Full Transcription of Our Podcast with Matt Bousson
Interview with the strength and conditioning Coach Matt Bousson about Re-Thinking Athletic Development in the combat sport
Corey Beasley [00:00:01]: Hey guys, is Corey Beasley with fight camp conditioning. And I got Matt Bousson on the phone. Matt, how you doing?
Matt Bousson [00:00:07]: Great. Thanks for having me on.
Corey Beasley [00:00:10]: Of course. I appreciate you taking the time. I know you’re in the middle of a crazy trip. So I appreciate you cutting some time out for us. So Matt just give everybody a little two sense of who you are and what you do?
Matt Bousson [00:00:26]: Yeah, so my name is Matt Bousson. I hail from the sunshine coast Australia. Most recently I’ve been back and forth between the US and Australia quite a lot throughout my life and career. I basically a strength and conditioning coach focuses on injury prevention athlete development, child development. And I’m also a halfway through my PhD on biomechanics. I’m looking at how we can better stabilize the hips also recruitment, sequencing. So that kind of thing and basically taking a lot of the science and trying to add it to coaching. So I always called myself first and foremost a coach. But I definitely geek out on the science side as well.
Corey Beasley [00:01:05]: That’s cool. So how’d you get your start in the strength and conditioning world?
Matt Bousson [00:01:10]: So before I kind of got into the actual strength conditioning side of things when I was living in Southern California. And going to high school, I was trained in MMA myself, so Brazilian jiu jitsu, wrestling, boxing all that. And I started working at a local gym just kind of doing like sales counseling stuff and then I saw like, I want to get into personal training. And then once I kind of got into it a little bit more and realized that there was actually a career in strength and conditioning that you could go to college and get a degree in like kinesiology, sport and exercise science and stuff like that. That’s what I decided to do. And I’m Australian, so my mom’s Australian, so I’ve citizenship over there. So I applied to a couple of schools there, a couple of schools out here in California, and I actually got accepted to a university of sunshine coast on scholarship. So I went out there and then during my second year we had to do like a placement like a work placement. And I knew I wanted to do it with elite or professional athletes and in the local area, we didn’t really have a lot opportunity. So I started looking back overseas again and was fortunate enough to get an internship at Stanford University and work with their football program. And then while I was there, also started working with their wrestling program. At the time they had two nationally ranked wrestlers as well. So that was a great experience. So that’s how I kind of rode that wave since.
Corey Beasley [00:02:38]: Very cool. Well, I was just thinking about the other day, just how over the last 18 years, all the different places and jobs and things that I’ve done. And I mean, man, to have the opportunity to get in with a top program, like Stanford’s pretty awesome.
Matt Bousson [00:02:55]: It’s been a dream come true, I was just there last week for their a pro day. So I got to meet Loren Landau in person hanging out with Christian McCaffrey, Solomon Thomas. But I mean the program that they have up there, which is headed up by Shannon Turley in my opinion it’s second to none. It’s one of the most progressive programs I’ve seen stuff that people are talking about now. I was hearing about back then five years ago when I was first there, so it’s high stakes and college football it’s very competitive. So if you can’t really back up what you’re doing, you’ll definitely get found out and totally has been there now going on 10 years. So what I loved about it is, it’s so structured and it is very progressive in its nature as well. So what I’ve kind of learned from there and then taking that and now added it to the different sports that I work with now, one of them being mixed martial arts, working with UFC fighters and young kids and muay thai fighters and stuff like that. So for me, like the whole approach and it’s a very holistic approach. So you’re looking at the multifactorial and stuff like that. And it’s was definitely a blessing for that to be my first ever experience in the field. And it’s paid dividends since.
Corey Beasley [00:04:16]: Yeah, for sure. Well, I mean, it just points you in the right direction keeps you from making mistakes that we’ve all made over the years and you get to just to get pointed in the right way. It just helps. So you went through your internship and then what happened after that?
Matt Bousson [00:04:35]: So I finished my internship. That was the 2011, 2000, 12 season. So after we finished the festival, then I headed back to Australia. I still had a year left on my bachelor’s degree which I went back and completed and then I got into an honors program which, so we don’t have honors degree in the States, but it’s basically like an equivalent of a master’s degree, but you do it by research instead of by coursework. So it’s just one year added onto your bachelor’s. So I did an honors degree with the Brisbane Broncos, which is a professional rugby league team in Australia. I’m looking at adding concepts, concepts of the FMS type training, like exercise correctives based on individual movement weaknesses and stuff like that. So I completed my honors degree with them. And that was another great experience working with prior rugby team in Australia. And then after that my old boss at at Stanford, Han Straub, he got the head strength and conditioning job at university of South Florida. So he brought me with him over there and it was kind of a weird situation, but I was basically hired into a role that didn’t really exist at that school or around the country at the time. And I was basically a middleman between the strength and conditioning stuff and the athletic trainers. So if a player got injured, it was my role to work that player or work with those group of players in their return to play protocols. So doing a whole lot of rehabilitation and stuff like that, and then to also add a lot of that stuff to the healthy guys so they don’t get injured. So it’s like a coordinator rehab or you know injury prevention specialist, that kind of thing. But like I said, that kind of role at the time didn’t really exist. So I was on the strength conditioning staff, but when we’re on the field and the team was training together, I had my rehab guys over on the side and that was like one of my main responsibilities. So that was a really good experience I learned a lot. And then from there, that’s when I went back to Australia in 2014 because I got the opportunity to do my PhD. So I kind of a ping pong back and forth quite a lot, which has been fun.
Corey Beasley [00:06:44]: Well it’s pretty incredible is situations that you’re in with a variety of different athletes as well. Which all brings its own bag of challenges I’m sure. But so now these days, how’d you kind of get worked into the fight game?
Matt Bousson [00:07:02]: So I went back in 2014 and I actually just wanted to get back into MMA training myself just to kind of get back in shape. And I miss jiu jitsu and I missed all those types of things. So there’s a gym on the sunshine coast called core strength fitness which was created by Brennan Wilkins, my boss, and now a business partner and great friend. And so I just started training there and then just different conversation with Brendan about what I do and how I could help his fighters and stuff like that. So we decided to give it a shot. So we started training their muay thai guys and a couple of their MMA fighters as they were getting ready and really just tried to kind of change what they’re doing and change our approach, one of my favorite quotes that I always say is tradition is the enemy of progress and it’s just trying to change that whole mentality that unfortunately a lot of fighters have and like, I’m just going to run 20 Ks a day and when I cut weight, I’m going to eat no food and I’m going to starve myself. I’m going to dehydrate myself. And those types of things, which now there’s kind of a lot of media attention. And so those kinds of things are happening a lot. So this was back in 2014 we started trying to implement a lot of that. Some guys took it on and some guys the buying is always hard when you’re trying to change that tradition. Like I said, if they’ve done it a certain way for a certain time, we had guys that had like 140 muay thai fights all around the world, ex Australian champions, national champions, world champions. So it was a bit of a backlash. We kind of had to take a step back, but a few of the guys stayed on and they ended up doing really well. And then Kyle notes, who’s one of Australia’s like most veteran UFC fighters. He’s from the sunshine coast. And we work with his brother, with a teen’s take youth program that we run. And so when Kyle came back and moved back to the coast full time, he just walked in and we struck up a conversation and I’d known Kyle personally from a year before that and he just said like, Hey, I want to work together and I want you to kind of be my strength coach and work on a bunch of different issues that I have and old injuries that didn’t really get rehabbed correctly or not as well as they could have. And then we kind of just went from there. So I guess for me, it kind of went full circle from being a young kid and training in MMA and knowing who Kyle was and watching him when he was on the ultimate fighter with Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz to him being on the ultimate fighter as a coach. And then here I am 10 years later coaching him. So it’s been an awesome story, and Kyle and his brother Nelson, they’re like family now and they’re a big part of what we do over there at core strength fitness and the performance development center with our kids. So it’s been an awesome ride. I kind of every once in a while I’ve got to stop and smell the roses so to speak and pinch myself, make sure I’m not dreaming.
Corey Beasley [00:10:09]: Yeah, for sure. Well, now you came to the United States and you’ve been traveling around for what, two weeks?
Matt Bousson [00:10:16]: Six weeks actually.
Corey Beasley [00:10:20]: Let’s talk about that because I mean, that’s kind of a kick ass trip you kind of put together?
Matt Bousson [00:10:23]: Yeah. So really what I came out for a friend of mine, he works he’s an NFL scout. He’s been an NFL scout for like 25 years. So I’ve been working with him. I went to Philadelphia, met Philadelphia Eagles strength coach, spent some time there. He’s awesome guy his name Josh Hanks, like super, super cool and it’s always good. And at that level in the NFL, you get a lot of egos and stuff like that with strengths coaches. But he was awesome. I really liked talking shop with him and learn a lot. Then I went out to Boston met up a couple of different facilities out there. A guy named Joe Calgary. He runs stadium performance and he’s real big on ACL injury prevention and rehab. So he’s got a really great an ACL rehab program. That’s kind of right up my alley all about the functional movement and actually, stabilizing the knee, stabilizing the hips and stuff like that versus, just your traditional bench squat and dead lift type program. So that was great. Met up with another couple of guys, Matthew Abraham he runs a movement one-on-one movement resilience which is all about making athletes and people much more resilient in core strength and all that kind of stuff. So it’s really just been a big networking trip. Then from Boston I went and spent some time at the NFL combine hanging out with those guys. Just kind of talking about, what they do movement assessment wise and people always want to comment on the problems with the NFL combine, like bench press doesn’t matter and different things like that. And I do believe like some of the tests need to get better, but a lot of the Scouts like what they get out of that is a little different it might be, like a test of to see if the kid, he sucked at the bench fresh, see if he actually put in time to get better at it. So, even though the test, the physical test itself might not be testing a whole lot, they can still get quite a bit out of it run through their different drills and stuff like that. So I was kind of just there, kind of console a little bit and learn myself, learn how it works. Then where did I go from there? From there I went to Albuquerque stay with Jared Saavedra who he runs a athlete ready and he trains a ton of MMA fighters out there to come from Jackson Winkle, John’s camp. I went out there to hang out with those guys and visit with them since with Cal Noke when I was training him, we’d split his camp. He basically do six weeks with me in Australia on the sunshine coast and then come out here and do six weeks Jackson Wink and with Jared at athlete ready. So I kind of came out and spent a couple of days there just to, just to check them out and meet him face to face and thank him for his work. And it’s just been a big learning trip. And I came home back to Southern California, my dad’s house for a couple of days and then was up at Stanford last week. So for me, it’s like a homecoming to me, it’s where everything started and I still got really good links there. And Shannon Turley and Han Strauber I love him to death and they’re two of my biggest mentors, so just to hang out with them all week and Han’s is back there now. So Hans was the one, I was with in Florida. He’s now back at Stanford. He’s the director of Olympic sports. So he’s over there coach and swimmers, and all the baseball guys. And he just came back from Indianapolis and won a national championship with the women’s swim team, so it’s not only some of the best in the country, he’s like the best in the world just to kind of watch and hang out all week and see how he trains those girls and trains a baseball team and just for me, I just love learning all the different ways of how to implement this stuff into a number of different sports, a number of different age groups, a number of different mentalities, you’ve got like a girl like Katie Ledecky, it’s top of the world versus I go back home and I’m coaching the same stuff to like an eight year old kid. So I really love that and trying to kind of fill that gap. And then Stanford pro day on Thursday, so just hung out and watched all those guys and here we are Monday, so we’ve got a couple more days. I’m heading to Las Vegas today and Utah, there’ll be a couple days of R&R and then back on the flight back to Australia. So it’s been a big trip.
Corey Beasley [00:14:49]: Well, that’s exciting that’s such a cool variety of people that are joining in that you’re getting to talk with and see and watch them work and all that type of stuff. And to be really honest, it’s kind of like podcasts. Like I, this is my favorite part in it. I do, I get to talk to so many different coaches and learn more about what they’re doing and their thought processes and what they do and why and all that type of stuff. So my question I guess is that you’re working with all these different fighters and stuff like that. The thing that I want to know is you have a progressive program that you talked about from Stanford. And you’ve obviously researched and done a lot of work. How has a lot of these things kind of taken on how you train the fighters and how you approach their strength and conditioning?
Matt Bousson [00:15:52]: It’s 100% the backbone of what we do no matter the athlete but with the fighters you always start with an assessment, you kind of see where they’re at like Kyle was a professional athlete for some, like 15, 20 years before I started training him. So I had to kind of see where he’s at. And then how can I make him better what injuries does he have? How was that rehab? How long ago was it? How’s that affecting his performance now? And basically you create the program around fixing those things while also making it better and getting ready to fight in an ideal world it’d be like, we’re going to take the next year off and we’re just going to train and that’s all we’re going to do. We’re just going to get the body back. But in real life that doesn’t always happen especially in a sport like a MMA and muay thai and these combat sports, a lot of guys they’re never 100%, no matter how little they spar no matter how many safety precautions have, it’s a full contact sport. So it’s the nature of the beast. So I really think, it’s that assessment kind of seeing where they’re at and then creating a program based on what they can do. And that becomes a completely flexible too. I really love periodization stuff and the different systems and all these things. But when that’s on paper, at the end of the day, it’s just words on paper and numbers on paper. It doesn’t actually take into account, what their behaviors like, their sleeping patterns, their eating patterns, stress, they might be fighting with a girlfriend at home. They might be having a hard time at their job. Because like a lot of these guys, you know, they might be pro, but they still got a job on the side or something like that. So you’ve got a lot of other factors. So I think the biggest thing is having that plan and having that 12 week period I used a plan, but also having a backup plan and being able to adjust that and you kind of like letting it flow organically and being able to be flexible. So they come in and they a heavy sparring session or heavy pads with the hands and they come in the next day and their shoulders are erect. We’re going to have to change that around. This is what we’re going to do instead. So that’s the biggest thing I think. And it’s really just assessing what they’re doing all the time so you start off with like a baseline assessment. You can use the FMS, you could use the Y balance test there is a number of different ones. But I feel like, the best strength coaches out there are the ones that they’re doing their functional movement tests every set, every rep, every day, every workout. So like a constant assessment that’s going on. And we talk about quality of movement a lot, so it might not be like, they didn’t hit that strength number. We need to go down. It might just be their knee wasn’t able to remain over their ankles, they kept dropping in the valgus because their hips attire today or something like that. So it’s that kind of constant just constant assessment and constant reevaluation that allows for that flexibility that I feel like that’s kind of the biggest thing. Especially with these NMA fighters and it’s so hard to tell because it’s a lot easier in football because you have your off season, you’re in season, you’re pre season. Whereas with fighters, like, you know, they could get a call like, Hey, you’re fighting at five weeks. We got to get you ready as ready as possible in five weeks. I think the biggest thing with fighters is kind of not really having like an off season or not having significant time off after a fight. Like, you got an injury, you got to take care of that. But I think in my opinion, the next level for these combat sport athletes is just being well-prepared and physically prepared year round once you go into camp, it’s just about sharpening the ax or tightening up those little tools and kind of getting the details. But I’ve seen fighters, you know, blow out 40 pounds after end of a fight they just do nothing and eat junk food and put on weight. So then once they start their next fight camp then they just thrash themselves and its like, man, the first six weeks of that fight camp, you were just getting back to a baseline where you can then get into shape. So I think that’s another huge issue with fighters enough I’ve commented on before in a number of different ways.
Corey Beasley [00:20:18]: Well, it always makes me feel better when I hear people say that because it makes me realize I’m not the only one that deals with it.
Matt Bousson [00:20:24]: Yeah. Like I said, it’s the enemy of progress and it’s the way it’s been done and all the combat sports for years and organizations are now starting to change it. I know the NCAA, the wrestling, they’ve now started to implement rules about weight cutting and limiting the amount of weight to your body’s percentage of it you can actually cut and stuff like that. So I think it’s across the board and guys like us that have a much more kind of scientific understanding and approach. We’re doing what we can and we’re finally starting to see some change, which is awesome.
Corey Beasley [00:20:57]: And it just takes time. I don’t remember who it was, maybe it was Brett Bartholomew when I was with them a couple of weeks back and he was talking about just as sports evolves they typically jus damn just like a business, just like a gym, just like a fighter, just like anybody. Honestly you get the ball rolling and then you fine tune things along the way. And strength and conditioning for these athletes is relatively new and you’ve got to remember that the sports very new.
Matt Bousson [00:21:25]: Absolutely. Yeah. 100%. And the career itself is very new too. I was going to say, it’s not even just like combat sport athletes. So we also back in Australia where we live we started a performance surfing Academy just because the local area. So one, I’ve absolutely been loving working with the surfers, learning about a lot of their, like the balance stuff that they need. And it’s actually funny, there’s a lot of ties between the surfing world and MMA through jiu jitsu and stuff like that. And you got some of the better surfers training in jiu jitsu and stuff now too. But I think we, we see the same patterns with those guys, a lot of the surfers apart from like Kelly Slater and Mick fanning and maybe one or two others, like a lot of them don’t train like athletes. They’re just surfers. So it’s the same kind of thing in combat sports. Like you’re a fighter, but you’re not yet an athlete. And I believe like that’s where the change is going to occur. What these guys are going to start turning into athletes. And it’s even way back, when it was just like the, the idea of UFC doing jiu jitsu against the bigger guy. Well, it’s like now, like not only, you can’t just be good at jiu jitsu, you got to be good at everything. So as much as you got to sharpen all of your tools and skills in just MMA, you also have to do that with the strength and conditioning stuff. And that’s where I believe like you got to be an athlete as well as a fighter. So like a surfers, you got to be an athlete as well as a surfer.
Corey Beasley [00:22:53]: Yeah. Now, just to go into that a little bit more, when you’re talking about someone being an athlete, what does that mean to you?
Matt Bousson [00:22:59]: So for me, it’s a 24, seven job it’s the approach. It’s the mindset, it’s the discipline. And it’s just like I was saying earlier, making sure that you’re in shape year round and that doesn’t mean that you have to train a million miles an hour, but you have to learn to understand your body, like understand when to give it rest you have your off period, but you’re still doing stuff you staying proactive in keeping yourself prepared, keeping your body right. A lot of fighters are talking about it now to where they’re starting to understand like, I feel so much better now that I’m doing this. I was just listening to Jerry Rubin podcast with Justin Wren that does the fight for the forgotten. And he was talking about exactly that. I was like, now I’ve like got changed my whole mentality and I’m always eating good food and I’m always training. Like even when I’m not fighting and I’m sitting there, I’m like, somebody’s getting it, finally starting to get through.
Corey Beasley [00:23:57]: And a lot of times, and a lot of times, honestly, it’s probably true in a lot of different facets of life. But a lot of young people coming up, I know I’m guilty of it just as much as anybody, but when I was younger 20 years ago and it was like, think you really do honestly have it figured out. And I can’t tell you how many dudes that had been on TV that 35 years old come into my gym wanting me to help them because they’re so beat up and broken down. And then finally it’s like you’re a day late and a dollar short so much that we can do now. But that’s cool I think that’s an important factor to not too many people talk about. And like we said, it’s just changed and it hopefully takes a little bit of time and the young guys coming up not only the level of competition go up, but then obviously they’re going to have to fine tune and tighten the screws on a lot of different facets to even compete. Because a lot of these young kids are phenomenal.
Matt Bousson [00:24:57]: You got, 10, 11, 12 year olds. Some of the guys that are Kyle and Nelson are coaching martial arts. I’m sitting there watching. I wish I had that kind of training when I was a kid. Like if I did, there’s no way that I couldn’t have done something. And you’re getting kids that, they’re growing up in MMA as a sport itself, whereas kind of kids before you’ve grown up like, I was good at judo, or I was a college wrestler. I can’t wrestle anymore. So what am I going to do for a sporting career? All right, well I’ll get into this MMA stuff I’ll learn a bit of boxing. But it’s like, no, these kids now, they’re being raised in MMA, meaning that they’re doing everything and they’re getting really good at everything. And I think usually adding, like this training stuff and the athlete mindset and the nutrition side of things, like the next 10 years in MMA, I think it’s just going to blow the lid off the whole sport were just going to start seeing some absolute weapons coming up.
Corey Beasley [00:25:57]: Yeah, for sure. Now as far as our role, we’re talking about strength and conditioning for these kids and over the next 10 years, what do you kind of see as some things that are going to change?
Matt Bousson [00:26:11]: I think even having kids doing strength conditioning stuff. And that doesn’t mean you know, training hard, but I think like body control, body awareness a lot of what I’ve done, I’ve worked with a number of different groups on like child development stuff. Even like some kids with disabilities like autism and stuff like that. So not even really like strength conditioning, that’s not the right term for the kids. It’s more just like a physical development. So become more coordinated, understanding like there special awareness, kinesthetic awareness stuff like I think, because when you work with kids one of the surf kids that we had, he grew six centimeters in like 10 days or something insane last year. And now these kids are going through growth spurts. So it’s like, I’m not going to sit there and I’m not going to try to make him strong. I’m not going to do any of that. Like his body’s physically growing at such a rapid rate or I need to do is keep him coordinated. And we actually see it a lot with the surf kids is like they’ll get really coordinated, they’ll start ripping in the ways they’ll be hitting all their moves and all of a sudden, like this kid, he’ll shoot up six centimeters and it’ll kind of go back to being like a baby giraffe and he’s got to like learn how to like coordinate his body again. So I think with kids, that’s the most important part is just making sure that they maintain that and keep getting coordinated and keep kind of figuring himself out. And then also it works with preventing things like injuries and stuff like that that kids get just developmental, like, you got a kid that shot up six inches in six months of course he’s going to have knee pain and quad tightness, intend and tightness and stuff like that. Like he’s literally growing too quick for himself to keep up. So I think for kids, that’s one of the main things is just a lot of that balance and coordination, core control and really just getting them to understand like how their body works and you start adding to what these kids are doing in jiu jitsu and it’s game over. Because that’s one of the main parts about jiu jitsu that that I always loved was just you get so in tune with your body and like, my shoulder is a little tight today. Like, I will manipulated this way, or am I doing this type of stretch? That’s what I always loved about a jiu jitsu. You get such an understanding for your own body.
Corey Beasley [00:28:34]: I’ve heard a few people talking about this. One guy was from the title of sports Institute runs all the youth programs around the world and he was talking exactly about that and in his talk I think it was performed better a couple of years back, but was really super interesting because he talked about, when I was young and my mom made me come inside, I’d be pissed I wanted to be outside nonstop and I was climbing trees and playing in the Creek and goofing around, riding my bike and doing all kinds of stuff. But that’s where we developed a lot of that stuff. Now you got these kids that are growing up, they don’t do that, they sit on an iPad all damn day. They get in school and they like sit and be quiet or you’re a bad kid and you need to be a have ADD drugs. That’s crazy to me. But that’s where you and I probably developed a lot of those skills or that awareness definitely which race and our buddy from here or the stop sign or whatever it is.
Matt Bousson [00:29:38]: I was just saying the education and sitting down in classroom And then giving a meds. I mean that’s a whole other, we could be here for another four hours just talking about that.
Corey Beasley [00:29:49]: Sure. But it is cool to see not only just the sports develop but also to have guys like you that are really cutting on that, on that cutting edge of making sure guys are not only performing well but they also are healthy keeping longevity with a lot of these guys is huge deal. Because you had the contact sports with an unorganized, just violent ego-based training program and their shelf life is real short real quick.
Matt Bousson [00:30:19]: Yeah, definitely you get burned out.as a professional, my sponsor abilities, number one, do no harm. And a number two, create durability and longevity. And that’s where you start. That’s where all the science stuff comes.
Corey Beasley [00:30:34]: Yeah, absolutely. Well, good stuff, man. Well, Hey, thanks for chatting with us, is a lot of cool stuff for people to think about and we look forward to talking to you in the future. For sure. Man, I appreciate your time.
Matt Bousson [00:30:46]: Definitely anytime. Thank you very much for having me on. I really appreciate it.