Ever wonder what it’s like to fight at the highest levels of the top Mixed Martial Arts Organization, the UFC? As a jiu jitsu and muay thai kickboxing hobbyist, I can tell you personally that one 3 minute round of “sparring” (practice fighting) is the equivalent of sprinting a few hundred yards while someone unpredictably attempts to punch, kick, and take you down to the ground. Simultaneously, you’re forced to adjust speed, overall strategy, and keep a mental clock on your cardio levels so you don’t gas out, thus dangerously exposing your every vulnerability. And that’s just one round of practice.
Multiply that one round by a ridiculously high number (10,000 is Malcolm Gladwell’s key point for mastery, so let’s start there), add in years of living at the poverty level as you move up the ranks through amateur leagues, picking off opponents, winning, losing, and constantly improving, both physically and mentally. When you finally reach the UFC level of talent, you’re then surrounded by a bunch of success hungry, physically-gifted and mentally tough killers. All-American college wrestlers, olympic judo medalists, Brazilian jiu jitsu world champions. Such accolades are near pre-requisites when your’e at the top-level of the mixed martial arts world these days.
Myles Jury is no exception. Having began his professional career in a local California MMA promotional league, he amassed an initial pro record of 5 and 0. Since then, he’s earned his Jiu Jitsu black belt, created his own unique system of mixed martial arts (Jury Jiu Jitsu), and made it to the UFC after two appearances in the training ground/reality show The Ultimate Fighter. He’s now undefeated in the UFC with 5 wins, most notably picking apart well-known contenders, Michael Johnson, and most recently Diego Sanchez. Jury is also an outspoken proponent of perpetual self improvement, describing Jury Jiu Jitsu as promoting “individual growth of the body, mind and soul through dedication, perseverance, respect, loyalty, faith and gratefulness.”
Having found this out, I had no choice but to annoy his manager, and finally found some time during Jury’s crazy training schedule for his fight next month against Abel Trujillo for a lengthy, (very lightly edited) interview. Now, enjoy:
TANR: Different fighters have different intrinsic, core motivations and styles that they employ to win (some fight with anger as their motor, others rely on pre-planned strategy, and others for example, are fluid fighters who rely on the instincts they’ve learned from thousands of hours of practice), how would you describe your core motivation and style?
Myles: All of my motivation starts by getting offered the fight and my initial thoughts, then turning that into a couple months of blood, sweat and stressful times. Come fight time, I think about what I worked so hard for the past couple months and what I need to do to pass the test. So it really comes down to mental motivation.
TANR: You’ve mentioned in other interviews that you’re dedicated to perpetual self improvement. Where does that come from?
Myles: Most of my training and free time is used to read and study to get better in numerous ways. I feel reading and thinking patterns are the best ways to changing your life for the better. From there, I just use my resources to generate as much self improvement as possible. Even going to the extent of working with a sports psychologist to better my thinking patterns at the same time. It comes from wanting to be more and more successful and being a perfectionist.
TANR: How important do you think it is to focus on growing as a human being, rather than just as an athlete when it comes to achieving your goals in the MMA world?
Myles: One of the most important things to remember as you grow your intelligence/mental strength, is to gain experience and learn how to apply it. In this sport, if you can use a high fight IQ with high mental strength, you can make anything happen. This game is 70% mental, maybe higher. You can watch a UFC fight and clearly see who is just mentally strong, who is intelligent and who is both. Someone mentally strong that fights with intelligence, will stay strong and composed during the whole fight, without letting emotions take over. Your mental strength and intelligence I would say, are more important than your physical attributes. The mental strength can help you to overcome any adversity in a fight. A perfect example would be Georges St -Pierre.
TANR: You’ve clearly overcome the challenges that many MMA fighters face on the long way up the ranks (injuries, training for years with minimal pay and no guarantee of success). How would you describe your personal philosophy that’s allowed you to persist and succeed despite the life that an up and coming MMA athlete experiences?
Myles: I‘ve seen the worst days, months and years that seemed to never go right and be the end of my dreams. Looking back, it was all a learning lesson and passing obstacles to earn what it is that I’ve been after. So I would say to stay strong, keep learning, focus on constantly getting better in every way possible, keep trying without being scared to fail, and the sky is the limit. It’s very important to surround yourself with the best people and not to have any weak links.
Myles: I’ve had a lot of great material outside of those three, but my most important life changer, has been Robert Kiyosaki. Everything about his ways have taught me a better way to think and changed my life for the better inside and out. It’s hard to explain, you just need to pick up all of his books and read them. I guarantee it’ll make you better if you’re not close-minded.
TANR: Are you the type of person who uses visualization as a tool before your fights? If not, what do you do to cal, your mind throughout your camps and leading up to the fight?
Myles: I do….. A lot of times I try not to though, so I don’t get too burned out thinking about my fights. During a whole 8 week camp, I study my opponents and my own fight footage to visualize what I’m going to do, what I’m not going to do, what I need to work on and pretty much everything from fight week to flying home after a win.
Visualization is very important and speaks for itself. You just need to communicate your visualization with your trusted team so you are on the right mental path, as a lot of people have delusional thinking. You cover those grounds with communication with the right team, and again, that takes a great team and zero “yes men.”
TANR: How important overall is that management of your emotions when going into a fight?
Myles: VERY important. You’re going to naturally have good and bad emotions and need to be able to channel it to use the positive emotions in your favor. For instance, certain guys get so nervous that they have an “adrenaline dump,” which is one of the worst things that can happen. Basically you get so nervous before the fight that you’ve built up a ton of anxiety and blew your wad before the fight even got started. The results from that usually are being stiff, cardio gassed out and things of that nature. EVERYONE gets nervous before a UFC fight, it’s all about how they used it to work in their favor or against them. I personally get nervous, but look for ways to not let it get to me negatively.
I channel it to keep me on my toes in a perfectionist type of way. Also, some guys are too confident and tend to fight with angry emotions. That is horrible too, because once you fight with emotion, you make a lot of mistakes and open yourself up a lot more. People like the Diaz brothers and Diego Sanchez are prime examples of getting their opponents to fight with emotion which drags them into their style of fight to get the win. I would coin that as reverse psychology on the Diaz brothers/Diego’s parts, which isn’t an easy task, but works well for them.
TANR: If you had to describe what makes the best MMA athletes so successful using three adjectives, how would describe them? I would say;
Myles: Smart brain, strong brain & superior work ethic.
TANR: For someone looking to strive for mastery in any facet of life as you are doing in MMA, what advice would you give them before they begin that journey?
Myles: Cross-train with as many “good” training partners, gym and coaches as possible. Make sure they’re all good people so you know you’re in good hands. Figure out who you are, how you operate and always incorporate new things that work for you and your style. Some will teach you great stuff that doesn’t work for you which is more common than the opposite. I’ve traveled the world and trained with countless gyms, coaches and training partners to earn my style, www.JuryJJ.com. Speaking of Jury Jiu Jitsu, I not only started it to teach my style but also give back to those that need an outlet for a better way of life.
TANR: What are some of the keys to staying at peak performance regarding your nutrition and overall health?
Myles: Intelligence and timing is what it all comes down to. It’s not an easy task at the UFC level, so I would suggest getting a main coach that knows how to operate this, along with a nutritionist. You don’t want to have too many people telling you what to do, but it’s a great thing if you can implement a good team; Head coach, jiu jitsu coach, wrestling coach, striking coach, strength/cardio coach, mental coach and nutritionist. Once you do, one of the most important thing about that is making sure they’re all on the same page and not working you against yourself. If you can’t make that happen, you need to get coaches that can cover those areas.
TANR: Who are some of the figures outside of athletics altogether that inspire you?
Myles: Robert Kiyosaki, Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, Mark Cuban, Richard Branson, Donald Trump and many other great entrepreneurs. I feel they have all experienced so much. They’re the smartest guys you could learn from in terms of entrepreneurship.
…Thanks to Myles for the interview and good luck on June 28th for UFC Fight Night 44!!