Coming from a family of trainers, Eric Nicksick blossomed into an elite MMA trainer after a fateful conversation with a fighter

Xtreme Couture coach Eric Nicksick (l) celebrates with Sean Strickland and the rest of the coaching staff after Strickland defeated Israel Adesanya on Saturday. (Courtesy of Eric Nicksick)

Xtreme Couture coach Eric Nicksick (l) celebrates with Sean Strickland and the rest of the coaching staff after Strickland defeated Israel Adesanya on Saturday. (Courtesy of Eric Nicksick)

It was late 2006 and Eric Nicksick, an all-state wide receiver from Green Valley High School in Henderson, Nevada, in 1997, wanted to change things in his life. He was a bartender and wasn’t happy with the future of his life. He had gone to Nevada-Reno to play football but was kicked off the team. He played two years at Dixie State in St. George, Utah, but suffered a series of concussions and decided to give up the sport that had been a large part of his life.

His father, Jim Nicksick, was an assistant coach at Green Valley and was the first assistant inducted into the Southern Nevada Coaches Association Hall of Fame. His uncle, Dave Castro, was an assistant at Green Valley. Another uncle, Gary Wheeler, was a long-time successful high school basketball coach in Southern Nevada.

Another uncle, Mike Nixon, was a head coach for three years and an assistant in the NFL for decades. Coaching is clearly in Eric Nicksick’s blood.

But in 2006, he wasn’t sure he wanted to become a trainer when he stumbled upon the yet-to-open Xtreme Couture Gym in Las Vegas. The gym was not open to the public, but its founder/owner Randy Couture used it to prepare for a heavyweight title fight against Tim Sylvia on March 3, 2007 at UFC 68.

Nicksick showed up and began training there with experienced fighters like Couture, Mike Pyle, Jay Hieron and Martin Kampmann. He had no intention of becoming a fighter – or a trainer – but he needed something different in his life.

He and a friend were trying to find the gym. A major east-west street in Las Vegas that now provides easy access to the gym was not fully traversed at the time, so they had difficulty finding it. But they persisted, and persevering in the search changed Nicksick’s life.

“We basically stumbled upon the place, and when we did there was a practice going on,” Nicksick told Yahoo Sports. “Mike Pyle asked me to come in and invited me to practice, which was basically like code to beat me up. But he told me after that day, come back if you want, and I did. “I pitched in and helped set up the gym and things like that.

“At that point I just needed a different direction. I didn’t know what I would accomplish there, but I needed a sense of community. I didn’t like the direction my life was going, and I became lazy and complacent.

He came back so often that when the gym opened a few months later, he was the No. 1 member. And now he still makes daily trips there, albeit as general manager and head coach of the Xtreme Couture fighting team.

He helped lead Sean Strickland to the middleweight title on Saturday with a wide unanimous decision win over Israel Adesanya in the main event of UFC 293, confirming Nicksick’s presence among the game’s elite trainers.

MMA Junkie named him 2020 Coach of the Year and Yahoo Sports named him 2022 Coach of the Year. But Nicksick really showed his skills by leading the mercurial Strickland to one of the biggest upsets in the history of the sport.

“Eric is just a phenomenal coach and I feel like he could coach any sport and be successful,” said Dan Ige, a UFC featherweight trained by Nicksick. “If we picked up pickle ball, he would study it and teach you how to play pickle ball. If it was badminton or something, he has the ability to explain things and break them down. He has a really good eye for sports.”

His job includes getting fighters into shape. Another part is improving their fundamentals. Game planning is key, and Nicksick excels in all of these areas. But he excels in the minute between rounds, and that can have a significant impact on a fight.

These moments are tense and pressured, and a coach must not only convey the right message, but also say it in the right way. It’s not always easy to get the message across correctly. Kenny Florian, a former UFC fighter who now does TV analysis for PFL on ESPN and co-hosts a popular podcast with Jon Anik, gives Nicksick high marks.

“I can’t remember a time where he was working on a corner and giving advice and I was like, ‘Oh, wow, I’m not sure I agree with this,'” Florian told Yahoo Sports. “He seems to have a really good ability to communicate and relate to his fighters, and he has a talent for always seeming to say the right thing. I haven’t been at his coaching meetings to hear him, but when he breaks down fights, when he talks about what his fighters need to do, when you hear him in the corner, it almost always seems pretty on point.”

Nicksick pays close attention to the body language of his fighters’ opponents, so he always makes sure one of his trainers is keeping an eye on the opposite corner. Nicksick said he believes his best quality as a coach is the advice he can give between rounds.

His idea of ​​putting a trainer in the opposite corner paid off for Strickland on Saturday.

Trainer Eric Nicksick lifts Sean Strickland on Saturday at UFC 293 after Strickland defeated Israel Adesanya to win the middleweight title. (Courtesy of Eric Nicksick)

Trainer Eric Nicksick lifts Sean Strickland on Saturday at UFC 293 after Strickland defeated Israel Adesanya to win the middleweight title. (Courtesy of Eric Nicksick)

Strickland was clearly ahead at least 3-1 after four rounds on Saturday. But MMA standings are unpredictable, and Adesanya was fighting in front of a loud home crowd, which can have an impact.

Adesanya appeared a defeated man as he stalked to his corner after the fourth round. To the most casual observer, it seemed clear that Strickland simply needed to bounce back and, as unlikely as it may be, he would become the new champion.

But Nicksick is smart enough to realize that no matter how bad Adesanya was compared to expectations, he became one of the greatest fighters in UFC history by excelling in the most important moments. Strickland had to keep his foot on the gas pedal.

“I’m big on it [observing] Body language,” Nicksick said.

And when he heard that Adesanya looked defeated, he came to the corner and knew what he had to say: He told Strickland that he thought it was probably two rounds apiece.

“I said 2-2 before the five-pointer for two reasons,” said Nicksick. “In my heart I had a 3-1 lead. In my head I wanted to make sure we kept the same pressure. I didn’t want Sean to feel like we were going to take our foot off the gas because of that. It doesn’t do us any favors at a distance. And if we don’t fight at the distance I want now, we’ll be within kicking range where Izzy is most dangerous. I didn’t want to put my fighter in a situation where now we’re fighting on our back foot or Izzy gets going and fights downhill. I wanted Sean to stick with it.

“No. 2, we were in his hometown and I didn’t know how the judges would rate it and I wanted to be safe. And finally I wanted to.” [Sean] to put his damn foot on it [Adesanya’s] Throat. I wanted him to make a statement. If we had lost in those five minutes with that theory, I would have been okay with it.

Strickland did as his coach asked and he got the win, the biggest of his career and clearly Nicksick’s biggest. He thought back to a conversation he had with Hieron after he had only been in the gym for a few months and Hieron recognized his talent.

“I’ll never forget it, but Jay asked me why I was doing it,” Nicksick said. “I told him that I didn’t know, but that I didn’t want to fight, that I really loved the sport. And he said to me, ‘I think you have a path to becoming a very good coach. The way.’ “You carry yourself, the way you talk to the team, you’re willing to learn and you don’t have a big ego.” I’ll never forget that. And a big reason I’m here today is because of the conversation I had with Jay.”

Snopx is an automatic aggregator of the all world’s media. In each content, the hyperlink to the primary source is specified. All trademarks belong to their rightful owners, all materials to their authors. If you are the owner of the content and do not want us to publish your materials, please contact us by email – The content will be deleted within 24 hours.

Related Articles

Back to top button