Despite his status as one of boxing's foremost trainers, Freddie Roach is no stranger to mixed martial arts, having helped legends like Georges St-Pierre and Anderson Silva fine tune the nuances of their striking style.
So when another of the sport's greats, Mauricio "Shogun" Rua, reached out to Roach's Wild Card Boxing Club prior to UFC Fight Night 26, Roach jumped at the opportunity.
"Of course I was really excited about having him come because working with guys like this is really an honor for me," Roach said on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour.
"It's funny, when we first started working together [Rua] wasn't punching really hard because he didn't have his balance and his feet under him, and I told him he punched like a girl. The last day he said, ‘Freddie, can I ask you a question? Do I punch like a boy now?' I said, ‘Yes, you do.' He's really fun guy to be around and a really hard worker. We had a really good time."
Roach and Rua worked together in Los Angeles for two weeks preparing for Chael Sonnen, during which time Roach says Rua grew leaps and bounds ahead of where he started.
"He didn't have his feet under him. He wasn't pivoting off the right foot at the right time," Roach explained. "The thing about striking is having weight on the right foot at the right time, and driving off that foot. He was more or less just using his upper body, which is okay. But if you get your whole body behind your shot, it's just much, much better."
While it may seem strange to hear Roach dismiss the owner of 18 knockouts, including violent finishes over Lyoto Machida, Rampage Jackson and Chuck Liddell, as possessing such diminutive punching power, Roach admits he was just giving Rua a hard time -- although he can't understate the difference two weeks in the gym ultimately made.
"The thing is, [Rua] did improve quite a bit. His punching power did go from, like, a C to an A really quickly," Roach said.
"He went from an okay puncher to a great puncher in less than a week. He picks up on things very quickly because of the athlete he is. It was like night and day, when he started to when he left. He really, really had a lot more power under his shots. But the thing is, he has to sit down with his shots a little bit more. Sometimes it's a little bit harder with MMA because of the aspect of being kicked at the same time, but it did work for him. When we worked off angles it worked really, really well. I was really happy with the progress."
Roach doesn't expect to be in Boston this Saturday when Rua and Sonnen help launch FOX Sports 1, however he's eager to see the fruits of his labor come fight time.
Ironically, Sonnen also has an open invitation to come train at the Wild Card Boxing Club, stemming from a chance encounter between Roach and the West Linn native at this year's World MMA Awards. Sonnen, like many fighters before him, couldn't help but probe the master's mind, looking to pick up a few tricks of the trade.
While Roach appreciates the near universal respect he receives across combat sports, his focus remains simple. He enjoys opportunities to continue expanding his scope and looks forward to helping more mixed martial artists fine tune their game in the future.
"I do have a couple guys I'd like to help," Roach said.
"The thing is, sometimes when you're getting a guy on the ground, and the ground and pounding, they're just kind of arm punches -- just not really getting their body behind it where they could end it with one shot instead of 50. So it does get a little frustrating at that point, but the thing is, again, it's not their main sport at first for most of the guys. So it's just a learning process, and I'm very open to helping these guys out. It works out well for me because I love working with great athletes."