Student trains through pain to face MMA competition


Rafael Polanco, English digital media sophomore (right), goes over technique with Tyler Wann, English writing freshman (left), during mixed martial arts club practice. The club is placing more emphasis on technique in its training as the season came to a close this year.

Nicholas Ducote

Training to compete in a mixed martial arts tournament is a difficult task for any athlete. For Rafael “Pablo” Polanco, the secret to his success is training through the pain.

Polanco, English sophomore, wakes up at 5 a.m. every morning and trains with the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps. Polanco said that his morning routine consists of cardio for an hour straight with little rest.

After cardio, he follows with push-ups, sit-ups and more running. This has been his routine since October, and he has not stopped since.

“I sucked at all of this in the beginning, but I appreciate it now. I was horrible, but I kept getting pushed and pushed until I got the hang of working out,” Polanco said. “Initially yes, I hated working out and all this running, but I remember sergeant told me, people who hate running are people who suck at it.”

Polanco said he partakes in a routine called “purely cardio” which entails running suicides, upstairs and two miles on a good day.

Being sore is nothing new to Polanco.

At one time, Polanco said he was so sore from running that he even started questioning sticking with the mixed martial arts club.

People were bigger and stronger than he was, which led him to rethink how he approached just normal practice.

After weeks at practice, he eventually got the hang of his body which allowed him to use the techniques he’s learned instead of his muscles.

This led Polanco to rethink his strategy when fighting.

“Honestly it works, this definitely helped me get better with MMA, but showing up sore and using just pure technique has made a difference. A lot of people have a bad tendency to try and out-muscle everything and if the person isn’t trained properly, then they’re going to lose,”
Polanco said.

The season is done for MMA, but Polanco still hasn’t stopped his routine.

The typical style for some athletes would be to take off, rest and relax. But Polanco isn’t ready to throw in the towel and stop.

Polanco and Vinh Nguyen, business management sophomore, said they are sticking around preparing for next year’s season and tournaments.

“I just enjoy fighting. It doesn’t have to be a competition, but I just enjoy it for what it is,” Polanco said. “We’re all masochists and I don’t mind losing. I’m just going to enjoy MMA for what it is right now. Just fighting and showing up sore.”