2021 has been another interesting year in the mixed martial arts world which has seen some fan favorites drop and unlikely champions rise.
Behind these fighters, however, are supportive coaches who typically stay out of the limelight. It is these roles that I personally find so fascinating given the amount of knowledge that a good, experienced coach can offer. For this reason, I have decided to award Eternal Contender Trevor Wittman with MMA Junkie’s 2021 Coach of the Year.
While my honorable mentions go to fighters-turned-trainers like Mike Brown, James Krause, and Khabib Nurmagomedov (who have quietly had a solid year of training), I still think it’s a good time to pay tribute to a trainer like Wittman.
Team: ONX Sports
Key fighters: Justin Gaethje, Rose Namajunas, Kamaru Usman
Coaches review in 2021: 6-0
Summary: Similar to one of last year’s winners, Tyson Chartier, Wittman also maintains a boxing approach to focusing on a smaller stable of fighters.
Wittman himself comes from the boxing side as he too had the aspiration to be a fighter until he suffered a hyper-inflated lung that changed his course to the other side of the proverbial tracks. . Wittman went on to train boxers and eventually MMA fighters, founding gyms like the T’s KO Fight Club, the Grudge Training Center, and his most recent company, ONX Sports.
Through his ONX Sports brand, Wittman was able to pursue his passion for designing high-quality, functional training equipment, while leaving him the facilities and time to focus on his core fighters. This setup seems to work well for Wittman, as his fighter’s successes speak for themselves.
By focusing on the fundamentals and stance on things like fancy words and the flash, Wittman helps balance MMA’s hitting and coaching strengths.
By focusing on things like position and balance, Wittman helps his fighters become much more aware of their distance and what they are exposed to as they move through different distances and angles. Engaging in this process also appears to reward Wittman’s fighters with more consistent access to their power given that they are so well trained to stay balanced in their positions.
– MMA India (@MMAIndiaShow) February 14, 2021
While there is nothing wrong with planning the game or teaching details in the right context, I really appreciate Wittman’s attention to fundamental ideas and concepts that allow his fighters to grow and be. themselves.
Wittman also does a fantastic job of articulating these concepts to the mainstream on UFC broadcasts, as the beloved coach has helped bring a new role to life on air in recent years (before stepping down in order to to focus more on his fighters and his personal relationships). That said, what I love most about Wittman is what he says when he’s on the battlefield – when things matter.
– Dan Tom (@DanTomMMA) April 20, 2021
Although the clip above is from 2020, it is a great example of both rhythm warfare and corner behavior. Similar to one of last year’s Coach of the Year winners, Eric Nicksick, Wittman also strikes the perfect balance of positive reinforcement (without cheerleading) and digestible technical instruction.
Ultimately, it’s just hard to deny Wittman his due this year.
As well as being 6-0, including an incredible night at UFC 268, he is a coach who shows genuine care for the fighters. Whether it stays stoic in victory or spares its fighter from further damage in loss, the sport is in desperate need of more coaches like Wittman.