UFC 173: Mitch Clarke Continuing to Enjoy Training, South of the Border, at the MMA Lab
By Kelsey Mowatt
After scoring a decision win over John Maguire last June, Mitch Clarke has returned to the surroundings that helped him deliver his first UFC victory, as he prepares to battle Al Iaquinta at UFC 173. That environment is the MMA Lab in Glendale, Arizona, which once again has pulled Clarke far away from his hometown of Edmonton, thanks to its world class roster and coaches.
“This is my third camp here; I did, pretty much a little bit more than a full camp,” Clarke relayed on a recent episode of Full Contact Fighter Radio. “By fight time I will have been here for ten weeks total for this camp.”
The John Crouch led team includes accomplished fighters like former UFC lightweight champ Benson Henderson, John Moraga, Chris Gruetzemacher, and Joe Riggs, among many others.
“It’s the atmosphere; it brings a little bit of everything that someone with my personality needs,” added Clarke, who also trains and coaches at Complete Fitness and Martial Arts in St. Albert, Alberta, which is located just outside of Edmonton. “It’s great coaching, it’s great training partners; there’s high level guys and we all train hard, but no one’s really out to kill each other. You know what I mean?”
“Sparring’s great; they try to simulate the fight as best they can…I get along well with all the guys here,” the 28 year-old furthered. “It’s got like a family atmosphere. We all care about each other and no one wants anything bad to happen. It makes it harder when you see your teammate lose. You put a lot of effort into helping your training partners, and training yourself down here.”
Of course, many fighters elect to travel vast distances so that they can benefit from training with renowned coaches and competitors. In addition, many athletes will tell you that being away from home, allows them to focus on nothing else but their fight camp.
“I definitely think that’s a part of it,” said Clarke. “When I’m back home I also run practices, I have to travel to a bunch of different places. My day is that I get up, I teach, then I train, then I drive, then I train, then I drive, then I nap, then I drive, then I train again, and that makes for a long, worn out day.”
“Down here, I go to one place that has everything and the coaching here is top level,” the 10-2 fighter added. “The only draw back is, like as you said, you miss your friends, I miss my girlfriend, and I get bored, super bored. There’s only so much Netflix you can watch in a day.”
Not every fighter has the financial and vocational freedom, however, to head out of town for a eight week training camp. In other words, things like bill payments and full time jobs, have a way of limiting a fighter’s training options.
“It’s definitely an advantage that I don’t have a mortgage and stuff like that,” said Clarke, who has also worked as an environmental protection officer. “I have a lot of respect for those people that do that. If they have a family, if they have a house, and they have to travel somewhere else because they know that they have to train somewhere to get as good as they can for their fights. I have a lot of respect for people that sacrifice their time with their families…I can imagine how hard it is.”
UFC 173 will be hosted by the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, and will feature bantamweight champ Renan Barao taking on TJ Dillashaw.
Stay tuned to Full Contact Fighter for a follow up article with Clarke, featuring his thoughts on Iaquinta and their upcoming bout.