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Robert Devane's MMA Training in Montreal - Report.

I met Eric O'Keefe in Dublin when he and Fess visited our Dojo on his way to the UFC show in Belfast. Eric is involved in running the largest MMA gym in Canada and coaches several pro fighters (Fess is one of them). Anyone that knows the Irish Martial Arts scene knows that there is a lot of ego, arrogance, politics and bitching that goes on. Everyone seems to hate everyone else but I hit it off with Eric and Fess straight away. We kept in touch via email over the next while and then Eric gave me a great opportunity to come to train in Canada under his guidance. Obviously, I jumped at the opportunity and the fact that I would be getting a chance to train with Georges St.-Pierre sealed the deal! So, without too long a wait I jumped on a plane and headed over to Montreal.

Eric looked after me above and beyond my expectations. He organised everything for me; my training schedule, my accomodation, my diet and he completely gave his time to me for the whole 10 days I was there.

Here is what my training schedule looked like:
Saturday: MMA class @ 12.30PM
Sunday: BJJ Gi
Monday: MMA Sparring @ 1pm, Conditioning at 7pm
Tuesday: MMA technique @ 1pm, BJJ no-Gi @ 7pm
Wednesday: MMA sparring @ 7pm, BJJ Gi 8.30pm
Thursday: MMA technique @ 1 pm
Friday: Pro-Sparring @ 12 pm
Saturday: BJJ Gi at 12.30pm, then Sherbrooke Shoot fighting.

The training was great and I met a lot of people while I was there. Everyone was very friendly, until they sparred that is! The standard was very high, especially the grappling and wrestling. I mainly trained at Tristar Gym which is run by Firas Zahabi. Firas trains very high calibre fighters including GSP and he is straight talking and takes no crap in the gym. Outside the gym he is really down to earth, relaxed and funny. In the pro class I attended, I was told there were 7 fighters there who were currently under UFC contract! I don't know if there are many gyms in the World who could say that.

All of the pro fighters do their conditioning training with John Chaimberg. I don't think he's that famous yet but he's going to be because his mma training routines, methods and techniques were great and I can see why his fighters are doing so well. I will definitely be incorporating his training into my plan.

I also had the opportunity to attend an MMA show which was held by Eric's gym, Force Extreme. Actually, the moment I arrived Eric told me that I would be fighting at the end of the week at his show but as things turned out, I never got an opponent or a fight. The show was great but I was absolutely blown away by the gym. I have never seen a martial arts facility like it and I wonder if Ireland will ever reach the same level. It was amazing. Huge and equipped with the very best of everything.

I know everyone wants to know about GSP so here it is: Yes, he is as nice a guy as people say he is. Actually, he's nicer. He approached me first and right from the start it felt like I knew him for ages. He picked me up from my hotel to bring me training and he congratulated me on my recent US Open win. I could only laugh because here was one of the best pound for pound fighters in the World, the current UFC Champion and he was aknowledging my amateur victory. He knew I was embarrassed and he then reasurred me by saying it was a great win for me and that he has never been a World champion. There you go. That is how nice he is. He was always humble, always friendly and never showed signs of the biggest killer of them all; Ego & Arrogance. He trains very hard and he loves all the hard core modern mma training methods which he took the time to guide me through. His body looks like he has been completely engineered for mma and indeed he has. When we grappled, he never used strength or even tried to win. He just used technique and played around. I was very lucky to have gotten the opportunity to have trained and hung out with him.

Throughout all my training and my stay, Eric coached me and drove me around everywhere. I haven't had a coach in years and I wish Eric would move to Dublin! He even brought me to my first ever ice hockey game. Front row seats and it was a very historic match. I didn't think I'd like it but I loved it. I look forward to going over there again and I really look forward to incorporating what I've learnt into MAI.

I could write a whole book about my trip but I won't bore you anymore.