View Full Version : Cornerspeak: Things Overheard Cageside and How to be a Good Cornerman

11/15/2009 3:53pm,

"Body, Body, Head" belts out the pudgy guy in the t-shirt by an obscure, awkwardly-named brand of "MMA Gear" (read: company that puts a logo on a cheap t-shirt). This would be great advice if it weren't for the fact that his fighter was under the other guy's mount.

For anyone who's attended a live MMA event and managed to get a seat at or near the cage, listening to the fighters' respective corners can, at times, be more entertaining than Goldberg and Rogan, Mauro and Bas, or even Tom and Jerry.

I've heard some simply mind-numbing things yelled out by fans at live shows; from things that were illegal, to criminally illegal, to outright physically impossible. The producers of The Ultimate Fighter probably never realized the potential fallout caused by their decisions to not shell out the extra bucks for professional commentary during the fights. Because apparently, all of five minutes after the first fight episode ended, everyone decided that they were capable of being a competent cornerman. This includes both the couch-denting fans, and the people who are actually in a fighter's corner that are supposed to be yelling instructions at them.

At amateur shows, it's about 50/50; half of the corners shout excellent, timely, and useful advice to their fighters. For example, "his guard's open" to a fighter who'd obviously prefer to get back to his feet and strike, or "omo" to a guy who had been too busy scrambling to notice that his opponent was practically submitting himself.

The other half, however, simply regurgitates garbage like a mother vulture. "Get up" being one of the more common ones. Heck, even UFC vet and Ultimate Fighter coach Quenton "Rampage" Jackson is guilty of doing this. Occasionally it might be decent advice to someone whose gameplan involves standing and actually has the option of getting up. But when you're on the ground because the other guy put you there, more often than not this advice "goes without saying". It'd be like yelling "run!" to a guy being chased by a pack of dogs or "Cheeseburger!" to Roy Nelson.

"Keep it!" is a bit of cornerspeak often used when a fighter lands in an advantageous position from a takedown and his corner wants to make sure he secures it before attacking. But even as recently as last night, I've heard "keep it!" used in reference to a fighter desperately clinging to a headlock from under the other guy's side control. Which is about as useful as instructing the fighter, in that particular position, to "kick him in the head" or "knock him out with your mind bullets".

I've actually heard the former more than once, and am fully expecting to hear the latter at some point.

If you're cornering a fighter, you have an obligation to that person that supersedes the novelty or misguided prestige of being allowed to stand by the cage/ring and yell things. Here's a handy mnemonic that should help you be a good cornerman:

Short, clear, and relevant; your instructions should be this. Calling out things your fighter might not be able to see is useful. Yelling some Rocky bullshit about how the "your belt is waiting for you" is not. This isn't shounen manga, your inspiring speech will not replenish your fighter's chakra or give him the ability to reach Super Saiyan. If you think like this, please make like Vegeta and go out to the desert and blow yourself up.
The **** you're talking about, know what. This should be obvious, but really, it's not. If you're not a fighter, or a trainer, and you're just there to hold the bucket because you're a buddy of the fighter or there was nobody else from the school available, then keep quiet and do your job; it's hard enough to hear one voice when you're dealing with someone who wants to wear your face like a shoe. Unless you're there because you've trained this person, you're just a (self) glorified waterboy.
Fence/Ropes/Apron; keep your grubby hands off them. Not only is your mongoloid banging on the apron is distracting to everyone including the guy who should be paying attention to the whole face-punching thing he's there to do, you run the risk of getting him disqualified for your asshat behavior. The timekeeper gets to bang things together 10 seconds before the round is over. If you're banging on things too, don't be surprised if he or she meets you in the parking lot with the bell hammer after having dealt with one-too-many of your kind. Additionally, the fence is not your highschool girlfriend, stop fingering it lovingly.
Ultimately, it's up to and about the Fighter. a.)If you think you're special because you're standing at ringside you're a dipshit; go play in traffic. b.) the fight is a 9/15/25 minute expression of all the training the fighter's done in the weeks and months before the fight. The goal is to win. So stifle your ego and be there for him or her. That's it.

I thoroughly hope this helps. Just remember this key to being a good cornerman/person/place/thing. It's good for your fighter, and good for the sport.

11/15/2009 4:08pm,
the fucking worst is when someone is in the crowd that sounds just like your coach, who has a louder voice than your coach. Ultimately its the fighter's fault for not being able to push that all out of your field of concentration, but ****'s sakes. NO, you're not helping me out by adding to the clutter of noise around me. Especially if you're yelling as loud as you can, and you can project your voice louder than my corner. Even if its good advice, the distraction alone is not worth it.

11/15/2009 4:12pm,
That's why I would have loved to be at ringside for a Pride event; the Japanese fans kept respectful silence unless something happened; they never yelled stupid crap at fighters.

"**** 'em UUUUUP" is as ubiquitous at an MMA event as "Dey tuk ur Jerbs" is on a redneck-focused episode of South Park.

11/16/2009 2:59am,
I see this a lot in the corner between rounds. The fighter will have one guy tending to him physically and he'll have two or sometimes three people up in his face all shouting advice, sometimes contradictory. An example:

"He's dropping his left hand after that hook. Sting him quick then go for the shoot."

"Yeah, brah. Knees all day, brah - Knees all day!"
"This YOUR house! It ain't HIS house! It's YOUR HOUSE! Let 'em know how we do in Overland Park!

Sometimes it seems like fighters attract more hype men than a shitty rapper.

Coach Josh
11/16/2009 9:51am,
If we are giving out corner advice I can add to that.

Before the show grab the guys that are going to be in the corner with you and set them straight on what should be done. I do this away from the fighter because I usually am very blunt with them. There is only one voice at ringside and that's me. If you see something or think of anything tell me do not shout it out. They are allowed to shout encouragement but not technical advice.

I had this problem during one of my first MMA shows. My fighter was working with a boxing coach who was not at my gym. At that time I was the only coach at the gym and encouraged them to go to a boxing gym. The boxing coach shows up at the MMA event and proceeds to contradict virtually everything I am saying. I lost it in front of everyone and told the guy to STFU or GTFO. I wasn't proud of it but because of my poor planning I could have upset the mindset of my fighter. Fortunately he was glad I told the boxing coach to STFU.

Give the other guys a job to do. I usually have one guy pass me the water bottle and wash the mouthpiece out while I am talking to them. Most of the time only one of us is allowed in the cage so passing stuff over the cage is required or if you can be by the door its easy.

When you are the other guy you need to be ready with a towel and water bottle at all times. In between rounds when the head coach is talking you are not saying anything. If you do its just to reiterate what the coach has said or the best possible advice you can give a fighter. "Just breath and relax".

Long before the fight your vocabulary needs to be set. In the gym you need to have key words ingrained in your fighter's mind. Simple words like posture, control, hooks, 1, 2, 3, over under, under hook, pass pass pass, god dammit I SAID PASS, and my favorite "put it all together now".

All in all your cage side presence is a reflection of your gym. If you are professional and encouraging and your fighter goes out there and gives it his all and still comes up short. You should not be ashamed. Going out there and losing your **** in front of everyone though is horrible and is a worst reflection of your gym then if your fighter loses.

Cougar Spirit
11/16/2009 12:37pm,
Excellent point, Josh. The"there should only be one voice.." is my position, too.

11/17/2009 2:47am,
The subliminal STFU was enough

good post

11/17/2009 10:38am,
Best piece of corner advice I ever got was this:

(spoken in thick Brazilian accent)

"You are winning on points. Quit fighting for it."

11/17/2009 12:28pm,
LOL that's because BJJ sucks you point sparrers.


11/17/2009 2:25pm,
A couple of guys I know have a great system for grappling tournaments. They are both advanced (one black belt, one mundials winner brown belt) so they don't need technical advice pretty much at all anymore during a match.

What they do is state the competitor's name, time and score every 30 seconds in a loud, calm voice (not shouting though). If there is some tactical advice that needs stating it's very short, at tops 5 words, and that comes after the three aforementioned things. When they are cornering less advanced guys they tend to give advice on the spot when needed, but still keep up the 30 second routine. I've been really impressed with this style.

twisted mind
11/18/2009 5:20pm,
I have enjoyed reading the article and also the comments on the subject of ringside etiquette. I will soon be one of the ringside corner guys and will empliment the policy of STFU. ( just looks like sage advice to me.)

11/19/2009 11:28am,
I'd like to point out also that at any boxing event you go to, some drunk guy who has never thrown one, nor knows how dangerous of a punch it is to throw(especially from the outside) will yell "Uppercut! Uppercut!" at least 10 times during the fight. I've never been to a fight or been in a fight where someone wasn't yelling about the damn uppercut.