Ask Matt:

How important is hand/grip strength for submission fighting? -BJ
I definitely think grip strength is important. There are numerous excercises to improve your grip strength. I get mine from years of putting up hay on the farm. -Matt

Do you take any vitamins/multi-vitamins to supplement your diet at all? -Erik
Yes, I take a multi-vitamin twice a day.-Matt

I am a 15 year old thinking about taking some kind of martial arts so I can fight in a league and I was wondering what your suggestion would be for me to take and what training i should do before I start lessons? -Zack
I would say start training the main three: wrestling, submissions, and striking. The wrestling would be the most useful. If you are a good wrestler, you get to pick where the fight will be at: on the ground or on your feet. If you are fighting a good striker, you can take him down and beat him on the ground. If you are fighting a good ground fighter you can use your wrestling to keep him on his feet and outstrike him. Good luck. -Matt

Are you of Irish decent? - IrishPitBull
My heritage is a mix of Scottish, Irish, English, German, and Welch. -Matt

I also have an identical twin brother. I consider him my best friend and have nothing but love for him; but we both love to compete and sometimes the best competition is between us. Do you feel like having someone who matches up with you so well ever since birth has fueled your competitive spirit? -John
I think being a twin has made me the competitor I am today. We grew up on a farm miles away from anyone else. So I played with my twin brother all day long. When we got older that play turned into competition. I really feel no competition with my brother and fighting. He does not train at all, and I train all the time. I think that is another reason why I would be mentally tough also. -Matt

I have been looking for quality information on creatine as I was interested in using it, however I came across a site from a doctor that cited only small trials of creatine have been done and that there really is no good evidence that it creates more mass and also no evidence of the long-term effects of creatine use. Do you have any good information about creatine or is it just from your own personal trials? -Jay
Yes, I am a believer in creatine, for every article saying that creatine doesn't do anything for your body there should be 5-10 that say it does help your body. For me, there is really no doubt that it has made me a stronger person. -Matt

What are your favorite flavors for Musclemilk? Do you really use XYIENCE? -Bryant
My favorite flavor of Musclemilk would definitely be cookies & cream, I mix it with skim milk and it tastes just like a milkshake to me.  Yes, I really do use XYIENCE, my nutrition page lists what I take. -Matt

Do you take the Musclemilk only after workouts or do you take it before you go to bed as it suggests on the container? -Geoff
I take Musclemilk twice a day, after I lift in the morning and once again after my evening workout.  So, no I do not take it right before I go to bed, but it's only about three hours before that. -Matt

I would like to be an MMA [fighter] and earn some money. But UFC may just be too high in the food chain right now and I may not be as gifted as you. I was just wondering, are there smaller MMA associations which are not as big as UFC in Canada or the U.S so I can join and start a career? -Miles
I would never want anyone to start in the UFC, look for amateur shows around your area and work yourself up.  Never take a fight you don't think you can win.  Build yourself up slow.  There are plenty of smaller organizations around the United States and Canada -Matt

What exercises do you do to get such a massive neck!? It didn't say in your work out schedule anything about shrugs or neck exercises. So what's your secret and what do you do? -Jared
My neck is all natural, I've never done a neck exercise in my life.  I love shrugs, most of the time I do shrugs on back day, every once in a while I do it on shoulder day. -Matt

How heavy do you let yourself get in between fights before you start to cut down to 170lbs? -WB
Today is April 24th and I'm 192 pounds, on May 27th I've got to be 175. A week away from the fight I like to be no more than 10 pounds over. I just lose water weight in the last week. -Matt

How strictly do you adhere to your diet when you're not in training or laid off your feet with injury? Do you allow yourself any periods of the year or days of the week when you "cheat" from the diet and eat something unhealthy? Any junk foods that you have a weakness for? -Joon
When I don't have a fight coming up and I'm not training hard, I still eat healthy.  I try to be a positive influence for the youth around my area. I never have a cheat day, although sometimes maybe a cheat meal.  Twizzlers, Sour Patch Kids, Reeses Peanut Butter cups and a Cookie Dough Blizzard would be my weaknesses. -Matt

I am a huge fan of MMA, training in Muay Thai, Kenpo and Jujitsu myself. I notice that yourself and Rich Franklin are both believers. Have you ever had any conflicts between your sport and your faith ? I have to say that I'm proud to have role models like you guys and Mr. Norris for our kids in the Church. Thanks for replying and my prayers will be with you in the future. -Jeff
Thank you for your encouraging words. I will never turn down someone's offer to pray for me. Yes, both Rich and I are Christians and I can't speak for Rich but I am relatively new in my faith. I asked Christ into my heart the summer of 2004. Keep in mind that as a young Christian I am learning monthly and have a long way to go. That being said I am often asked, "How can I be a Christian and Fight?" Originally, I didn't think about it much, but the more I am asked the more I have had to think about it. I have talked with my pastor and others that are more mature in their faith what they think and have yet to come across something that has convinced me that I should not fight. I am doing it as a sport. My goal when I go into the ring is not to hurt the other person or to be hurt, but rather to do the best that I can and win the fight as quickly as I can. Street fighting is another thing, but when we have referees, judges and doctors I don't have a problem with fighting. So to this point I probably have had more conflicts in the temptation category than I have with my outlook on fighting.
Let me explain: The more popular a person is the more things there are to tug at you. At least I have found that true in my life. More people want my attention - so I find myself spending less time with God and my family. I grew up with very humble financial resources and now I make more than I ever imagined. So sometimes the wants and needs categories get confused. I could give you example of increased temptations, but I figure you are getting the idea. As a result, more of my energies at this point need to be spent preparing myself and defending myself against that "roaring lion who is prowling around seeking who he may devour." In no way am I sinless but I am trying to use my faith in my sport to bring others to Christ. In the world but not of the world, Matt.

I believe that we are all made up of three parts: spirit, mind, and body. As a former college football player and martial artist I know that I perform better athletically when I am focused on my relationship with Christ along with being prepared mentally and physically. How has your spiritual life impacted your training and success in the Octagon? That you for your time and good luck on your up fight. You'll be in my prayers. -Darin
Thank you for your kind words and I will never turn down someone's offer to pray for me. You made mention in your email you believe a person being made up of three parts: spirit, mind and body. Since Jesus is quoted in Matthew 22:37 as saying "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind." I would tend to agree, although I must admit I don't fully understand how it all comes together. I also agree that I seem to perform better when my relationship with Christ is strong (and when I am physically and mentally ready). I would actually take that further and say that I think that when I am focused on my relationship with Christ all things seem to go better. Now, don't get me wrong. Things still go wrong and I have bad days, BUT I seem to be able to respond to situations more intelligently and calmer.
One of my buddies' favorite verses is Proverbs 3:5-6. "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight." He often encourages people by saying, "If someone will put God first in their relationships, in their athletics, in their job, in their hobbies, etc then things may not always work out how you want them. But that is okay because they will work out how God wants them. It is a promise - He says he will make our paths straight."
I think a couple of the biggest affects on my athletic career that have stemmed from my decision to ask Christ to be my Lord and Saviour are:
1. About the time I made the decision, I was tired of fighting and was about ready to hang up the gloves. I seem to have a newfound freshness.
2. I still get nervous when I fight, but I know the final outcome is really in God's hands. He knows the outcome of the fight and I trust that he will be with me win, lose or draw. So maybe I could say, I don't get as worked up before a fight and maybe my lows aren't as low anymore.
3. One other thing that I think has happened, is I am more sensitized to those around me. Realizing the affect I can have on those close to me by talking the talk and walking the walk.
-Matt

How do you know if you have overtrained? I would train all the time if I could, but I don't know when to stop. I get real sore at times but I just want to keep going. Should I work through the soreness or wait until the soreness goes away? -Vince
Well overtraining is a big thing for a select few I would say. You need to break up your workouts throughout the day. I train at 6:00 AM, then at 9:30-11:00, then again at 6:00-8:00 PM. That gives my body lots of time to relax and repair. I also take it easy on the weekends. Maybe I will just lift and run. My problem and maybe some of yours, I just love to work-out. -Matt

I'm really interested in competing in MMA fighting, I have very limited striking experience, somewhat of a wrestling background, any advice on getting started? -Larry
I would say "start small." Go to the amateur level first. Work your way up slow. There is no need to take a fight against someone with much more experience or out of your weight class. Another thing you should do is get a manager. I would not be where I'm at without mine (Monte Cox). That could be tricky, so pick wisely. One last thing, get a good gym and work hard at being well rounded. -Matt

I'm in the Army and 30 years old. I was wondering at my age how would a guy go about being a cage fighter? What would you suggest? Is it too late for a person in my position to go as far as you? -James
Well I would need more info. What experience do you have, and how much? I can not say how far you would go, or how you would do. Just remember, be as well rounded as you can, and start small. Maybe even amature. It all depends on what you have done. -Matt

What kind of workouts and exercises you do for your neck to give it its size and strength? -Mark
I'm sorry I can not answer your question more, but I do not work my neck when I resistance train. All my neck workouts come from technique classes (grappling, wrestling, and sparring). I wish I could help you out. I will say that your neck is very delicate and I would use common sense in making it stronger. -Matt

Do you have any specific method to cutting weight without half killing yourself? I have cut weight plenty of times, and just flat out don't eat or drink for a few days, and spend too much time in a sauna. About how much weight do you have to cut before weighing in? Any insight would be great. -Grant
Well I try to show up to the UFC hotel (about 5 days before weigh-in) 10-12 pounds over. I will then workout twice a day. Both workouts being intense 45 minutes to an hour long. The first day (Monday) I will eat three meals, and workout once since I flew that day. All three meals could include fruit, chicken, eggs, wheat toast, and salad. Tuesday would be the same with the meals being smaller and working out twice. Wednesday would be similar with a very small meal after my last workout.
My evening workout is always the same time I think I'm going to fight. I want to get my body used to working out at that time. Thursday, my meals are very small with no meal after my last workout. I will also limit the amount of water I put into my body. Up until Thursday night I drink all the water I want. Friday morning I try to wake up no more than 3 pounds over. I go to the gym and workout on a bike for 45 minutes to an hour and try to lose most of the weight. When I go to the sauna, I do not want to be more than a pound or two, at the most, over. I try to work most of it off and go to the sauna just one day. In the sauna I will go for ten minutes, and then take 5-10 off, then go for another ten, and go again if needed. -Matt

I am just wondering how you feel your workout ethic compares to other welterweights? I watched UFC 58, and it seemed like BJ Penn gassed after the first round. Do you train any differently for a 5 round UFC title match, compared to a 3 round bout? -Ty
I will be real honest. I think I could fight a 5 round match anytime. Do not get me wrong, I work out very hard; but I think there comes a time when conditioning becomes confidence. I think you need to train your body and your mind. That is where my strong mind comes in. I would train the same for a 2 round fight as for a 5 round fight. I just love to train. -Matt

I was reading one of the questions you answered and you mention how you have usable strength. I know you wrestled and by what I can tell a lot of wrestlers are strong. What type of training could I do to get that usable strength you are talking about? I have done bodybuilding before and was very disappointed when I could bench press more weight than this guy but he could throw me all over the place. -Preston
Usable strengh has a lot to do with balance, leverage, motion, and technique. I think wrestling is one of the best activities for building strength (besides resistance training). With wrestling you use all your muscles, learn balance, leverage, motion, and technique. Another thing, a lot of weight lifters forget to work CORE muscles. I would also say that most weightlifters do not do explosive exercises or power cleans. -Matt

What do you eat on fight day and when do you eat? -Logan
Well lets start from the weigh in. After weigh in (around 3:00 PM) I drink pedialite, Gatorade (1/2 Gatorade and 1/2 water). Then I put protein, good carbs, and fats into my body.
Around 7:00 PM, I eat another meal, always chicken of some kind. I love fruit, so after weigh in I will eat fruit all day and well into fight day.
Around 10:00 PM I will eat another meal. It could be eggs and wheat toast with hash browns, or any other good clean foods, then I will go to bed.
The next day I will eat a good breakfast. Eggs and wheat toast for sure, and maybe some fruit. Lets say that was at 10:00 AM. So at 12:30 or 1:00 I will eat lunch. Maybe a chicken salad and more fruit. I usually go to my locker room around 4:30 or 5:00 PM. When I get there my trainer Marc Fiore, former Army head wrestling coach, will make me eat a little bit of a turkey sandwich. -Matt

I am 22 and currently weigh about 170, mostly muscle, but I want to gain a good 5-10 pounds of muscle. What strategies have you used to gain muscle? What supplements did you find most effective? -Alex
Three very important things when trying to get bigger. Diet, training, and sleep. If you take just one out, then your muscles will be affected. I cover what I do in my training section. I think one of the best supplements out there to get bigger would be creatine, and XYIENCE's NOX CG3 is a great choice. I also take Cytosport Musclemilk after my workouts to feed my muscles when they need it the most. If you are not worried about your weight then I would say eat more. I know of weight lifters who will wake up in the middle of the night and eat just to get some food to their muscles. -Matt

What are your max out weights for bench, squat, deadlift, etc? -Steven
I do not max out anymore, and have not for a long time.

Years ago: bench - 310, squat - 375, deadlift - 425

I get a lot of my power from my back, and body position. I can take a 240 pound guy, who would beat me in every lift badly, and grapple him and make him feel weak. I call that usable power and that has to do with body position and leverage. -Matt

Your website says that you work each part of your body (legs, arms, back) once a week. If you work a muscle group hard more than once a week, will it inhibit muscle growth? How often should you work a muscle group to obtain optimal growth? -BJ
Very good question, and I do not know if I am the best person to answer this. Most of my knowledge comes from what works well with my body. If I was just a weightlifter I would probably work my body parts out more than once a week. With all the other things I do (grappling, sparring, wrestling) I do not want to over train. My muscles get a lot of other workouts in throughout the week. -Matt