When Matt Barnes started to focus on really getting in shape for the upcoming NBA season, he couldn’t do what a lot of ballers in the Los Angeles area do through the summer — head over to UCLA, home of some NBA-level pickup games. Some days it seems like half the NBA is there.
Barnes didn’t have a contract until last week when he signed with the Clippers, he didn’t want to risk injury that could cost him a paycheck.
Instead, he decided to get in the octagon.
Barnes, like more and more NBA players (including recently Roy Hibbert) are using MMA workouts and training to get ready for the season. Barnes hooked up with former MMA fighter John Marsh at the Redondo Beach Gold’s Gym and trained learning how to fight.
“It’s a great, intense cardio workout,” Barnes told ProBasketballTalk. “Me growing up on the streets, fighting my whole life, learning the proper way way to strike, to throw elbows, to throw knees, to guard, it’s just a great way to get ready and get a workout in.
“I’ve been a huge MMA and UFC fan for years so this great.”
Way better than just getting on a treadmill and running for a few hours. The goal of this kind of workout is not only to work on conditioning but also to make it fun and distracting so it’s not the monotony of another workout.
“You’re learning the proper striking form and guards and blocks and kicks,” Barnes said, adding, “I’m a fan, and I’m huge MMA and UFC fan. So like some guys from other sports did basketball to workout, I get to do MMA to workout for basketball.”
The idea isn’t new, basketball and athletes from other sports have used boxing as an off-season workout for years. Barnes has done that too, but he said MMA is different.
“I think MMA is the new wave,” Barnes said of a younger generation who grew up on the sport. “I’ve done boxing before, but MMA is more complete. Your kicking, your striking, your grappling, and you’re boxing. I did boxing this summer and it’s a great workout, don’t get me wrong. But I like MMA. It feels more gratifying.”
And, some of the lessons apply to the NBA, which is a contact sport itself.
“It’s a lot of core strength, a lot of balance, a lot of lower body movement and that comes with jumping, boxing out, screening people and just being physical on the court,” Barnes said.
So, would Barnes be willing to get in the octagon with Hibbert?
“It’ be fun, I’d love to do that,” Barnes said.”
I bet he thinks it would be fun. Hibbert would be a really big target for a quick guy.