Australian Strength Coach Meer Awny Discusses Developing a Support Team for His Fighters

Australian strength coach Meer Awny shares his experiences training combat athletes, collaborating with other coaches, putting a team together, traveling to learn from other coaches and effective ways to prepare fighters for competition.  Meer works with a wide variety of fighters including youth, pro MMA fighters, boxers, judo athletes and more.

Follow Meer on Instagram –> @meer_awny

Meer is the Director and head coach at Ethos Performance. His initial experience in the industry began during his study at the University of Sydney where he completed a Bachelor of Applied Science (Exercise & Sports Science). Progressing from formal education completion, Meer received his Australian Strength & Conditioning Association accreditation and went onto volunteering at the New South Wales Institute of Sport. During this time, he saw a need for developing a home for the combat athlete in Sydney, and so he sought out experience internationally. This guided Meer to spend 6 weeks under the tutelage of Loren Landow in Denver, Colorado at the worldly recognised facility, Landow Performance.

 Upon returning to Sydney, Meer has created an environment that has facilitated the development of Australia’s best combat athlete’s, ranging from UFC, Bellator, ONE, and top #5 ranked boxers across the world. The development of the systems at Ethos Performance cater to a wide range of athlete’s and levels. These include amateur & youth level boxers, wrestler’s, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Tae Kwon Do, Judo, Mixed Martial Artist’s (MMA) through to semi-professional and professional athletes across a variety of sports.

Meer’s philosophy is centred on maximising individual performance through the cultivation of a system designed to bring the best from all fields to his athlete’s. Careful attention is placed on the integration of various factors that shape the overall long-term development of the athlete. Success through these methods has seen him work top 3 ranked boxers in the world such as George Kambosos JNR, UFC fighters Tai Tuivasa and Tyson Pedro, Bellator athlete’s Arlene Blencowe and Janay Harding, as well as various domestic and international medallists across other combat sports.

A National presenter for leading organisations, Meer has been engaged in speaking on subjects related to his field for the ASCA, PLAE, ACU UNIVERSITY, and is continuously providing educational and mentoring opportunities through these relationships.

 When he isn’t coaching you’ll find Meer enjoying coffee, reading, being outdoors, spending time as an uncle, and training his dog.

   We asked Meer what his favourite thing about coaching is: “Achieving success in the athletic realm is amazing, however, the development of relationships that last well beyond the sporting journey has to be the most rewarding feeling as a coach”.


Full Transcription of Our Podcast with Meer Awny

Australian Strength Coach Meer Awny Discusses Developing a Support Team for His Fighters

Corey Beasley [00:00:01]: Hey guys, is Corey Beasley with fight camp conditioning? I’m excited today to have Meer Awny from Australia talk. What is Meer how are you?

Meer Awny [00:00:10]: Good Corey, how are you? Thanks for having me on.

Corey Beasley [00:00:13]: Yeah, absolutely man. I know it’s bright and early out there made you get up out of bed pretty early, but I’m excited to chat with you today. So for everybody that’s listening. Can you give everybody a little two sense of who you are and what you’re doing?

Meer Awny [00:00:28]:
 I am a strength and conditioning or sports performance coach here in Sydney. I primarily work with combat sport athletes. The males, females that walk through my doors range from extremely young levels or youth athletes all the way to guys that are in the UFC. I’m competing professionally and belittle as well as top rank guys as a professional boxers. In that scope I work with amateur boxers, kickboxers junior athletes, jiu jitsu athletes and pretty cool range of combat sport athletes as a whole. My facility or my services run as like a combat sport athlete program. Me and my staff, we do that Monday to Friday and athletes essentially come into the facility. We give them the personalized service in attempts to give the combat sport athletes everything that they need.

Corey Beasley [00:01:25]: So how long have you been working with the combat sports athletes?

Meer Awny [00:01:31]: I’d say going on two, three years purely working with combat sport athletes now.

Corey Beasley [00:01:38]: So it’s been a little while. How’d you get interested or involved in that niche?

Meer Awny [00:01:44]: I have a competitive experience myself as a combat sport athlete. So up until I was 15 years of age I played soccer. And then I transitioned into muay thai. So I’ve been more or less involved with some element of combat sport since I was 15 years of age. I did karate when I was younger. When I transitioned out of being an athlete to university, I realized that there wasn’t really a place back at home for me. So back in Sydney that dealt with combat sport athletes like wholeheartedly or purely. So I wanted to volunteer or get some experience in that sort of environment. So I could bring it back to Sydney and progressively work on creating a place. So in a nutshell, that’s how it started.

Corey Beasley [00:02:33]: Now, before we were before we’re online here in recording stuff, you mentioned a lot about the resources that are available to some or are becoming available. But the big differences between other sports like professional sports like rugby and soccer and these other sports that have huge amounts of resources for the professional athletes where a lot of these fighters are kind of like you were when you first kind of started out. You’re kind of doing the best you can and organize in your group of coaches or people that are helping you yourself. Can you kind of talk about that a little bit more?

Meer Awny [00:03:14]: Yeah, definitely. I think I’m going to step on some toes if I talk about finances of combat sport athletes, but I’m happy to do so. I inquiry you, you also know that even at the highest levels, the majority of let’s just give the example of bellator UFC, MMA athletes being that the fastest growing combat sport athlete in the world at the moment. So even in the UFC, these guys aren’t getting paid huge amounts of money. And the difference between, I guess a professional team sport and a professional UFC athlete or bellator athlete is the services provided to that person. They do exist, but it’s not as easily accessible to the UFC fighter. For example, if you play for Manchester United, if you play for any professional sporting team, that team also has a team of professionals who are dedicated to the services for that athlete, whether it be nutrition, dietician, psychologists, physical therapists preparation. So the athlete has access to all of those people by being a representative of that club. Now, if we’re talking about the UFC that’s the biggest organization for mixed martial arts. It doesn’t get any bigger. If an athlete isn’t let’s say close by to the UFC performance Institute in Shanghai or the one in Las Vegas, it becomes difficult for them to utilize those resources not that they can’t, but on a more frequent basis. I’m sure that plan is either going to change, but at the moment, in my opinion, that poses some challenges not only the professional but also the amateur liberal combat athletes.

Corey Beasley [00:05:00]: Yeah, absolutely it does. Now, from your experience and developing a program that you guys have over the last three or four years, how’d you kind of put those pieces together? What pieces were involved and what gaps do you kind of see with a lot of the amateur and professional athletes you’re dealing with currently?

Meer Awny [00:05:22]:
 So as a whole at the lower levels or at the higher levels, let’s say an athlete is dealing with an injury more or less they need to make those decisions for themselves about who they allow onto the team, quote unquote team, and they need to find those people themselves. So I started to see the same kind of pattern of athletes not having access to a good physiotherapist or a physical therapist. Especially in my case when I was dealing with the fighters who would have issues with weight not know how to approach things professionally. This will kind of tie in to the role of the courage, which we can speak about a little later on. But I felt the need to not only educate myself enough to be able to give them some sort of advice when they asked me those questions, but also I wanted to practice within my own scope of practice and be comfortable in knowing that I had a good team of professionals that I could always refer out to. And I think any good practitioner or any good coach has a good group of people around them, which they can feel comfortable to do so.

Corey Beasley [00:06:31]: Yeah, I mean that makes a huge difference because like you said, it’s not if this stuff is going to pop up, it’s when. I mean all these kids are dealing with these challenges across the board pretty much until they really kind of develop a rhythm to their training.

Meer Awny [00:06:47]: Definitely. So the moves that we made or that I made to account for this issue that, I still continued to notice was we started working closely. I started working closely through collaboration for one of my UFC athletes who was working with the dietician Jordan Sullivan. So he’s currently in Vegas working with a few athletes who are going to be competing this Sunday or this Saturday evening on the max Holloway. So he and I are relatively close now. We have a referral system between his athletes because he’s primarily an online based practitioner, about an hour and a half flight away from Sydney. So he’s in the Northern state in Australia. So he and I work closely together. We, we have a good system in that we can communicate effectively with each other. And there’s never any discrepancies about us being honest with possibly changing things or modifying things to better suit the athlete. So I’ve really enjoyed working with him. It’s all of my guys who have been referred to him and who have started working with him, they’re all extremely happy. So that was the initial step. We then went further and pondered with a mural preparation company. We’ve also liaised with the dietician. So essentially what we wanted to do was make the process extremely simple for the athlete who was involved. I mean, you know how it is when these guys are getting ready for fights or competitions just the training burden alone is quite a heavy stress on this person. Not only physically, but emotionally and mentally also. So what I wanted to do was just kind of take the guesswork out of what is actually a huge component, which is the nutrition and ultimately making weight. If you don’t make weight, you don’t compete.

Corey Beasley [00:08:42]: Well, I mean, a lot of these kids too, I always forget, is that they are 25 years old or less, most of them under 30 and they’re young athletes, they don’t have a lot of experience, a lot of them don’t have families and stuff like that that they’ve had to kind of learn these kinds of things like cooking and shopping and these habits that I always forget, but they just don’t, haven’t developed those yet. So it’s difficult when you tell them here’s a meal planner, here’s what you should be eating. And it’s completely 180 degrees different than what they currently do.

Meer Awny [00:09:20]: Exactly. It’s a big change to start weighing your food and cooking meals precisely. If you haven’t even learned how to scramble some eggs yet.

Corey Beasley [00:09:31]: So that’s cool. You kind of network, do you have the dietician or nutritionist that’s helping out? You have a meal prep company that’s kind of implementing the ideas that dietician wants and the boys need.

Meer Awny [00:09:49]: It’s simple I even tried it myself this year when I did quite a big weight cut just to go through the processes and essentially you send the details that the dietician needs. He sends the meal plan to the meal preparation company. Meal Preparation Company delivers the meals to your front door or to our gym and all you need to do is pick it up. It has your name on it, it tells you when to eat it. And if you trust the process, the reward it’s very simple.

Corey Beasley [00:10:15]: That’s a huge deal. I mean that’s a huge stress for a lot of guys and you’ve eliminated it. So in addition to the nutrition side of things, which just seems like you have dialed in pretty well, what other pieces of the puzzle or other professionals have you included in your team?

Meer Awny [0010:33]: Okay. My philosophy around programming or our SNC training is that it, it’s always like a nice blend between quote unquote prehab slash rehab accessory type training alongside aiming to chase performance improvements. So I’ve always done my best to be educated on both aspects of the puzzle. So I spent some time working in a physical therapy clinic which also had a small gym like facility. So I’ve made some good networks throughout the last few years, even before I started working purely with fighters. And so I reached out to some guys who could help me with particular athletes and then people who I could rely on in terms of communication but also who are time rich and who could be flexible around athletes, who I was sending to them, particularly high level athletes. So I met with particular individuals. I could probably say there were three to four physiotherapists’ physical therapists who I regularly speak with. And the biggest thing that I was looking for was individuals who were open to communication guys who were flexible and people who genuinely cared about the development of the athlete. So once I found these individuals, we created like a referral system in that, let’s say one of my athletes sees the physiotherapists, there’s a shape that that individual will then send to me, which has almost like a rundown of the session that they had with my athlete. And then it has some action points to things that I can then take into my programming or into the next two weeks to action any change. That’s the first thing more recently we’re going to, especially as of next year, introduce a small block every week where we have a physical therapist onsite at the gym and athletes can then ultimately they can book in a session with that person at our gym on let’s say Tuesday or Wednesday morning. And what that does is it just progressive, they try to make it so the athlete can come to the one place and have access to multiple things instead of having to stretch themselves so thin to drive around and see all these different people.

Corey Beasley [00:12:56]: Well it sounds simple, but like you said, their schedules already, they’re already spread thin, you know fight camps are stressful, they’re busy, they’re getting pulled a lot of different directions. So I think it’s a great idea it takes a potential obstacle out and it just makes it simple. When they’re there at your gym, they can kind of kill two birds with one stone. So I mean, as these guys are coming in and you’re kind of putting this team of people together has there been any resistance to utilize those different resources as like you said, a lot of these kids they’re not killing it, they’re not making a lot of money has the expense of utilizing these other resources become an obstacle at all?

Meer Awny [00:13:51]: Definitely, at some stages people have the barrier of finances and that case despite the fact that we’ve made it relatively affordable for the athletes to have access to these resources, I think it comes back to the SNC coach or the main coach being well versed themselves to still be able to give enough advice on the topic. But in terms of other resources, so the dietician, we’ve got like very brief water loading protocols, post weighting protocols that athletes can follow if they don’t have the finances to take the more individualized approach. So we’re still trying to bring something that’s better than having nothing at all. But definitely like finances are always going to be an issue even at the highest levels. I’ve met countless UFC fighters who still work full time. I work with an athlete who’s scheduled to have a title fight next year and she still has a full time job. So what the public see as glitz and glamour of being a cage fighter. It’s quite a harsh sport to take a part in, not only in the nature of the sport itself, but in the fact that the financial rewards aren’t as good as people think they are. I speak to so many people that say, Oh man, UFC foreigners, they make a killing. But when they give the example of what makes them say that, it’s always going to be Conor McGregor and he’s an outlier.

Corey Beasley [00:15:23]: Sure. Of course it is. Everybody likes to, I’ve seen even the memes that, what the top or what I high level UFC fighter made that weekend and what like, Canelo made boxing very different.

Meer Awny [00:15:42]: And unfortunately I have my the professional boxing world as well as the professional MMA world and that definitely is a discrepancy.

Corey Beasley [00:15:50]: Yeah, for sure. And also, what I think a lot of people don’t see is you got to pay your manager, you’re paying all your coaches, you’re investing in yourself by utilizing these other resources that are available to keep yourself healthy and on point and performing at your best. And there’s a lot of hands in the cookie jar at the end of the day and then you pay taxes and all that type of stuff. It gets real small real quick. So in addition to collaborating with the dietician, the physiotherapists is there anybody else that’s on that team that you see as an important person that these guys are utilizing?

Meer Awny [00:16:35]: So I’m progressively working on finding a sports psychologist who I can also refer particular athletes to or athletes just feel like they want that service in terms of relationships and networks. There’s a lot of resistance that comes from an athlete who doesn’t have the support of their head coach. So I always make an effort to network with the head coach of the athlete just so they can meet me. Hopefully get an insight into my intentions for that particular athlete and how my systems work. Because ultimately if the head coach is on your side and makes life a lot easier when you’re trying to communicate things to the athlete. So that’s a relationship that I strongly encourage. I think for the listeners who want to have things to action from this topic it’s on you to develop these networks and to meet people and have conversations and discussions with people. And the systems that you have in place are definitely subject to change. They’re not going to be efficient and run smoothly early on. But the idea is that your progressively working on making, making it that way.

Corey Beasley [00:17:51]: Yeah. We’re always trying to improve and make things better, like you said as you’re going through these conversations with a lot of these other professionals or even the coaches I always learn something. Whether it’s positive or not, you always learn maybe their thought processes, their perspective on getting these guys prepared to compete and I always pick up something.

Meer Awny [00:18:19]: Definitely. And with the team of professionals, if an athlete let’s say you have a particular dietician or a physical therapist that you want to refer someone to and the athlete says that they have someone that they already work with. That’s awesome. I generally, what I like to do is I connect with the person that they already work with and it’s not so much like an interview or me interrogating anyone, it’s just me getting an idea into how open that person is to communicating with me at times, depending on the practitioner does a discrepancy between what a physiotherapist feels comfortable to share with a SNC coach and also vice versa. So more often and not if an athlete has someone that they work with, I give that person or call and we have a discussion about the athlete given at the open to talk about potential plans for progressions and regressions and how we can communicate things more efficiently. I tend to steer away from the folks who aren’t comfortable to have those discussions because it’s always been more about them as a practitioner than what it doesn’t. So that’s It’s an important filtering process when aiming to work on having a team of professionals.

Corey Beasley [00:19:39]: Yeah. Now, from you’ve been implementing this kind of a system, your network, you’ve been working with these guys for about the same amount of time about three or four years?

Meer Awny [00:19:48]: No, definitely not. So when I started working with combat sport athletes, it was an extremely slow it was a slow and long road. I’d only say that there’s been the ability and the support both in terms of time, networks, finances to make all this happen probably in the last 12 months. So just working on developing a good team of combat sport athletes finding a good balance between what systems would work in a semi-private setting or in the private sector that was also financially rewarding enough for the business to then be able to have the resources to develop these networks and provide more to the athletes, but also to make it affordable enough for the athlete to get everything that they needed. So a lot of the earliest stages prior to the last 12 months and still in the last 12 months has been on those things.

Corey Beasley [00:20:50]: And the last 12 months utilizing these other resources, what are some of the benefits or results that you’ve seen?

Meer Awny [00:20:59]: Okay, so if we have an Excel spreadsheet that lets us know the athletes who have made and not made weight working with like the system between the dietician and myself. We’re on a hundred percent track record, so none of our athletes have not made weight. That’s the first thing that we, we work extremely well together myself and Jordan, the dietician we haven’t had any athletes make weight and then not be able to compete for a fault that theirs in terms of rebounding or not feeling well on the day, they’ve had pullouts at times, but that’s the reality of the sport. What else has worked really nicely is between myself and particular physical therapists is the transitions on between when an athlete sees the practitioner and when I get the information is a matter of minutes. So an athlete will see a practitioner, I’ll give you the example of one guy I work with closely. He’s name is buzz. They’ll say this guy, as soon as they’re leaving the room or sometimes while they, even on the bed, I get a voice message and a rundown of what that the athlete needs to work on. I can immediately pencil it into their program. So the next time that they’re coming in, we’ve already modified things to their current state, which I think is pretty cool. We’re working on making that even more integrative when we have a practitioner on site, which would then allow an athlete to come in, have any sort of soft tissue work done for them, have insight into what they could do to change their warm-ups or particular exercises and then they could proceed to doing the session for that day with all that information behind them.

Corey Beasley [00:22:46]: Well, like you said, you just over the last few years, you’re just continually improving your program, expanding your network and providing more value for the guys that are walking through your door to compete as complex is a lot of these things may seem if you’re thinking of everything at once, you really have things that seems like dialed in pretty tight and you’ve got some big rocks in place so to speak that a lot of athletes are struggling with the nutrition piece, the physiotherapy, then you know that the soft tissue work, these are all valuable things that guys are going to use pretty quickly I would imagine.

Meer Awny [00:23:26]: Exactly, and it kind of goes back to what you and I were talking about in terms of potential topics just the role of the SNC coach I kind of look at it beyond you know, just simplicity or not simplicity, but just the aspects of writing programs and training and there’s a potential for the to have an impact on a lot of wider areas, particularly with combat athletes that I think is important in the sport, especially being able to see where an athlete needs improvement in terms of whether it’s training, scheduling, overall monitoring of their loads, looking at when they’re sparring and when they’re doing other things and how you can implement changes there. Dietary changes, lifestyle changes, sometimes even technical changes. Working with such a wide group of combat sport athletes has also given me access to knowing more or less almost a lot of this skill coaches in Sydney. So I can, if an athlete I’m working with says I’d like to work on my boxing, I can immediately put them in touch with a handful of people who would be able to do that for them and they can then make the selection themselves. So I think it’s important to have a team of professionals in to know the ins and outs well which makes you then more resourceful as a coach.

Corey Beasley [00:24:43]: I mean it’s just another person in your network and other professional in your network. You’ve got a variety of different coaches. They have different personalities, different thought processes and things like that. And if you know those people well, maybe somebody is going to relate to one coach better than the other. So Meer, I mean really, really good information. I think it’s cool that you’ve put this together and taken a lot of stress off of your athletes and like you said, you’re already seeing the benefits of doing so for anybody that’s wanting to keep up more on what you’re doing and stay in touch with you and maybe ask you a few questions. What’s the best way for them to find you online?

Meer Awny [00:25:29]: On Instagram there are two tags. It’ll be my person to tag @MeerAwny. So just my first and last name. But if you’d like to see an insight into the combat sport athlete SNC type environment ethos performance is the tag for the gym page. If you’d like to send me an email with any questions, it’s just [email protected] and I’d be more than happy to chat to anyone.

Corey Beasley [00:26:00]: Very cool guys. I’ll put those links down below. Meer, thank you again so much for taking the time to talk with us and sharing some of the insights that you’ve been using over the last 12 months. We really appreciate it.

Meer Awny [00:26:11]: I appreciate your time, Corey. Thank you for having me on.