MMAWeekly.com would like to welcome Team Carwin wrestling coach Leister Bowling. Leister will be writing a guest article each week of the TUF 16: Team Carwin vs. Team Nelson season, giving us his thoughts and breakdowns from his unique perspective behind the scenes.
About Leister Bowling:
I am one of the head trainers at The Grudge Training Center in Denver. Wrestling has been a huge part of my life. It has opened many doors for me and has made me the man I am today.
I look back at all of the opportunities I have had through MMA and it is very humbling. None of these experiences would have been possible without the lifestyle I developed through wrestling.
I grew up wrestling in Colorado, where I had a successful high school career as a 3-time State Champion with a record of 154-2. I went on to wrestle for Steve Costanzo at Dana College in Nebraska, where I was a 3-time All-American and 2005 National Runner-Up.
After college I began coaching at the University of Northern Colorado. While coaching at UNC, I met Shane Carwin, who at the time was fighting on the local circuit trying to get a shot in a big show. I invited him to train with our team and work with one of our heavyweights. He told me he would do that if I would help Nate Marquardt with his wrestling. The rest is history.
Nate and Shane opened the doors for me and introduced me to the team at Grudge. With their connections, I have had the honor to work with some of the top names in the sport such as Shane Carwin, Nate Marquardt, Brendan Schaub, Duane Ludwig, Jared Hamman, Georges St-Pierre, Benson Henderson, Vitor Belfort, and many others. I was truly honored when Shane asked me to be one of his coaches on season 16 of The Ultimate Fighter.
In the first episode, you see 32 guys fighting for a spot in the house. This was a challenging situation for everyone. These fighters show up and they have nobody with them. They have nothing familiar, no team, no coaches, no family, and no fans. Any fighter will tell you that the day of a fight is one of the most nerve racking things a person can go through. Most fighters will experience severe anxiety that is typically comforted by their team/family.
To make things even more nerve racking, they have Dana White, Shane Carwin, and Roy Nelson sitting cageside in an empty Mandalay Bay Arena. Some people may think that having a bunch of people in the crowd would make a guy nervous, but I will tell you that it was a very weird feeling sitting there watching two guys throw down in an arena that seats around 20,000 people, but only had what felt like about 20 strangers watching.
We as coaches had to do what we could to make them comfortable, but that is hard to do when we knew absolutely nothing about any of these fighters. We introduced ourselves to them at weigh-ins, and then again in the locker room the day of the fight.
We developed a strategy for ourselves as coaches. We figured that since Trevor Wittman and I had the most experience cornering fighters, we would corner every fighter that was in our locker room. We put our strength and conditioning coach Loren Landow in the back to structure the warm-ups (as the season goes on, I’m sure you will see how big of a role he played in helping our guys prepare). We had Pat Barry hold mitts (he prefers his face to be the target, so no mitts necessary!!!). And we had Nate Marquardt sit behind us in the corner. Nate took notes on all of the fighters to help us with the fight picks.
Coaching these guys in their fights was a difficult thing to do because we didn’t know what their strengths or weaknesses were. Before they fought, we asked them what they liked and needed from their corner and most of them just asked us to be honest with them whether they had won or lost the round. We didn’t “over coach” anyone in these fights for two reasons: we didn’t know much about the fighters, and we didn’t want the opposing guy to win and then have a grudge against us for coaching against them.
We put a lot of time into developing our list of 1-16 fight picks. Just because they had a quick knockout didn’t mean we thought they were better than guys who didn’t finish their fight. We did what research we could to determine who we felt were the most experienced/well rounded fighters that were also good people.
Our goal was to develop a team that would bond while we were there and we needed guys that we felt would buy into that plan. After the picks were over, we couldn’t have been more confident in our team. What a great group of fighters!
Our team and what stuck out to me after the fights:
Stay tuned, this season is going to get good. I will be here weekly to recap each episode. To be continued…
(Photo courtesy of Leister Bowling)