Episode #21: A Talk with Team Takedown’s Strength Coach, Adrian Ramirez

Adrian Ramirez is the strength coach at Team Takedown in Dallas, TX.

He works with Johny Hendricks, Jared Rosholt and many other fighters and wrestlers at this exclusive camp.

Learn how Team Takedown develops more power and stamina from strength and conditioning coach Adrian Ramirez.


In this episode, we discuss:

  • Adrian’s background
  • His experience in MMA before becoming a strength coach
  • The advantages of training at Team Takedown
  • Places he learned about strength and conditioning
  • Adding strength and power to his athletes
  • Adjusting for injury
  • Cutting weight
  • and more

If you guys are looking to get an inside look into Team Takedown and their training strategies, you’re definitely going to want to listen to this podcast.

Check out more posts from Adrian here:

Best CORE Exercises for Fighters and Grapplers

Follow Adrian on Instagram @aram_strength_conditioning


Full Transcription of Our Podcast with Adrian Ramirez

COREY:         Hey guys this is Corey Beasley with Fight Camp Conditioning and I am on the phone with Adrian. Adrian, how’re you doing, man?

ADRIAN:       Good. How are you?

COREY:         Very good, man. Thanks so much for joining us. I know it’s Friday afternoon and you’re at home with your new baby and stuff like that. So I know you’re busy.

ADRIAN:       Yeah, no problem. Thanks for having me on.

COREY:         Yeah absolutely. Well Adrian, give everybody just a snapshot of who you are and what you’re doing out there. I know you’re out there in Dallas. You work with Johny Hendricks and a bunch of other guys out there in the area. You guys are making some big things happen.

ADRIAN:       Yeah, so my name is Adrian Ramirez, I’m the Head strength and conditioning coach for Team Takedown. That’s a company that recruits fighters and pretty much gets them ready to fight in the UFC and hopefully one day become champion. So I’m out here in Texas. I work with Johny HendricksUFC Heavyweight Jared Rosholt. And featherweight 145 pounder Chas Skelly, woman and we have a couple more guys in the stable that we’re working on to try to get into the UFC in the near future. But yeah, that’s pretty much my role. I’m just the strength and conditioning coach to make sure these guys are in shape and ready for their fights.


COREY:         Very cool. How did you get in? How did you get started with all this? How did you get into the fight game?

ADRIAN:       Well, I started jiu-jitsu in 2003-2004 and I started under Marc Laimon. He owned a gym Cobra Kai Jiu-Jitsu in Las Vegas and I started becoming really heavily involved in jiu-jitsu and I kind of gave up my outside life. And I got my black belt from Marc Laimon in 2010, but pretty much I actually met Johny and the rest of the members on Team takedown at Cobra Kai, I think originally, they were training at Randy Couture’s located in Las Vegas, and they were looking for a better place to get their jiu-jitsu better so they heard about Marc and their management team sent the group of fighters to Marc Laimon’s gym, which at the time was Cobra Kai. And that’s where I initially met Johny and all the fighters and stuff. I actually started out as a training partner for Johny Hendricks. So when he came in, I think I was a purple brown belt. So it’s been amazing to see him both as a fighter, as a jujitsu competitor because I was there with him from day one.

COREY:         Yeah absolutely.

ADRIAN:       Yeah, then from there, I transitioned into — I kind of wanted to learn how to get myself in better shape for tournaments because I was competing heavily at the time. So I wanted to kind of do it myself so I went and got certified and I tried to become more knowledgeable in strength and conditioning and I went and got certified. And then I started teaching people out of Cobra Kai here and there but mainly the main focus was myself. And then I think it was Jared Rosholt and Shane Roller at the time, they were members of Team Takedown. They’ve actually retired now, but they were the first Team Takedown fighters that actually started working with me. And then from there, Johny came on board. And then we slowly kind of developed that relationship from jiu-jitsu partner to strength and conditioning coach. And then I was offered a job in 2010 after I got my black belt to come to Texas and work out here full time with those guys, and I jumped on the idea, and here we are today.


COREY:         Very cool. Now are you from Las Vegas?

ADRIAN:       Yeah, I was actually born in New York, and then when I was 10 years old, the whole family kind of got up and moved to Vegas because we had some family down there. And then I grew up in Vegas, and then in 2010 is when I got the offer from Team Takedown to move to Texas.

COREY:         Very cool. Now are you guys in Dallas?

ADRIAN:       Yeah, we’re actually in Arlington, Texas. It’s about 35, 40 minutes away from Dallas. But we always say it’s Dallas, that’s the most recognizable city.


COREY:         Yeah for sure. I grew up in Lewisville.

ADRIAN:       Oh okay.

COREY:         Yeah, it’s right there, close. It’s a good area.

ADRIAN:       Yeah, I like Texas a lot, definitely, different from Vegas but good.

COREY:         Right on. Well, cool. Well, as you’re getting started, you’re kind of getting into the strength and conditioning game, from your experience I mean, you’ve been an athlete, and now you’ve kind of transitioned into that coaching role a little bit. What are some of the things that you’ve done over the years, mistakes maybe that you’ve made you see other people making, other athletes making? Because you kind of got thrown into the mix pretty quick and had some pretty high level experience.

ADRIAN:       Yeah, absolutely. I definitely went through a lot of mistakes throughout my career. I mean, everyone does. One of the things that was able to help me kind of establish my style was that I was able to go up to Oklahoma State University and pretty much shadow their strength and conditioning coach for football and wrestling for weeks on end and that really helped me a lot because I feel that wrestling, the combat sport, and it ties in to MMA. So I feel like the training is very similar and I was able to kind of look back and learn a lot from them and see how they do things on a team level and it was a great experience.

But I mean, I say mistakes that I’ve seen people make, I’d say overtraining their guys. You see so many coaches in so many camps overtraining their fighters that by the time they make it to fight week, they’re just dead or they don’t have enough in the tank, which is, it’s a thin line to push your athlete and then push him too far.


COREY:         Yeah, I think that’s a real common problem across the board.

ADRIAN:       Yeah, and I think one thing that we do good here on our end is every coach has to be at every single session. So I’ll give you an example. I’m the strength and conditioning coach, I still have to show up to the boxing session, I still have to show up to Johny’s wrestling sessions, I still have to show up to whatever it is they’re doing, you know what I mean?

COREY:         Right.

ADRIAN:       So I think when we function on that level where every single coach is obligated to be at every single practice, it allows us to communicate on such a higher level like, I’m not worried about Johny if his boxing coach is working him too hard and he doesn’t know about the workout that we did previously, so it’s a lot easier to kind of communicate and know when to pull back and know when your fighter is overtraining and know when he needs a break and we need to pull back no matter what the session is; but it’s really good to have that because I’ve been in situations before where I don’t even know my athlete’s boxing coach or I don’t even know where he’s going to get his wrestling and it’s just so much easier when you see the person every day and I can take notes and we can share notes on our phone — our athletes everyday and it’s a blessing the team that I have and to be able to communicate on level, I think it really helps us.


COREY:         Yeah, that’s a huge deal to have everybody under one roof.

ADRIAN:       For sure. The athletes respond to it well too. We’re constantly having meetings and stuff like that and breaking these guys fights down to have everybody in that room, giving their two cents on what you need to do or what you could have done better, we’re all on the same page. You see a lot of times too [inaudible] where the kickboxing coach is not on the same page as the guy’s boxing coach and they might have arguments in the corner. They might have disagreements in between camp because they’re showing their fighter two different things. Like our two striking coaches, I always say that I’m grateful for how they’re able to communicate because they manage to blend both of their arts together, make it work for our fighters.


COREY:         That’s very cool. Now when you guys have somebody coming in, like you have athletes that you’ve been working with for a little while now, you have new athletes that are coming up in the ranks, you have a new guy coming into your camp or even a guy that’s coming off of maybe he had a fight and coming back into it. How do you kind of assess your guys and then monitor their progress as you guys are going through camp?

ADRIAN:       Normally, the first thing I’ll do when I’m assessing a new athlete is see how athletic he is, and I’ve been fortunate enough that a majority of our athletes that we get has been through a college wrestling program so they already have the lifting technique down, which actually helps me a lot because it saves me time from having to build their technique from scratch. But we also have guys that never went to college and they don’t have that fundamental lifting technique which is fine, because then that’s when we go over, it takes more time with those athletes, but one of the things I like to look for is speed. Okay?

So the first thing I’ll do is I’ll have the — we do at least once a week where we have these guys get out on the track and we always try to see who’s the fastest. And then we’ll do like once a month where we time these guys 40 and we’ll see where their progression is. Did this guy get faster? Is he slowing down? But I look for their speed. We test for vertical jump. And we also have like a hand and eye coordination test that we do at our gym too. But those are the things that I look for when it comes to just looking for how athletic my guys are.

When you’re talking about when we’re assessing guys if they can fight because no matter how athletic the guy is, if you get in there and you don’t react well to fighting or certain fight situations, that’s completely different. I’ve been in the game for say a little over six years, and I’ve seen the best athletes turn out to not be the best fighters. So there’s definitely a mental part in there too.

COREY:         Of course.

ADRIAN:       But yeah, normally when a guy comes in and he wants to try out for the team or something like that, he’ll come in on our sparring day and we’ll look at just different signs. Like one of the signs is that [incomprehensible] Marco is swear by is if you get a guy he comes in, he might not be the best skilled guy, he might not be the most athletic, whatever the case is. He gets hit and there are two actions. One reaction is going to be, you kind of feel a little bit, no one likes to get hit. But you kind of take this freeing route where you don’t like to be hit, your hands go up, your chin goes back, and you’re kind of just backing out of that situation. And then you have the other guy, same situation. He’s still not skilled, he might not be as athletic, he gets hit, and you just see something in his eyes where he gets angry and then he goes forward and even though he doesn’t know what he’s doing, he’s still going in there and he’s still upset. He has the right mindset, he means to fight.

So when we’re looking at those two different types of guys, we always say that we could work better with the one that gets angry and goes forward.


COREY:         Right. Well there is a lot to be [inaudible] about. The mindset piece of that puzzle, like you said, it’s not always the most athletic guys that do the best.

ADRIAN:       Yeah.

COREY:         As you are monitoring guys through a camp, you’re talking before about a lot of guys overtraining, what are some of the signs that you guys see or things that you guys communicate within the coaches when you go, okay cool, look, that guy needs to take a day off or a weekend off or whatever it is. What are some of the things that you’re looking for?

ADRIAN:       Pretty much fatigue, seeing if his body has rundown. Usually you see guys will start to get sick during camp because they’re overtraining or they’re malnourished, they’re starting to cut weight and they’re just not getting enough vitamins in so just things like that. Like if I had a heavy leg day with let’s say, Johny, and tonight he has kickboxing with our kickboxing coach Steven Wright and it’s all kick, I might tell Steven, hey man, you’re not going to get the best out of him because we had a heavy leg day today and his back is kind of tight. So maybe ease up on the kicks or maybe do something else, work elbows, clinch, but just things like that. It just saves us a lot because not that our fighters are lying or anything like that, but we know when our fighters are telling the truth or when they’re lying and stuff like that because we’re all on the same page. But all of us work pretty hard.


COREY:         Yeah, so as you guys are planning your weeks with your guys and your schedule and strength and conditioning sessions, they obviously have other skill sessions that you guys are programming in as well. How are you guys kind of laying out your week? Are you guys doing like a session a day, two sessions a day. I know a lot of people in this world are doing three and four sessions a day, which in my opinion is just way too much. How do you kind of lay out your schedule?

ADRIAN:       Normally we’ll do two sessions a day. If we do end up doing three sessions, one of the sessions is going to be a recovery session, meaning like a yoga session or like a massage or something like that. That’s mandatory. But other than that, we usually train once at noon and then we’ll come back and train at seven or eight o’clock at night. And we’ll usually run with those two practices, and then later today during the week, as your body starts to kind of break down, we make Thursday a half day, and then we’ll give them all Friday morning off and then spar at night or train at night, whatever session we do at night, which is normally sparring.


COREY:         Gotcha, gotcha. Very cool.

ADRIAN:       And then normally they have weekends off too.

COREY:         Weekends are off?

ADRIAN:       Weekends are off, and it depends on the fighter too. But usually, like a lot of our guys have a family and stuff and it’s easier to get the work out of them during the week than it is to get it on Saturday. But everyone’s different. Some guys like coming in on Saturdays and getting that workout and taking Fridays off. So it just varies with the fighter. We usually make adjustments accordingly.


COREY:         Now, as you guys have new guys coming in, I know for a lot of guys coming up the ranks, they almost have like a nervous energy because they understand the lack of skill that they might have in certain areas of the game, you know, you being a jiu-jitsu guy. I think a lot of jiu-jitsu guys and wrestlers and stuff like that maybe they get nervous about their hands so they want to do extra session. They want to work more and more and more trying to get their skill set up. A lot of times that backfires with them. So if you got new guys coming in, how are you guys kind of displaying expectations so that these guys are okay taking time off and not sneaking out and doing other sessions on the side.


ADRIAN:       Well, most of our guys that are on the team, usually what we recruit for is you have to have a strong wrestling base. So majority of the guys that come in already have strong wrestling so that’s not the main focus when they come in. Obviously it’s important to see how you blend the takedown and you see your defense and stuff like that. But already if you’re on Team Takedown, then that means we recruited you because we feel like you’re a good wrestler, and that you could be possibly be a good fighter.

So the main thing that they need to focus on normally is there striking because normally when we get guys that are fresh, they’re like fresh. Usually they’re green, they’ve never fought before and they’re almost fresh out of college. So the first thing we make these guys work is their stand up. Because if you’re not comfortable standing up, no matter how good your takedowns are, there’s going to be a guy that one day is going to be able to defend them and you have to be able to rely on your striking to blend it with your takedowns.

So that’s the main thing we emphasize is, guys get good on their defensive and offensive boxing, really teach them the boxing first, then incorporate the kickboxing after that because I feel like some of the wrestlers have harder trouble getting the kicks down. So just teach them the fundamental jazz, right hand, the hooks from boxing and then once they get good at that, slowly incorporate the kickboxing and then from there, tie it all together with their wrestling and usually the jiu-jitsu usually comes easiest for our athletes because like I said, most of them have a strong wrestling background. So as you know if we get a wrestler, he’s going to be decent on the ground because he’s been doing it all his life, he has some idea what’s going on.

COREY:         Positioning and control and stuff like that is like second nature.

ADRIAN:       Yeah exactly.


COREY:         Well, very cool. It sounds like you guys have got good things going. How many guys you guys got up at the NCAA Tournament right now [inaudible]?

ADRIAN:       Actually Kenny Monday, our wrestling coach is up there right now. He went with tons and he’s looking for some new talent. There are some guys up at Oklahoma State that have talked about wanting to fight after but we don’t really talk business until they actually graduate and they’re done. I doesn’t feel like — you got to handle your business in college first and go as far as you can go in wrestling, it’s going to add to your MMA career.


COREY:         Very cool, man. Well Adrian, is there anything else? I know it’s like a lot of the lifting techniques and stuff like that, that people are using, what are some of the foundational things? Because I know a lot of guys that get all distracted with all the new toys in the chain. What are some of the fundamental things you’re using with you guys?

ADRIAN:       Okay, so a couple of fundamental exercises that I like to incorporate into my strength training, I’m a big believer in clean pulls, trap bar deadlift. We usually don’t do the traditional snatch just because some of our guys have shoulder issues. So we’ll do dumbbell snatch if we need to. I have my guys do close grip bench press, one arm floor press, one arm dumbbell floor press, the power shrugs, back squat, single leg [inaudible] squats.

COREY:         Those are the simple basic things you’re doing.

ADRIAN:       Yeah, nothing too complicated. Like I said, I learned a lot through watching the Oklahoma State wrestling team and condition and see how they work their strength and conditioning and it put a lot of things in this perspective. And like you said, too many people are doing what’s new right now and all these trendy things and I don’t feel like it’s necessary, we feel like we know what works, we stick to it, and then we add everything else on top of that accordingly.


COREY:         Yeah of course. Right on, man. Well hey, Adrian, I really appreciate your time this afternoon. I know you got a lot of things going on over there but it sounds like you guys have a pretty good thing going out there.

ADRIAN:       Thank you man. I appreciate it. Yeah, it’s going to constantly get better too, Johny’s performance next time will be a lot better than that.

COREY:         Hey absolutely, congratulations by the way, you are doing good.

ADRIAN:       Yeah. Thank you, man. Thank you. Waco was super easy so we’re all excited about that.


COREY:         Well, that’s good. Real quick just on that, what changed to make that such a more seamless cut for him.

ADRIAN:       So normally with Johny’s training camp, he likes to put on as much muscle as possible. He likes to get as strong as possible before we hit the four week out marker, where we then transition into more like metabolics circuit training. But for Johny, it’s all about putting on as much muscle as possible, that feeds into his mental too, because he knows the stronger he is, the harder he’ll hit. He likes to horse around in there in the cage if you haven’t seen his fighting style.

But last camp — actually the two previous camps, we weren’t really able to focus on heavy weight training because the first camp, he had a torn bicep that was slightly torn and then toward in the Robbie fight. And then he had surgery after that, and then had to take a lot of time off and we really couldn’t focus on a lot of the things that we wanted to because of that surgery. So we kind of had like a half assed camp. And this was actually the camp where we were able to actually take some time and he was feeling 100% on the shoulder and that’s where we’re able to kind of put on more muscle. And I think that’s what made the weight cut much easier because I think he stopped that I think Friday night or Thursday night, he was like 172 and then he hit the scale at 170 on Friday night, so this is probably the best weight cut he had since before the GSP fight.

COREY:         Well good, man, that’s exciting. It’s good to see I know there’s always ups and downs. It’s never always goes the way you think it should or you think.

ADRIAN:       No, no. Yeah.

COREY:         But it’s always good to see guys working hard and guys just kind of overcoming the obstacles and keep moving forward and getting better. It’s always cool to see.

ADRIAN:       Yeah, thank you. I appreciate it.

COREY:         Cool, man. Well hey, thanks so much. I’ll let you get back to your day and we hope to hear again from you soon.

ADRIAN:       All right, thanks Corey. I appreciate it man. Thanks for having me.