On Thursday, September 19, the UFC Performance Institute in Las Vegas hosted members of the NBA’s Houston Rockets.
UFC Vice President of Athlete Development Forrest Griffin led the athletes in a spirited training session which featured shadow boxing, bag work and a friendly competition.
Nearly twenty athletes participated in the session, including NBA MVPs James Harden and Russell Westbrook.
Griffin, with the assistance of UFC flyweights Joseph Benavidez and Jessica Eye and UFC middleweight Julian Marquez, started things off by helping the Rockets learn basic striking techniques and how to sprawl.
“It gets your endurance up, it works your hands, your body, your strength and we did all this without lifting any weights. And you feel better, so it’s great,” Russell Westbrook, who joined the Rockets during the offseason, said. “I do this movement in my own time, and being able to come to the facility for the first time was great. It’s good for moving my feet and my hands, and my whole body moving all at once is great.”
The team moved over to the heavy bags after warming up and getting used to the basics, pairing off into groups of two and taking turns letting their hands go.
To cap things off, Griffin set up a competition for the group, with each team hitting the stationary bike, doing sprawls and executing over-the-shoulder bag tosses. By the end of the two-hour session, it was clear that the Rockets gained a new respect for MMA training.
“Yeah, UFC is a different type of training, man,” Harden, who won the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award last season, said. “Obviously as athletes and as basketball players we do a lot of sprinting and running and things like that. But here it’s all core conditioning, and using your body, using your arms and your legs in that same type of defense position we’re always in playing basketball. It’s different, but it was still a great workout. Shout out to UFC.”
The UFC PI isn’t new to opening its doors for athletes outside of the Octagon. From college wrestlers to NBA athletes in town for the NBA’s Summer League, the PI’s mission is to share the best practices for performance optimization with athletes and coaches around the world.
“My goal with these is always to have a little fun, break a little sweat, get in uncomfortable positions, work different muscles, get a little bit of a workout and, most importantly, not get hurt and do a little team bonding,” Griffin said. “We’ve been doing stuff like this for years and I’m sure we’ll continue to do stuff like this.”