Duncan French

054: Duncan French on mixed martial arts

Duncan French is the Vice President of the Ultimate Fighting Championships. Mixed martial arts is a sport that has had an accelerated rise into the public consciousness over the last couple of decades. It seems to have captured the imagination, created interest and intrigue about the unpredictability of the contest. And so has followed a professionalisation of the bouts, the events, and the support they receive.

Duncan’s focus is to provide the very best support to the fighters, sometimes supporting two fighters that are about to fight each other. We get into an interesting discussion about the ethics of aiming to help someone do a better job of hurting someone else to the point of submission or unconsciousness, versus the unhealthy neglect that would result if fighters were left to their own devices. Combat has been with us since the dawn of time – way before we were human and it was one of the earliest activities we’d call sport – and let’s be realistic it’s probably not going away any time soon.

Duncan is a world renowned conditioning coach, rightly respected and sought after. As I fully expected from Duncan he sheds light on this territory with lucidity,  acumen and wisdom. If you’re not into MMA (which I’m not actually but I’m interested) my expectations are that you’ll take a great deal from Duncan’s ideas.

Show notes

Introducing Frankie French!

Duncan’s background in strength and conditioning, particularly in the field of combat

The challenge of the PhD

Working and identifying as a sport scientist

The move to Connecticut and the moving into understanding the role of strength and conditioning

Duncan is a hybrid, shouldn’t we all be?

Nuns with arthritic wrists

Filtering the noise – it’s time consuming and takes effort but it’s important to focus on creating a quality track record and reputation

The pendulum swings from the coaching domain to the science domain, a blend of both is required

Combat based sports GB boxing

Changing the trajectory of a young sport the training and standards

Degrees of freedom

We don’t want to take the wild out of the stallion!

Uniquely supporting athletes both sides of the ring, the trust, support and opened required and operating within boundaries that are fundamental

The ethical challenges of supporting two people who are fighting the aim of which is to knock out their opponent: making the environment as safe a possible such as equipment design, physical development and training, rehabilitation, rules, regulations in order to make the sport as safe as possible for the fighters

Changing the standards of combat sports beyond mixed martial arts

Maximising deliverables

Fighting is in our DNA we get it and we like it

Duncan’s mantras!


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Dr Steve Ingham is one of the UK’s leading figures in sport and one of the world’s leading performance scientists. He is steeped in high performance and has been integral to the development of Britain into an Olympic superpower. He has provided support to over 1000 athletes, of which over 200 have achieved World or Olympic medal success, including some of the world’s greatest athletes such as Jessica Ennis-Hill, Sir Steve Redgrave and Sir Matthew Pinsent. Steve has coached Kelly Sotherton's running for heptathlon and to 4x400m Olympic medal winning success. Steve has worked at the English Sports Council British Olympic Association, English Institute of Sport, where Steve was the Director of Science and Technical Development, leading a team of 200 scientists in support of Team GB and Paralympics GB. Ingham holds a BSc, PhD and is a Fellow of the British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences. Steve is author of the best selling ‘How to Support a Champion: The art of applying science to the elite athlete’, discussing and inspiring the importance of learning and adapting to reach our maximum potential. Steve established Supporting Champions with the ambition of helping ambitious people to find a better way of creating high-performance. Steve hosts the Supporting Champions Podcast on sharing his pursuit of understanding and exploration in performance.

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