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Ricky LundellSeason 18 of The Ultimate Fighter has displayed a roller coaster of emotion so far, and episode four did not stray from that trend.  Team Tate chose to match Roxanne “The Happy Warrior” Modafferi against Team Rousey’s Jessica “Ragin’” Rakoczy in another grappler versus striker battle.

Team Tate tried to capitalize, yet again, on an injured member of the opposition, but this time it didn’t bode so well.  Rokoczy finished Modafferi by TKO in the second round.  This did leave an awkward sense of remorse for the cast members, as well as the audience, due to the amicable nature of Modafferi.

This week, Coach Ricky Lundell sits down with us at Bishop Gorman High School, while wrapping up a training session with the students and UFC fighter Frank Mir.  I noticed that you had a strong response from our last interview on your Facebook page. Care to let the readers know about some of the commentary?

Ricky Lundell:  Yeah, just about every member of the TUF cast chimed in on the last article.  I guess that means they read it, so that’s good.  Most of the feedback was regarding my commentary, with certain members defending themselves to me against my comments.  Julianna (Pena) took a little offense to things, but I think that we are good now.  I want to be clear and reiterate that the “sting” I mentioned last week was not to solely set up Pena.  It was to catch whoever was responsible.

All the guys on the team have said that they want to come out to do some training, however, so that’s good.  What were your thoughts on the Edmond Tarverdyan/Dennis Hallman altercation?

Ricky Lundell:  I think that Dennis Hallman is a farmer boy.  He doesn’t take any guff from anybody; if somebody looks at him wrong, he is quick to try to resolve it physically.  He’s not in the UFC, it doesn’t hurt him to get kicked off the show; he’s not trying to impress Dana, or keep anyone happy.  I think that Dennis really wanted to just throw down.

Dennis was very much into trying to play a lot of practical jokes, but Dana boycotted the jokes.  That’s his style, but it’s not a “Team Tate” style. Yeah, and I can see where it wouldn’t be Team Rousey’s style either.  I think, just from watching the show, that we are a bit more relaxed in coaching.  Whereas Team Rousey, man, they are tough.  They’re tough.  Do you think the tension between the coaching staff (excluding Ronda Rousey and Miesha Tate) is appropriate?

Ricky Lundell:  I mean, truthfully, (Bryan) Caraway has been apologizing for over a year.  He doesn’t get the publicity that Ronda gets, so if you don’t follow either him or Miesha, you don’t know what they are saying.  A lot of people only follow Ronda; she has millions of fans.  I am in no way condoning the statements he made to Ronda, but he did it impulsively.   I think that before judging someone’s words too harshly, you have to look at the circumstances surrounding them.  If you watch someone gloating about breaking the woman you love’s’ arm, you react.  Was it the right way to do things?  No, but then look at how Rousey reacted to Tate being excited about Pena’s victory.  Emotions speak for people sometimes, not always the best way.

I have seen a lot of posts recently of fans turning on Ronda.  My words to those fans are, “Guys, you can still be a Ronda fan.  Look, she was emotional at the time.  Don’t judge Ronda based on a few statements said in an emotional state.  She’s a champion; we should all be fans of what she does.”

I know that I have said things backed by emotion before, and thought of better ways to handle it later.  I think that is all this is, and it’s far too blown out of proportion, by everyone.  Just keep watching, people will make statements that you don’t support; that doesn’t mean you abandon them as a fan.  Once again, Team Tate selects an injured member of Team Rousey to fight.  Are you standing by the fact that you didn’t know about Rakoczy’s injury?

Ricky Lundell:  The whole team wanted Jessica.  I personally didn’t know that she was really injured.  I guess when it came to that information, I was out of the loop.  Our initial strategy was to take out their strikers first.  Jessica’s a world champion boxer; we wanted her eliminated by someone with a strong ground game that could take her down easily and use that advantage.  That’s what we had just done with Chris Beal.

I really don’t remember Jessica being injured.  I guess one thing that is tough about “injuries” on something like this show is that when they fight, they hurt things.  I know that the instant we (Team Tate) mentioned one of our guys had a serious injury, he was pulled from the show.  We wouldn’t deviate from a plan based on trying to take advantage of someone’s injury.  Anyone on the show was, or could be, injured at any given time.

See, we looked at it like this: they had a coaching staff full of grapplers.  Their only “Striking Coach,” if you will, was Edmund.  We wanted to take out the strikers before they got the opportunity to work on their other skills.  Take them down while they are still “strikers,” before they get the chance to round out their ground game.  So that was the game plan we initially started with in the show.

That fight pick was changed last minute.  I personally think that she could have used a little more training, but we also were confident in her existing skills as a veteran.  I just think it would have been nice to see what she could do with more honing on her skills.  In a show like this, it’s all about strategy and taking out certain people at the right time.  Let’s talk about training Modafferi.  We didn’t see much interaction between the two of you until the end.  Did you get to work with her on her ground game?

Ricky Lundell:  I worked with everyone on the show, every day.  I spent a few hours working with her one-on-one.  Miesha worked the most with Roxy.  Team Tate, as a whole, felt immense confidence in Roxy as a veteran, and thought that the fight was a lock.  I think it’s important to note that we only had two days between the fight pick and the fight.  Again, Roxy wasn’t necessarily the original selection for that fight.

I do feel responsible, partially, for the loss.  I wish that I had helped her more with her takedowns.  We did get to see Raquel (Pennington) and Roxy at practice.  They didn’t seem to be happy about it.

Ricky Lundell:  Roxy is a very analytical learner.  She wants to understand a move from A to Z before she pushes through it.  Raquel, on the other hand, will go a thousand miles an hour and figure it out along the way.  When you have two totally different learning methods like that, the communication gets screwed up, and no one is happy.  Raquel likes to go hard and get after it.  That’s one reason why we decided to mix up the guys and girls.  Did the gender mix-up benefit the fighters?

Ricky Lundell:  There were no complaints from the women on the team about going against the guys.  However, some of the guys did feel like they had to spar lighter because of the women.  Because of that, we had to add rounds for the guys after to ensure their training was up to par.

Truth is, I don’t think that any guy goes full-boar when fighting with a woman in the gym.  Society sort of frowns of a guy knocking out a female whether it’s in a cage or not.  No guy wants that label.

I was the main instigator of putting men vs. women in practice.  Yeah… It’s not intense, it’s just training.  I believe that, when it’s technique-based, women’s MMA has a long way to come in order to match the guys’ level of MMA.  I believe that the women are coming up strong, but women’s MMA (WMMA) is younger and smaller, so it’s slightly behind the men.  In my opinion, when matching men and women in training – especially like the men on our team, who don’t mind pushing the women – that will help to excel WMMA, raise it to the next level.  It’s hard sometimes when you have a lot of “pretty women or delicate women.”  Obviously, the fight didn’t go as planned.  How do you think fight went?  How do you think that the “Happy Warrior” looked in it?

Ricky Lundell:  Modafferi won the first round; she got the takedowns.  I was surprised that Roxy gassed when she did, as she had been pushing really hard.  I think that, at one point, she got hooked and was against the fence getting hit.  That’s when she started holding her breath, I believe.  You could hear me yelling throughout the fight for her to breathe and fight. I think her cardio was up to snuff, but no one’s cardio is great when they keep holding their breath.

I was disappointed in the fight, overall.  However, it showed Roxy where she needs to improve.  Strength and conditioning needs work, so do the scrambles, and control for ground and pound.  I think that her willingness to finish the fight is an area that we need to improve upon.  She needs to develop her strength and athleticism.  I thought that the team did a great job supporting Roxy though.

Good news is that I have been talking to Roxy, and she wants to start really training with me on those weaknesses.  So, we will be building her up to push forward.  After the fight, Roxanne called Jessica over before she would get up.  Is that a weakness in Modafferi?

Ricky Lundell:  Roxy created this sisterhood, and does it with everyone.  She wants to benefit anyone who is in her life.  Had she won, she would’ve been the first to run to the other corner saying, “We are doing this to get better.  This is what we do for fun.  Think of how much we are learning.”

I know that she took the fight seriously.  I know that she wanted to win, and wants to be a champion.  I don’t think that her dynamic with Rakoczy interfered.  She’s a samurai.  We saw a nice interaction between you and Modafferi after her loss, care to expand on that aspect of your coaching?

Ricky Lundell:  I always try to be supportive and motivating as a coach.  I remember a time that Frank Mir had a title fight which he lost.  There were a hundred people with him before the fight.  Afterward, I was there.  I was the only one with him at 6 a.m. when he had to take the drug test.  As a coach, I like to ensure that my fighters know that regardless of the outcome, I am with them 100 percent.

I was trying to remind Roxy that she is a professional, at the top of the ranks.  I think that if she wants to continue to fight, she has the talent.  What do you think were the biggest lessons learned from this episode?

Ricky Lundell:  I think that MMA has grown to a level where just being a martial artist isn’t enough.  Fighters who want to be at the top have to learn to become martial artists and athletes.  I hear from some, “technique should work without the need for strength.”  There are some techniques that are built on an opponent using their strength, and you using the technique to counter.  However, now we have fighters like Benson Henderson who can be athletic for 25 minutes straight, while being technical and beautiful with martial arts.

Women are coming along in this idea.  The women we see now are insanely talented, but in 10 years we are going to be blown away by the increase in talent.  The martial art mindset of “always learning” is key; but building athleticism is vital, and what will change the most in women’s MMA.  I think that, currently, women are not the wrestlers that we see in men.  We see a lot of female strikers moving into MMA.  I know that it’s tough to even find schools that allow women to wrestle on the teams.  I know we do, here at Bishop Gorman, but I’m the only coach, I know of, to have opened it up.

My favorite thing about WMMA becoming so popular is that it shows that you can be a beautiful, geeky, or powerful woman and still beat people up.  There is no stereotype.

Don’t forget to tune in for the next installment, as we watch another battle between the men of TUF 18.

Ricky Lundell, Assistant Coach for Team Tate, will be checking in with readers each week as the season progresses. Be sure to follow him on Twitter and Instagram and let him know your thoughts.

Be sure to Like on Facebook and Follow @MMAWeeklycom on Twitter.

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