Justin Flores, the judo coach for Ronda Rousey, recently appeared on “Submission Radio” to discuss the future of the former UFC female champion.
Flores also talked about their relationship, Chael Sonnen and more during the interview.
On people such as Chael Sonnen who think judo has no real use in MMA
“Chael Sonnen, I mean, he was a great fighter but he’s kind of a clown in my opinion as far as like him never really competing in Judo and not understanding. He should respect it, from what I think, as being an Olympic sport. It’s produced Akiyama, Daniel Kelly, Ronda Rousey, Karo Parisyan, Rick Hawn, just to name a few. So obviously it speaks for itself. Like, the results in being able to use your hips, armbar submissions, chokes, just balance against wrestlers. I think those skills are almost second to none as far as grappling and posture. Compared to wrestling, you kind of learn how to be a little more heavy-footed and sprawl-oriented rather than using your hips to defend shots. So I think just your overall posture as a wrestler kind of leaves you susceptible to good striking cause you’re flat-footed and you’re crunched over. That’s just a natural kind of stance that you’re going to take. Whereas in Judo, you’re light on your feet, you learn to circle a little bit more, find angles, you’re upright in your posture. Grip fighting is done from an upright, just like quick hands, just like striking. So you could almost relate those skills into MMA quicker. So I do find it very important that you do learn how to sprawl, you do learn how to shoot a shot. One shot. It doesn’t have to be a variety of shots, just one good shot to keep your opponent guessing. But yeah, I mean, I respect Chael Sonnen. Maybe a clown is too far, because you know, I love Judo and I’m gonna defend it to the death even if I’m wrong sometimes. But yeah, I think Judo has a really big place in MMA. And if we’re going to go all the way historically speaking, I think of Judo as being the grandfather of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Jiu Jitsu is obviously relevant in MMA. So I think just taking that into account historically, I think Judo has just as good of a place or more than any martial art. So that’s my perspective at least. I mean, I’m sure you can get a bunch of Jiu Jitsu guys to kind of dispute my claims of Jiu Jitsu coming from Judo, but I mean if you do your history, you’ll find that I might be right.”
Thoughts on people’s criticism that Ronda should train with another head coach and leave Edmond Tarverdyan
“Well, I mean, MMA is primarily I would have to say – this is my perspective – these days is more of a striking art. It’s mixed martial arts, but I think the strikers have closed that gap from the early days where you have your Royce Gracies and your big high-level grapplers that have evolved to being the best. And now I think some of these strikers have been able to kind of take over a little bit more, from what I see, just from what I gauged. And I think her falling in love with striking and boxing and footwork and timing and trying to try and become the best striker she could be, she entrenched herself fully. And she is really competitive, so she would drill non-stop and try and do what she could do to become the best striker that she could be. And I kind of understand Edmond’s role in how he tried to provide that for her, and my job was kind of to provide that balance to say, ‘hey, okay, we’re doing great here with the striking, but let’s get back to what kind of got her here’. And sometimes it would be tough to balance that, you know, cause I’m down here in San Diego, she’s training in LA. So it would be kind of tough to go up there every day and make sure she was getting that in. So I’d have to kind of trust Edmond to make sure those things were happening while I wasn’t there as well with Martin. And from everything I know, is her and Martin would train on those off days. So she was still being able to get a lot of the grappling that she needed, it was just what she chose to do on fight night. And those are, as we all saw, it didn’t work out so well. I’m not blaming anyone here, it’s just the way the fight game is. So she had a lot of great wins and a few bad ones there. So it’s just a hard thing to see to someone you really love and you’ve known your whole life for it to end like that. I mean, it’s kind of hard to elaborate past a certain point, just because I respect all the people involved and I don’t want to do anyone any hard.”
If it’s likely that we’ll see Rousey train anywhere else instead of with Edmond
“I’m not sure. I still do talk to Ronda fairly often. She’s really busy, but we don’t really discuss anything that has to do with MMA or the fight game in general these days. So I know she’s taken a step back from all that. So I mean, I really don’t know. I have no place to speak on what she’s gonna do because I haven’t really discussed that with her. I’m just a good friend to her and I just hope the best for her. And just personally speaking, in judo and wrestling and all the sports that I’ve competed in, I would travel a lot and go to different camps and train with the best and train under the best and kind of become kind of well-rounded that way, rather than, I’m at this one place forever. And it just helps you kind of be able to fill in gaps if there are any because you get fresh eyes, fresh training partners. So from my perspective, I always think it’s good to be able to do that, to move around and to have other people take looks and to train with different people as long as it’s safe and they’re highly regarded. So as a coach, I think that’s a great idea. I mean, I’m not saying that that’s what’s gonna happen, I’m just saying from my perspective. So I couldn’t speak anyway on what she’s gonna choose to do. So I just don’t know.”
On why we never saw Ronda use any wrestling takedowns in her MMA fights and the real reason behind it
“I think she had a few limitations physically to be able to do any kind of real penetration shot to like be able to do a high-level drop step or be able to cover a lot of distance based on her knees. So to be able to do any kind of drop step that’s explosive and can cover a lot of ground, you need decent knees – unless you have really high-level skills and you can adapt it for MMA in your own way. But she didn’t have that basis for a good leg shot. So I don’t think it was too late in the game, but I do think it would have been something that would have had to have been a tremendous amount of focus. And her knee isn’t great. She has the knee of a 60-year-old. So it’s difficult to say. So I don’t know whether or not I feel the burden of that and we should’ve done that more, but I do know that her defending leg shots and being able to use that to capitalize using judo is second to none. So that was more or less where the wrestling would play in that we worked. So I think that she has a decent snatch single, which is something that you’re already tied up and you could go down and use like an ankle pick or grab a knee tap. But I don’t think that something from far away, being able to penetrate is something that was really in her wheelhouse.”
Based on training and preparation, how Justin envisioned the fight at UFC 207 against Amanda Nunes going
“Oh man. So that question I can’t really get too deep into for reasons – I signed an NDA as far as like being able to speak on the specifics there. But generally speaking, overall, I’m always confident whenever Ronda’s out there. I’ve just seen her compete thousands of times, and I mean, it was just hard to see and a hard pill to swallow – for her much more than me obviously. I’m just an onlooker there who loves her and wants her to do her best. So was difficult to see, and my heart was broken, that’s for sure. I know the work we put in was high-level and I did everything in my power to help her and I do think that it was helpful, it’s just the chips fell and it just didn’t work out.”
If Ronda ever really mentally and physically recovered from her loss at UFC 193 going into UFC 207 and if she was really ready to be back in the octagon
“I mean, she did take that loss a lot worse – the first loss, the one to Holly – a lot worse. So I mean, I don’t know if that says anything. But I mean, man, she was as ready as you could be. Her weight was great. Physically, everything was organized in a way where she was tip top for this Amanda Nunes fight. So like, she was able to kind of take that loss and recover and she had all of her physical ailments that happened from that fight recovered and healthy. So I mean, she was ready. It’s just, maybe it’s something mentally there that just didn’t add up on fight night. But I was still supremely confident and as I still would be forever if she decided to come back and fight again. I would be confident in her being able to win fights and to accomplish whatever goals she had, just because I know her down to her core and the competitive spirit she has. So I mean, I just can’t answer the fact of whether or not one had to do with the other. But from an outside perspective, maybe. From an inside perspective, I’m with her a lot and I see her training and she feels strong in training and she was much more openminded to different training tactics after that Holly Holm fight. So to me she became a little bit more well-rounded. I don’t know, on fight night, you know, things just kind of unravelled, but I don’t know.”
If Justin thinks Rounda Rousey will ever fight again
“Oh man, there’s a lot of layers to that. Personally, from what I… I mean, I would support her, but personally I don’t think it’s in the cards. I don’t think that’s what she wants in this time of her life. I mean, I’m not discounting anything. Maybe later. But I just don’t see that being something she wants to jump into and focus full force to be the best. Because if she’s gonna do anything, from what I know about her, she’s gonna do it to be the best. And not that I don’t think that she can be the best, it’s just, I just don’t know if her body and her mind at this stage in her life, if that’s what’s right for her. She’s competed her whole life. Her whole life has been about being the best, and I just think personally, the best thing is for her to kind of be okay with herself not as a fighter. So I love her to death, dude. I just know the pain she’s gone through physically, doing this forever, multiple surgeries, concussions, broken bones, weight cutting. All those things add up and take its toll, and it’s accumulative. So being 30 years old now and doing this since you were eight years old non-stop, I mean, the mileage you’ve put on your body and that she’s put on her body, I just don’t think if she wants to, you know, live a long happy life and raise kids with Travis, which I know that’s the future, I just don’t think that’s something I feel like would be in her best interests.”