Eric Nicksick is a gym manager and coach at one of the largest MMA gyms in the United States, Xtreme Couture. He works with several high profile athletes in the UFC and Bellator including former title contenders Joseph Benavidez, Francis Ngannou, Jessica Eye and Claudia Gadelha.
Eric Nicksick: First things: first man: how have you, how have you been how our house quarantine been treating you in the family? It’S been good, I mean we haven’t really had any downtime. To be quite honest with you, you know what once quarantine hit. We stayed. We stayed in camp myself and Frances and then there was a handful of my guys that I knew had a short path to get in the UFC. Like Gustavo Lopez, Justin Jaynes like there was a handful of guys that we’d want to make sure they stayed busy in the room and – and you know what it ended up working out in the long run, because these guys end up getting those calls yeah. I had Justin Jaynes on last Monday before he was an official UFC fighter all of a weekend for for him man. It was a crazy to watch unbelievable quick turnaround got in there and put them away in 45 seconds. I guess what what what’s your thought of that as a coach and what’s the overall message to fighters about staying, ready, um, I think it’s, I think it’s it’s uh, it’s important, first and foremost to be within striking distance, especially when you’re right outside of the UFC And we talk about that all the time and it’s been, it’s been a a motto of just staying ready because you want to make sure that when that phone does ring that you can’t your there’s no opportunity to turn it down, so what we did was we Even kind of took that one step further where we were telling guys good their medical is done, go get their MRIs and their medical is done. So when the phone does ring, you’re, not only uh in shape your weights down, but you’re, two steps or three steps ahead with having medicals all taken care of. So justin is a guy that I mean he’s been working so hard he’s just been riding on the outside of the UFC and his body language. On that last Monday, you know he was he was down and out. He was bummed that a guy that used to train here in max roscoff we’ve got a call over him and I could see it in his heart man. In his eyes I got the kid: was kid was upset, but it’s amazing what we can do. You know yeah, I mean you’re, the general manager as well as one of the the main coaches. How was the pandemic really affected? Xtreme Couture? Obviously, Xtreme Couture is a bigger gym, I’m sure financially, they things are fine, but I guess what was the overall like impact on the fighters and and in the gym? Well, you know, for me, man we’re it’s all about camaraderie, it’s about being around each other and that that team environment, that’s what’s most important, and sometimes when you alienate that you take that away. That’S what that’s what suffers the most! So the one thing that I was always prideful in in the fact of what, during the pandemic, when we weren’t around each other – and we didn’t have team practice, that was the one thing that most of the most of the fighters could me up. I was like man, I just missed the team I miss being around the being around the fellows and the ladies and just getting to work. You know so that was hard that was hard to get over that part, but you know once we were able to open the doors up again I mean you bet. We were right back to work. So we’ll start we’ll start. I guess by talking a little bit about about your background, because I think I think it isn’t football right yeah. How do you how’d you get into MMA and coaching at Xtreme Couture? So it was. I think it was 2007 when Randy was just about to open the gym. He was training for tim sylvia, just kind of a lost kid man. I really didn’t know what I wanted to do after playing ball, and that was the one thing that I I think I missed the most was that camaraderie and that and that team, if you will, I set foot in the gym and they weren’t even really open. Yet they were just away from opening their doors and then Randy, just body back in a sense cooking start getting some work in just about pro fighters and high pile and dejan, and you know John Alessi and those guys and they just beat the [ __ ] Out of me for for a couple weeks on in and then you know the gym opened up, I started training underneath Dennis Davis and Mike Pyle, and it was about a year into it. I started uh started coaching here, so they gave me a grappling coach position and we kind of took the took the ball and ran with it. What sorts of lessons from football can you apply to to some of your fighters? You know for me, I think, as a coach, I’m a big film guy, so watching a lot of film is a big asset of mine that I’ve always enjoyed doing even in football. So studying my opponent and studying my ourselves as well, it’s very important not only to watch your opponent but to watch your fighter and break yourself down to try to look for some some patterns and some things that you might be not noticing and doing. Because if I’m not looking it well, you know or your opponent’s watching it and they might see something that you’re not so to me, really, it’s been a lot of a lot of film and, of course you know the team, the team aspect and putting putting the Team ahead of you and and making sure that you’re not above that and setting that standard, that’s always been very important to me as well, so you mentioned Randi, it is his birthday, so we have to get him, give him a shout-out on his birthday whoo. What is Randi like as a friend and as a fellow coach and an athlete? Well, you know he’s my big brother, so he’s just full of knowledge. Almost to the point where I forget about, I forget, I don’t want to welcome about that and then when I, when I do, and I ask in certain Chin’s he gives me such insight on on what he thinks as far as game plan. Why I’d go he? He was always one of the best game plan master. That’S ever fought in MMA and you know for me it’s like I’m, always I’m always learning and I’m always trying to evolve my game so anytime. I can involve Randi and anything that I do. I learned so much from him whether it’s the mental side of the game or the actual physical side of the game. That’S why I brought him on when we had Francis when Francis is part in fighting Georgie know, it was important to being Randi in here. Not only for what his knowledge is, but I wanted Francis to understand what a UFC champion his mindset was and the way he carried himself on his day to day, and it was important for him to see that yeah. I think the big, the biggest thing I noticed about Francis is his mindset has changed tremendously since that first title fight, you know the he’s just starching guys he’s going crazy, he’s knocking out guys in 45 seconds UFC title holders future hall-of-famers. What changes has he made since joining Xtreme Couture, and what can we expect if he gets another title shot if it goes the distance or if it’s outside of a minute? What what changes can we expect from Francis? Well, you know it’s it’s it’s. I guess it’s a good problem to have, because you know, since he’s been a trinket or with when the first blades fire or excuse me the second place fight. That’S when you start trying to hear more full time he’s been working on and evolving his game and fortunately for us. Yes, it’s really had, but in those in that time frame he’s really worked on his MMA cardio, his wrestling his ground game. To the point where you know in the in the last sparring sessions we have, he was taking boy down repeatedly, and this is the world Samba champ. If you, I couldn’t even get back up so we’re starting to see this guy kind of turn a corner and understand it’s not just all about the homerun. We want to make sure that he’s covered in all assets in this sport because, like you said I mean not all not only fighting to get past, you know the first minute. Sometimes you’re gon na have to dig deep and we’re gon na have to get into deeper rounds. Well, what do we need to get out of definitely make sure our cardio is on point you’re gon na have to be able to wrestle and counter Russell. We might have to take some people down along the way yeah. I think that was the biggest thing that you know going into that steep a that first steep, a fight once the one steep they got ahold of them. It was completely different. It we saw sight of Francis that that we hadn’t seen before – and I think a lot of people think thought was okay. We found his weakness, but when he fought Curtis blades that second time I thought it was just gon na be like. Oh, we found the blueprint, take him down, but it what’s it like holding the pads for a guy with that much power. It’S it’s like it’s funny can coach duty Cooper and I we all pass them all the time and it’s it’s honestly, the best. The closest thing ever you like, jumping out of an airplane like oh [, __ ], all right here we go and then then you go but him and I hit a lot. We had a lot of pads. We work on a lot of movement. We work on a lot of technique and you know over time it’s like it’s like just a freakin cage with a shark. You know the shark can bite your hand off at any points. You got to be careful mind your P’s and Q’s, but you know he is by far powerful pound the hardest adore I’ve ever called for yeah, including football players. Yeah I mean you know Ray Sefo ray stuff was up there. You know right there sup there’s something about right away, ray the way he hit from stylee, it’s very precise, very quick, all technique behind it, but great ray hits hard. Vinnie modelesque kicks Marcel. You know this guy’s like there’s guys. That would argue that, but yeah Francis for sure yeah, so he’s pretty much he’s a really weird spot where he essentially cleaned out the division before he’s got a second shot at a title. What would you like to see next for him? Obviously, there’s a big title fight there in the heavyweight division, but we don’t really know what’s gon na happen between Cormier and ste pay as a friend and as a coach. Obviously, you know you probably want him to stay active, but at the same time it’s you know you don’t want to risk it. You’Ve got a shot at a title. That’S guaranteed it’s guaranteed to be his. What would you like to see from him? Unfortunately, that’s probably not gon na be until about December. If that’s the case and then depending on on who comes out of this on top and DC, decide retire, I mean he’ll, be bacon, win and defend the title and retire himself. So we don’t know, we don’t know what the scenario might be, but I’m with you, man, there’s really nothing else to make, but other than sit back and wait. But in the meantime, it’s important to use this time wisely and prepare and get better on all the areas that we need to work on. If you just sit around and worried about, you know knocking guys out in the first minute. That’S that’s not that’s not logical! So we need to get it back in and get that again and get working and doing all those little things and that’s what he’s been doing he’s been in every week and we’re always just kind of just build a little bit on top of all the skills That he has already obviously you’ve, probably built a huge connection with a lot of your fighters. Fight Island is is, is huge. Everyone wants to be part of it as a coach. Is that something that you’re? Like I mean I got kids at home? I don’t know if I want to go through that. I don’t know if I want to travel all the way over. There risk catching something or you all and it’s like. If I get the call to go, I’m all and I’m going yeah I’m falling, I’m all in man and then these are my guys and I love them and you know obviously Danny gay got the call. I was we weren’t expecting to be fighting this soon. You know and right away, we got the call, and that was it we jump right on it. I plan on trying to go out with job and yes so it worked out just perfect where I’ll have Dan and then I’ll stay out there in corner Joe, but whatever whatever. I can do for these guys. Of course, when the first pandemic i sat down and talking with my wife and kids, about possibly corner and during the pandemic and at the one at Saatchi palace, which was planned to be, and you know all of them had no problem with it. They felt quite comfortable with me going out and and doing my job, and I appreciate that because without my family had they had some resentment or or push back towards it. It would have definitely probably changed my mind a little bit towards towards that. But chances are always still, I would still go. You have to think that the the location of the UFC headquarters being right there in Vegas that was definitely favorable for extreme Couture because I’m sure any late minused in any last-minute replacements, you’re, probably one of the first gyms. I think that’s that was probably key to guys like Justin. Getting that call. What are your thoughts and I guess as a whole, what are your thoughts on the UFC doing, what they did and and staying active and being ahead and being like? You know what we’re gon na do this. I know all other sports are canceled, but let’s go ahead and put these fights on yeah. I actually sent Dana a text after Jacksonville because you know you know I had Frances hi Dan Egan at Claudia, Goodell yeah, and you know he. He provided us a platform but also an opportunity to make some money during a time when, when no one’s making any money you know and without those fights and without obviously the guys winning you know, I was able to provide for my family during a during a Rough pandemic, where you know a lot of people are not working at this time, so I get it. I understand that, there’s inherent risks and everything we do in life and then putting ourselves out there a little bit more during this time was certainly risky. But I appreciate the fact – and I applaud I applaud Dana for doing what he did, because you know it gave us all a platform to be able to make a little money and work. So we’ve talked about Danny game talked about Francis in Ghana, Justin Jaynes, cloudy egged Ella, who are the up and comers that have Xtreme Couture. Who can be expecting the UFC in the next one two years? Who do you think really has a shot at and making a name for themselves? Well, right now we we have Puna Soriano who’s in the UFC. You only got to see him for a brief moment and we saw what he was able to do in the first round. He’S probably one of the more exciting guys that I can’t wait to get this kid back in the cage. Again. You know, I think, Puna for sure, gustavo lopez, you saw him just get his shot. That was obviously a one-day notice and you didn’t get to see the best of him, but i’m so proud of what he was able to do and not quitting being in there. For three rounds, working working as hard as he could having a smile on his face throughout the whole fight didn’t go his way. He lost the fight, but he won the battle. You know so i was. I was super happy with him boston salmon. He was been in the UFC, he fought at 135. He had some very, very tough weight cuts that i think it’s for. As far as us as a coaching staff and you have CPI, we failed him on that. We should have had him fight at featherweight early on so now he’s gon na get his shot back into LF a finding at featherweight. So I’m really excited to see him get get into a new weight class and see him a lot healthier, and then we got Montel Williams. That’S a Montel Williams, jr. man. This kids started with training with us when he was 18 years old. He is a prodigy in this room, the way the what he does in the in the middleweight and welterweight division. This kids, a guy to keep your eye out on him. He’S gon na fight next week, up in Montana, he’s an absolute stud. Alright, now we’re kind of talking laughs well like ended up on tsunami, not in a may material man. Your father of three you’ve worked with guys like Francis in Ghana, all these legends. What would you like to see your kid be a fighter knowing that there’s animals like Francis out there, you know I’ll leave that up to him and he loves the sport he’s. You know. I got videos and pictures of him and like actually steep a when he was barely walking and he’s walks around always wearing boxing gloves, he’s always punching stuff he’s always hitting stuff. There’S one thing: now: when you get a punch, something it doesn’t hit you back, but what she gets pop in the nose it might change do tune a little bit, but you know my dad was so great with me coming up. He always just pushed me in whatever sport I decided to do, and you know my dad was my football coach and I came from a long line of football coaches in my in my family, so football was natural for me, and that was something that fit me Really well so I think for Knox. I would try to get him into some wrestling and you know see how he takes to it, but whatever you decide to do man, I’m it always have his back and support them. I love it. Man, thanks for taking the time, I really appreciate it best of luck out there and fight I’m really rooting for Danny gay. I know it’s a quick turnaround. I think it’s just over two months, so it’s gon na be a tough fight. I’M looking forward to all your fighters, men and hopefully Francis gets back out there I’ll every time he’s on TV man. I’M like I got ta watch this because someone’s heads gon na get blown off. It’S the best thing in the house. I’Ll tell you that, and it’s so exciting I mean I want to see him box like Deontay Wilder or something, but I know that’s probably somewhere down the line, but man he’s he’s a physical specimen and unbelievable to watch absolutely yeah he’s. I can’t wait to get him back in there and you know, hopefully soon we’ll be able to show somewhere that MMA game that we’ve been working on so hard all right. Man thanks for the time I appreciate it and all the best all right. Thank You. Man. Thanks having me yeah stay safe, you too,