ByMatt Sayles, writer at
6-1 pro fighter out of Alliance MMA in Chula Vista, California
Matt Sayles

Careful if you’re celebrating your birthday at , and be prepared to check some leg kicks.

We have a ritual in the gym where we put the birthday guy or girl in the middle of the mat, and when we run by, we’re throwing leg kicks. I’ve even seen our head coach run behind guys and chop their legs. He’s a real cool guy, and we joke around like that in the gym sometimes.

Eric and I have always kept our relationship real professional, but I don’t think I would have done much in MMA without him. He’s set me up with the right guys and training partners, has gotten me some really good fights, and helped me with sponsorships.

He takes care of everybody on the team real well, and that’s why Alliance has become such a successful gym. His passion is contagious.

On a practical level, Eric’s the guy who comes up with the team schedule. Everyday at Alliance is different: Thursday is a straight jiu-jitsu day, there’s a wrestling day, a sparring day, cage wrestling day, and a kickboxing drill day. Eric watches over it all; he gets real technical with kickboxing combinations and movement.

When I first joined Alliance and was transitioning from Muay Thai to MMA, Eric helped me implement more wrestling into my game. It's made me a better fighter.

During camps Eric will emphasize training the wrestling game. He'll have me, and my teammates, drilling specifics round after round to make sure we get it right.

This grappling training also helps my striking game. Eric outlines certain combinations that actually work to neutralize wrestling. For example, a “3-2” combo, body shots, and high lows can all stop a wrestler. And, the way we work in training applies really well to the actual fight.

I remember when I fought Bryson Hansen, I got dropped that first round and I was real out of it. When I went back to my corner after the first round, Eric made it clear that I lost the round and that I would need to win the next two if I wanted to win the fight. He was telling me to move my head, work my jab, and hit the body to stop the takedowns; Eric specifically told me to throw the “3-2.” I came back and won that fight.

Overall, Eric is a real quiet guy. But, make no mistake, he’ll speak when he needs to. He’ll get in that ring, get real loud, and let everyone know they’re not doing it right. He’s a straight-up guy, and even brings in a sports psychologist from time to time if teammates are having mental blocks or not behaving outside of the gym.

There’s a reason why fighters travel from all around the world to come train at Alliance, and Eric’s a huge part of that. When I see him succeeding, I want to succeed too. It’s really motivating.

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