Former Olympian Rick Hawn On Influence Of Judo In His MMA Career

Written by Hurtsbad MMA Senior Analyst Todd Jackson 

 

Under the flag of mixed martial arts gone are the days where one style could dominate a landscape or give a fighter an unanswerable edge over his opponent. While that may be true there are certain base disciplines that provide a platform for fighters to excel.

 

For example a background in wrestling still seems to be the one area where a fighter is destined to bring certain tools with them into a cage on fight night. With an accelerated wrestling background comes stamina, strength, a competitive nature, tenacity, and an experience in combat arts.

 

All these tools are vital to the success of any fighter but they are no guarantee when staring across the cage at a hungry opponent. While extremely effective and battle tested as one of the top influences to transition towards success in MMA, wrestling is not the only tool that can offer an athlete a propensity for success.

 

Another highly effective, very competitive, and sadly underappreciated background in MMA circles is that of the world of Judo. A highly trained Judoka can be equally as effective and dangerous inside a cage as any wrestler or Jiu Jitsu player. While this is true, not many well versed Judokas have made their mark on MMA. It would appear recently that this is a trend that is changing.

 

Consider a rough and tumble crotchety old coot like Don “The Predator” Frye who gives sole credit for the success of his legendary career to a man that stands about five foot nothing but commands the respect of a five star general. Steve Owen is a master Judoka whom Frye will tell you is every bit as influential as a man like Gene Lebell. Frye will also tell you Owen made his career what it was.

 

Another fighter who may not have achieved legendary status but made it known without a doubt that his goal was to plant opponents on their ear was Karo Parysian. His eventual downfall in MMA was nothing short of tragic but while he was at the top he played his game as well as anyone.

 

Point being that Judo has a legacy within the sport of MMA but has not been as celebrated for its influence as much as the Jiu Jitsu or wrestling aspects of the sport. Even though it played heavily into the success of a legend like Frye it simply is not appreciated among the casual fan of the sport.

 

Yet recently MMA has seen the emergence of fighters like Rhonda Rousey who has stormed women’s MMA with repeated poetic hip throws and vicious armbars with an attitude rivaled only by her ferocity inside the cage.

 

Another athlete making his own waves inside the Bellator cage is former Olympic Judoka Rick Hawn. Hawn is methodically finding his rhythm as he transitioned from being a world class Judo player to now taking his strides in MMA.

 

He is a semi-finalist in the current Bellator lightweight tournament and while his is a mixed martial artist who trains in many disciplines, it is his roots in Judo that have helped pave the way for his success.

 

Hawn recently took a moment to talk with Hurtsbad MMA and explained how the influence of Judo has prepared and conditioned him to have a successful transition to mixed martial arts.

 

He explained the contrast he draws from an Olympic level career in Judo and what he hopes will be a championship career in MMA.

 

"I think it is very similar. I take this job very seriously. I believe that history gives me an edge mentally over guys because I know they haven’t been where I have been at and competed where I have been at that that high of a level.” Hawn stated. “I take MMA actually more seriously than I did with my Judo career. I’m all about being a professional, doing everything correctly, and I know how to compete and train. I have definitely carried over that aspect of training and being focused.”

 

As for what some might call and underutilization of Judo technique in a sport that so heavily favors the takedown, Hawn had this to say. “I think it’s just a matter of popularity. If you didn’t grow up doing Judo you probably wrestled and that is what you know. Wrestling is very popular in the United States. You see some similarity with some wrestling takedowns and Judo throws. Especially now with high level guys who combine it all together.”

 

One fighter who is at the peak of his game who uses many Judo techniques is Jon Jones but not every fighter will seize an opportunity when presented with it. Hawn mentions, “It definitely is very underutilized. It is very effective. It some ways it is easier than wrestling where wrestling is all about power and strength Judo is more about finesse. They do work very well together.”

 

It definitely is a bright spot for Hawn that he and someone like Strikeforce women’s champion Rhonda Rousey are putting it on the map for the casual fans of the sport. “I am really happy that Rhonda Rousey is putting Judo on the map. We are showing people that it is very effective and I’m really excited about that. It is exciting to take a sport that we know is very good but not really all that noticed and get it out in the spotlight.”

 

Yet framing Judo is not the only aspect of the game that pleases Hawn. Looking back it is Judo itself that laid the groundwork for him to ascend to the heights he has as a fighter. With his history he has been well prepared to walk into a place like world renowned Tri-Star gym and give himself an elevated potential for success.

 

"I think it has helped me stay focused. With martial arts, with Judo, you have to be very disciplined. If you want to be good at anything you have to be disciplined and dedicated.” Hawn explained. “That is what I bring over from my Judo career, being patient and not getting frustrated. I realize it is the journey not the destination.  You see guys who grow up in that environment and they remain focused and calm, I think that is what martial arts teaches you.”

 

It also taught him respect which is par for the course in traditional martial arts where honor and discipline is every bit as important as any other facet. “I always try to be respectful. There are a lot of guys who play that card of disrespect when they are in the spotlight and that tends to work when they play the bad guy role and call out people. I have never really been about that. I always try to be respectful and be a good character. I think that goes back to my Judo career and martial arts where traditionally you are humble and respectful of your opponents.”

 

This is an interesting look into the relationship between a highly successful Judo background and how it transitions the right fighter to MMA. Rick Hawn is 12-1 as a mixed martial artist with five of his fights contested under the Bellator banner.

 

Hopefully his success as a fighter will not only perpetuate his own career but shed some light on a traditionally underutilized and under celebrated aspect of mixed martial arts; the many qualities of Judo inside a cage.

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Tags: Bellator, Bellator 66, Bellator News, Don Frye, Judo, Judo in MMA, Karo Parysian, Lloyd Woodard vs Rick Hawn, MMA, MMA News, More…Rhonda Rousey, Rick Hawn, Todd Jackson MMA

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