Monday, November 21, 2011

Behind the Cage: Griffen Reynaud

A lifelong athlete, Griffen Reynaud is a black belt in jiu jitsu and the co-owner of MMA 21, a gym in Sugar House that specializes in mixed martial arts. It is here that Reynaud takes nearly 20 years of MMA experience and passes it on to eager fighters who want to learn from one of the best, how to take down an opponent in the cage. Reynaud also teaches Muay Thai boxing, which he has been involved in since 1999. Before he became a world-renowned trainer, Reynaud was a fighter who fought in Utah's first MMA event.

On his MMA experience • "I became interested in the sport shortly after I started training. My instructor had the "Gracies in Action" videos, which were taped challenge matches that the Gracie Jiu Jitsu family would record at their dojos. The Gracies had a standing challenge that they could defeat anyone from any other martial arts style, and naturally people took the challenge. Gracies were out to prove how powerful Jiu Jitsu was, and that was the beginning of the UFC and MMA. I was training in a martial art, what better way to see if what I was learning was practical and effective. There is something primal about one-on-one combat that is undeniable. All sports have metaphoric combat, but MMA is as real as it gets, as real as it can be and still be a sporting event. I think the most important credential is my experience. I have been in the gym learning, teaching and coaching for nearly 20 years. I have a black belt in Jiu Jitsu, but what I really have is a PHD in unarmed combat; I know more about how to incapacitate another human than your doctor knows about your cold or sore shoulder."

Training fighters around the world • "I've been lucky to develop solid relationships with fighters in other parts of the world. When you go and compete in another country, you have some opportunities to train with those guys and they like what you do, or how you coach and want to learn something that they aren't being taught where they are. I've had 14 or so Japanese fighters come to Utah to train with me, four Finnish fighters and fighters from all over the U.S. It's a cool brotherhood most fighters share; we relate to each other in a way that is unique. You may get along with your co-workers at work, but you have different interests outside of your job; our job is our life, it is our interest. It's pretty well all-consuming to someone that makes a living fighting."

MMA's popularity in Utah • "I think Utah is pretty blue collar and MMA is championed by the blue collar. I think average people can relate to the guys that fight, they look at a guy and say, 'I knew a tough guy like that in high school.' We have a really high level of wrestling in this state, and I don't think there is a better base for MMA than wrestling. Wrestling is an individual pursuit, as is MMA, and it teaches the work ethic it takes to become a fighter."

His training techniques • "I believe I have a high fighting IQ that not everyone has, but the most important difference is the care I take in teaching and developing people. You have to genuinely care about teaching or it shows in the development of your students and fighters. There are different levels of fighters and preparation for the different levels. One of the best things I ever learned was told to me by a former UFC champ: As an up-and-coming fighter you need to be prepared to fight on short notice, you should be ready to take an opportunity on a week's notice. So unless you are the UFC champ, you should be training as if you have a fight coming up all the time. It's rare, unless you are a contracted UFC fighter, that you will have six weeks to get ready for a fight, so I try and keep guys at a high base level of conditioning at all times, and when you have a fight, SPAR, SPAR, SPAR."

What a fighter learns • "It is not for everyone, but you would find out more about yourself in five minutes than you would in five years of therapy!"

(photo by Scott Sommerdorf for Now in Salt Lake)

1 comment:

  1. About 5 years ago or so I trained with Griffen and Alex Steibling at Griffen's gym with my father and brother, although We were only there for a little more than a year, because we had moved to michigan. I had competed in the Grapplers Quest tournament in las vegas. this was with only 4 months under my belt but he was a very good teacher, and taught the little things and how to use your head in a match, i was only 13 at the time but i took first place. Winning that tournament and training with them was a blast. the make you feel at home. My nickname was Junior and My dad Senior.
    Very good memories. good luck Griffen.