|Sore Body, Strong Mind|
TJ De Santis
The car is quiet on the way back to Los Angeles. It’s dark and, after three sessions at Team Quest, everyone is a little spent. Max Martyniouk breaks the silence.
“Gegard, did you see me rolling with that lighter guy today?” he asks.
“Yeah, I saw,” Mousasi replies.
Max recalls a sequence that saw him roll through a takedown attempt to get on top. Mousasi talks to the lightweight about how it happened and what he can do to improve on the technique.
Earlier in the week, Martyniouk looked like a fish out of water at Team Quest. The guys there wrestle, and they do it well. Now that it’s all over, you can tell that Martyniouk is a better fighter for enduring the workouts.
“How often should I roll like that?” asks Martyniouk of Mousasi.
“Oh, I say grapple for 45 minutes, and then do 15 minutes of technique drills,” says Gegard. “Make sure you do the same technique over and over again, because you don’t want to try and learn too many and forget the others.”
Max has learned a lot in his brief time with the guys at Team Quest. The experience he has picked up during his limited stay in southern California is priceless.
Our crew rolls into this night’s sleeping arrangements. We say our goodbyes and go our separate ways until tomorrow. Martyniouk is sore and tired, but his mind is stronger than ever. The Sherdog MMA Fighter Exchange is doing Max wonders, and it’s not over yet.
TJ De Santis
Dan Henderson has gone by a few nicknames in his day. For a while it was “Dangerous Dan,” then it was “Hollywood Henderson.” These days, most call him” Hendo.” But, after ending our last training session at Team Quest, I think Henderson’s nickname should be “Hospitable.”
“Are you guys taking off tonight?” asks Henderson. It was our plan to leave Temecula right after practice, in order to get back in the L.A. area before traffic got too bad. Dan doesn’t like that answer.
“You’re never going to make it if you leave now,” he says. “Come to my place and barbecue with me.” When a legend like Dan Henderson opens his home to you, you just can’t say no.
The drive out to Henderson’s home is scenic. Wineries, mountains and beautiful rock formations are abundant. Thank goodness for GPS navigation, though: if we were going by generic directions, I’m pretty sure we would’ve been lost somewhere in the desert.
Finally, we approach what we think is Dan’s home. The Team Quest logo at the end of the driveway is a good indicator that we’re at the right place.
Max “Payne” Martyniouk was sleeping in his bed a few days ago when his phone rang. Now, he’s about to eat food prepared by a fighter that has done nearly everything in the sport.
“Hey, guys!” Henderson shouts to our group from inside his garage with his young daughter, Dani. We all shake hands and start a tour of Henderson’s home.
We walk into of Dan’s living room and see his belt collection. Heaps of silver and gold sit on a shelf, showing what true success looks like. Gegard, who owns a few shiny pieces of hardware himself, can’t resist the temptation to get close to the titles for a closer look.
Outside, we leave the back patio area and walk up to a warehouse. Behind it, you can see there are horses. Dan’s house sits beautifully atop a hill, with sprawling mountains in the distance. It would be a crime not to have horses on this property.
“This is the first time I have ever been this close to a horse,” says Martyniouk. His face confirms his words as he looks at the creature in awe. He works up the courage to reach out and pet the animal. Just as he’s about to touch it, Gegard pokes him in the ribs and makes a sound. Max jumps in fright. Again, you can never let your guard down with the brothers Mousasi around.
Inside the warehouse is a magnificent workout room. Nearly everything an MMA fighter could want to train weights and cardio with is in this room.
“I have mats coming in from Dollamur,” says Henderson. Grappling right at home will soon be an option for him.
Frank Lester, Charlie Brenneman and a few other Team Quest standouts walk into the room. Our small gathering has suddenly expanded. Henderson leads us back to his patio to fire up the grill.
On the menu tonight is barbecue influenced by southwestern culture. Chips and salsa are laid out. Chicken is tossed on the grill, as well as some elk that Henderson harvested himself. The conversation is light as we all wait for the food to be prepared.
“Someday, we could be in the opposite corner from you,” points out Lester. This is the first time since our arrival that anyone in the Team Quest crew has pointed out the obvious possibility. Henderson is a legendary fighter who deserves a title shot in any promotion, based on what he has done in the past. Mousasi is the former Strikeforce champion at 205 lbs., and hopes to capture that belt again. A match between the two men is not only possible, it seems likely.
“That’s okay,” says Mousasi. “It’s just business.” Mousasi smiles as he says it. Lester agrees.
“We’d just wave and say hey from the other side,” says Lester.
Fighters fight one another in mixed martial arts. Apparently, they also eat and laugh with one another as well. This is one of the best experiences of this trip for our team. Sadly, it must come to an end, as we have to head back north toward L.A. for more training tomorrow.
|A Melting Pot|
TJ De Santis
When asked if he wants to return to Team Quest after this experience, Max Martyniouk smiles and responds, "Absolutely!" The young striker has completed his wrestling-based session with Heath Sims, and it’s obvious that the Max has already added things to his game that weren't there prior to entering the city limits of Temecula.
"I think this place has probably the best wrestling in the nation," says the Estonian lightweight. When it comes to martial arts, each corner of the globe has a specialty. In America, and southern California in particular, worlds have collided to form an amazing melting pot of mixed martial arts.
TJ De Santis
Gegard Mousasi entered Team Quest thinking he wasn't going to train today.
"It's too hot," said the former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion. As a mentor, Mousasi is here mainly for Martyniouk, so training himself is not mandatory every day.
Mousasi stands in front of a banana bag on the side of the mat, throwing light kicks while everyone else drills takedowns. You can tell Gegard has the itch.
Less than 15 minutes later, the Dutchman is drenched in sweat, rolling with Max Martyniouk. So much for not training.
TJ De Santis
Today's session at Team Quest is held in the middle of the day. Partners Dan Henderson and Heath Sims are on the mat with everyone, drilling techniques. Both men are wrestlers-turned-mixed martial artists, and both have brought the wrestling mentality with them to MMA.
In wrestling, you have to earn everything. Your spot on the team is not certain. The chance to even compete has to be earned by cutting to the appropriate weight. Nothing is handed to a wrestler.
The environment at Team Quest is not one for the weary. The Temecula sun outside is hot, but the heat inside the gym is nearly unbearable.
Sims is on top of Max Martyniouk, in side control. The sweat rolls off of Martyniouk's bald head and pools on the blue mat beneath him. However, Max does not grimace or complain about the situation. Instead, he asks the former Olympian, "How do I get out of this?"
Training isn't comfortable. You're hot, you're getting hit, and sometimes you’re dominated in areas where you’re not particularly skilled. But, Max Martyniouk is comfortable with training.