watched the success of our team, it’s because they followed our pathway to success. It’s like going to KFC and asking to be taught how to rock a piece of fried chicken. But once the instruction begins, you start adding your own quantities, and messing with the cook times, ingredients etc. You’re free to do so, but don’t fool yourself into thinking you’re learning Colonel Sander’s Secret Recipe. What you’ve done is concoct a perfect recipe for becoming “That Guy.”

    Competition training, is not learning time. It’s time to refine and hone the skills you have to a mirror finish. But what skills do you have, when all you do is train when a match is coming up? What can you refine if you haven’t been to class on a regular basis to develop a foundation in the first place? Consistency is key. Show up and train regularly and you will be on your way towards not being “That Guy”.

  3. If you consider yourself a Fighter rather than a Student. You are “That Guy”

    You should strive to be a Student first, then a Fighter. Otherwise, you’re just a street thug. Your fighting should grow out of your learned skills and abilities as a consistent student of the Arts. Any fool can fight. It doesn’t take anything special. Some might argue that it takes balls. Maybe, but I’d argue right back that it takes balls only after you’ve learned the trade and understand what’s really at stake. Otherwise I’d say it just takes someone ignorant enough to not realize the difference between getting into a ring/cage and just seeing what will happen, and pitting your earned skill against a competent and well matched opponent.

    Kiser and I tried to touch on these things in our “Shit Fighters Say” video. It was our light hearted attempt and educating more people on how annoying it can be to be around “That Guy”. Our hope was that it would educate just a few aspiring fighters out there of what they might look like and sound like if they became the person with that label.

  4. If you hop from gym to gym, you guessed it. You are “That Guy”.

    This is again, a manifestation of the “ME” mentality. How do you expect to get the support of your instructor and your team mates when you show such a complete lack of respect, loyalty and honor. You wouldn’t join the Navy Seals and then say “Hey man, yeah, I can’t hang out this weekend. I’m doing some run and gun with the Taliban. You know how it is. You guys got your night vision thing going on, but man, they really know how to set those IED’s yo!”. You wouldn’t earn a spot as a walk on at the Red Sox and then go to batting practice with the Yankees. I’m telling you. The world of MMA is no different.

  5. If you try to short cut your way to respect with gifts and or tokens, by trying to rep your gym with competing or trying to be a super star you’re probably going to end up being “That Guy”.

    Respect is earned, usually over time. There’s no way to cram 10 years of loyalty, of hard work, of dedication, and service into some item you’ve purchased, or a match or two. Just train. Do your best. Find ways to help out your fellow team mates, or around the gym. Be there for the long haul. I can’t think of many ways that garner more respect than that. The world is full of guys looking for a quick fix. People who want something for nothing. Be the guy/gal who’s prepared to be part of the lifestyle, the long haul, a lifer.

So why are we telling you all of this? Is it because we are Holier than Thou? Is it because we know all there is to know about MMA and MMA Culture? I’m going to part with a dirty little secret. I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but I was “That Guy”. Perhaps not as bad as some of the examples I’ve listed above, but who knows? You’d have to ask my instructor for the real skinny. Maybe I was worse. Maybe I still am “That Guy”. I’d like to hope not, and I do, earnestly try to be a better person, and a better Martial Artist every day.

We’ve posted this for you guys out there looking to make a splash, excited and eager to get started in MMA and wanting to make a good impression on your Instructor and gym mates. I am reminded of something I was taught by Ajarn Surachai Sirisute.

Ajarn Surachai Sirisute stands before his Pacific Northwest Muay Thai Camp. A hand selected group of his most dedicated students representing countries from around the world. Once a year, they vie for a coveted spot at this special camp, to learn from him and the instructors under him. Many of the lessons transcend technique and fight strategy and permeate ones life.

Once, at a seminar, a newer student forgot to present the Wai and pay respects before he began shadow boxing. Ajarn stopped the class and made the student do 50 push ups in front of everyone. Then after, he asked the student “Sir, why do you pay respects sir?” “I tell you something Sir.” Ajarn Chai continued. “I don’t have you pay respects for me sir. I’ve been around the world. I put Thai Boxing into the United States. I have plenty of students from Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Canada, Mexico. I don’t have you pay respects for me sir. Who should you do it for sir?” The student stood there, silent. Ajarn answered for him. “You pay respects for you sir.”

That idea has stuck in me ever since. As bass ackwards as it may sound to make people pay for their lessons, to have my students train, not just when they are preparing for a competition but consistently over the long haul. To ask them to be respectful, loyal, honest, disciplined and helpful to each other. It is really for them.

I have seen too many students who’ve been given a deal, who got to train for free or at a great discount. Who we let do their own payment schedule. Guys who were given the keys to the gym. Guys we stayed late for and come early to hold pads and help prepare for a fight. Guys we’d spend whole weekends with traveling and cornering. And they never respected it. They never appreciated it. It was never enough.

Remember. You learn discipline and respect just as much for yourself as you do for your instructors.

Despite all of this, classes weren’t intense enough for them. There weren’t enough other guys who wanted to go hard with them. These people are the same grown adults who have never attempted to move out of their parents home, who’ve never made a house payment, put food on the table or held down a long term job. They’ve been given things all their life and thus have developed an entitlement mindset. They are too busy looking at what they don’t have to see the abundance in front of their faces. Breaking them out of this mindset is the goal of brining these things to their attention.

I know this post is long. And if you’ve taken the time to read this far, it says a lot about you. I want to close by relating a conversation that Coach Kiser and I recently had that really struck a chord with me. I asked him, how we were different than so many of the fighters of today and how we managed to dodge that self centered, self important, “ME” mindset that is so easy to fall into as an aspiring fighter.

His answer was “Gratitude”. He said “When you and I were coming up, there were no MMA gyms. There was a Jiu-jitsu school. Or a Thai Gym. But nothing that had it all. We didn’t have Tap Out, or board shorts or Ultimate Fighter. Heck, I had my mom’s garage on Saturday mornings with two or three of those folding mats and you had your little studio with 8 zebra mats to your name. There were no fight teams. You ran on your own, kicked the heavy bag and shadow boxed until you passed out. And once in a while we could get together and train and we were so grateful for it.”

Notice Kiser’s Thai Shorts with bicycle pants underneath. His opponent dawns basketball shorts while Kiser kicks him in the face with a pair of wrestling shoes in a time where they were still legal to wear in an MMA bout. No Tap Out here.

He continued “When you come from a place of gratitude, how can you do anything but succeed? I mean if you are always grateful for everything you have, then you already have everything.”

We want you to have a meaningful and lasting relationship with your instructors and your team mates. We want you to succeed. We want you to be well liked and respected in your place of study.

Work hard. Have integrity, be loyal, humble and respectful. Be grateful, and you will become one of your gym’s favorites, the gold that does not glitter, the deep rooted strong individual, unadorned by belts, or trophies, accolades or crowns, and yet a king in the eyes of your instructors. There’s no shame at all in being that guy.

It’s been a while since I’ve written a longer, more thoughtful piece like this. To be frank, they are much more time consuming and take a lot more work than the brief posts with a video and a few short paragraphs and I didn’t know if anyone was actually reading them. So I kind of just gave up on it for a while.

Special thanks goes out to Damage Control MMA Member Lisa from New Zealand who commented on my piece “Muay Thai Technique: An Expression of Self” and my student Chris Huntsaker who commented on our “4 Principles That Changed My Grappling Game“. These guys got me back on track and inspired me to try my hand at it again.

Now that you’ve learned how not to be, “That Guy”, you may want to check out our article, “How to Join An MMA Gym” for tips and pointers on equipment and training smart.

26 replies
  1. Lisa J Perry
    Lisa J Perry says:

    Thanks for the acknowledgment Dr Sick.

    I don’t usually comment in a public forum because I feel like a dork but I want to comment here for a few reasons. Dr Sick, your material is thought provoking and engaging and I want you to continue to post stuff like that. You put a huge amount of effort into connecting with your members by replying to posts and putting amazing material in the members area and I just want to acknowledge that. How many hours of sleep do you get a night or is there a second Dr Sick out there?

    As for “That Guy” we’ve all been there in one way or another, thinking we’re a bit special for whatever reason, thriving on admiration and allowing that ego stuff to create a disconnect from the people around us. On the flip side, I think we’ve all got “that Guy” in us (or ‘that gal’ in my case), which presents an awesome opportunity for compassion. You may feel like a superhero when you’re “that Guy” but the fall from grace is inevitable and when that happens, your training buddies can be there to help pick you up. That’s the beauty of the martial arts community. The support is incredible.

    So I want to put something out there to anyone who’ll read this. The opportunity for compassion mentioned above is about living in a whole hearted way. Dr Sick, from my short time as a member, I think you connect to your students and the members of DamageControlMMA in a whole hearted way. Below is a link to a 20 minute video of an incredible TED talk by an amazing woman called Brene Brown. A word of warning, it’s about love and belonging and connection and vulnerability and courage. If listening to that stuff makes you feel uncomfortable … then you should definitely listen to it. Brene is a social worker and a therapist and her words of wisdom from the social work profession is to “lean into the discomfort”. So go on, lean into your discomfort and check out the video. If nothing else, she’s an engaging speaker.


  2. Gene
    Gene says:

    What a well written and thoughtful piece of advice.

    It shows great humility that you candidly admit to having been that guy and by giving us that insight into the author you force us all to look at when we have been THAT guy.

    The challenge is actually not total avoidance of being THAT guy. Rather it should be to recognize those moments in life when we are becoming THAT guy and head him / her off at the pass before he / she can do amy damage (pardon the pun).

    The best teachers are students at heart and the best students come with an open mind and an open heart

  3. wylothar
    wylothar says:

    Very nice. I like the long article of substance. I don’t comment a lot. I usually like to share it via facebook and in my sharing comments try to enlighten others of substance.
    I must admit. I have been that guy before not in the exact context of your bullet list but it does rhyme.
    All but 2 I am glad to say I have never done too my knowledge. I would like to think I am now free of all of them.

    I hope years have washed some of it away but who knows.

  4. Dr Sick
    Dr Sick says:

    Thanks for the comments guys. It does my heart good to know there are readers out there and that I am not alone in going through those awful growing pains. Together we walk forward, doing our best to be better than we were the day before.

  5. Damage Control MMA says:

    You must not have read the whole article Daniel Berry, so hang that head just a little lower… for a few minutes. Then realize that I have too on many of the points, not all but many. I too am a recovering “That Guy”. Make good my friend. It’s not how you start but how you finish.

  6. Hayden Lewis says:

    Good stuff, from working at a gym i know who that guy is, i remember this one kid showed up we let him train a month free, (kinda hard since he was really annoying) and he promised he’d oay the 50% off nex month, after that month he never showed up again, punk.

  7. Chris Hunsaker says:

    That guy who refuses to tap to someone with less experience. That guy who likes to roll light until he is almost submitted, then ramps up to 100%. Why am I so scared of tapping?!!!

  8. paul thomas
    paul thomas says:

    Thats an amazing article ! I think most of us can look back and admit that and in some way we have maybe been ” That guy ” but hopefully we have learned before its too late, either by ourselves or with the help of our teachers and fellow students , The beauty of the martial arts is its ability to make us better people , a real paradox , ” a fighting way to peace ” ! And finally i think this article can remind us of the great chance we have .not only as instructors but as students of all levels to steer those who maybe a few steps further down the path than us in the right direction .

    All the best Paul

  9. Dr Sick
    Dr Sick says:

    Paul Thomas, such a strange paradox indeed. Lt. Col. Dave Grossman once said, something to the effect that a lot of the problems in our society today regarding violence and killing have to do with the fact that many of us and the subsequent generations have been completely removed from a Killing Culture. We don’t grow our own food, nor kill it or butcher it and thus have lost a reverence for it and replaced that with a Hollywood glamorization.

    The closer to killing we get, the further from it we want to get away. The further away we get, the more we want to move closer. I think fighting is very similar. Those of us who study how to dismantle a human body, understand how frail and precious it is and thus seek to preserve it and each other.

  10. paul thomas
    paul thomas says:

    Dr Sick
    I know its going slightly off topic but the same sentiment has been shown by warriors through out history , to quote Napoleon ” The spectacle of a field of battle after the combat, is sufficient to inspire Princes with the love of peace, and the horror of war. ”
    Heading back on topic and my original reply i think your article is a reminder to look out for signs of
    ” that guy” in us and to echo Lisa,s point that we have an amazing opportunity to help those around around us and to lead by example , just as yourself and coach Kiser are doing .
    Cheers Paul.

  11. Shane Taylor
    Shane Taylor says:

    A few nights ago Coach Kiser gave a great short talk to the class about how helping people on the mats is often helping them with life. We never know what someone else is going through, and a kind word, sharing a move, rolling/sparring with respect… any of those things can make a big difference. I have been the beneficiary of such inspiring help, and I want to pass it forward. I have also done “that guy” things, so I believe in second chances.

  12. naturalbornfighter1
    naturalbornfighter1 says:

    Amazing article Dr.Sick. I’m pretty sure I have been ‘That Guy’ at some point and since I have started coaching these points make a whole lot more sense than I would previously have realised.

    I much prefer your longer blog’s Brian, As Lisa said they are thought provoking and engaging. I have been training since before MMA gyms existed and I am incredibly fortunate to work in one of the nicest and best MMA gyms I have ever seen. Every day I sweep a huge matted area, a 20ft boxing ring, 20 ft cage and then mop it all too. It takes up a lot of time and to most it would be incredibly monotonous but i appreciate the position that I have been given so much that I take great pride in keeping my work clean and hygienic.
    Also I’m grateful for incredible friends in the Martial arts community such as yourself and Coach Kiser for the amazing support you provide.
    Great Article as always Brian! 😀

  13. Forrest Caudill
    Forrest Caudill says:

    Haha! Ever since reading this I’ve kept asking myself if I’m being “That Guy” at my gym. Great article. Always good to take a moment to be a little more self-aware.

  14. Dr Sick
    Dr Sick says:

    Forrest Caudill, with that constant self evaluation, sounds like Mr. Ego is being kept in check and chances are, you are most likely NOT “That Guy”.


  15. Rick
    Rick says:

    I don’t think there’s nothing wrong with asking to see if there’s some kind of deal you can cut to save your some money. I also think you’re an idiot if you blew your entire check and therefore your wife had to eat Ramen for a month. You probably think that’s some dedicated, warrior spirit BS. If you ask me, that’s just fucking selfish.

  16. Dr Sick
    Dr Sick says:

    You are absolutely right Rick. It was selfish, I am an idiot and it was totally selfish of me.

    Your wife is lucky to have you. As are the gym owners who have you as a student.

    I say that with complete sincerity and I wish you well in all you do.

    Live long and prosper my friend.

  17. Greg
    Greg says:

    Its easy to “Be That Guy”, and sometimes its part of your path, but read the entire article and you will see that there is hope.

    Wow hard hitting comment Rick, i think from that section if you are insensitive to your new gym’s financial situation you are “THAT GUY”, i think we could dissect what people say enough we can find fault in anyone. The spirit of this i dont think is that of “selfish warrior BS”. Rich should rephrase his statement to “You were an idiot back then”, based on “I was fresh out of college.”
    Dr Sick you are anything but an idiot, but if you are, you are the Wisest, Most Generous, SELFLESS, Respectful, Hardworking, Talented idiot i know.

    Here are some ways im “That guy” or used to be 😉

    DrSick:”If you walk into your prospective gym and ask for some sort of special deal”
    Greg:”Can i design your site and help you market your gym, it would cost you X but i will do it for 1 year of training”

    DrSick: “If you only train when you’ve got a competition coming up”
    Greg: my competitive nature tied to my love of self expression, art, creativity and discipline is what got me into martial arts. Competition used to motivate me as it allowed me to truly test what i have learned under trying circumstances. I have learned to love and enjoy training and learning so much that it has over-ridden my desire to test myself, also motivated me to teach others what i have learned. I suspect the need to test oneself comes early in your training whereby you don’t truly believe what you are being taught works ? I’m still working all that out 😉

    DrSick:If you try to short cut your way to respect with gifts and or tokens, by trying to rep your gym with competing or trying to be a super star you’re probably going to end up being “That Guy”.
    Greg:”I always buy a Poweraid for my training partner/1on1 coach :D”

    I love this: “When you come from a place of gratitude, how can you do anything but succeed? I mean if you are always grateful for everything you have, then you already have everything.”
    I live by this. Positivity, Gratitude, Contribution and CANEI(Constant And Never Ending Improvement)


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