Former MMA Fighter Wants a Shot at Froning

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by: Tony Taliani


As a Marine Corps veteran and former mixed martial arts fighter, Jay White was used to intensity, dedication and hard work. But when he took up CrossFit in October, it exposed weaknesses he didn’t know he had.

When White completed his Marine Corps service in January 2001, a friend got him interested in Jiu-Jitsu. He lost 30 pounds of excess weight and began training and fighting seven days a week. This began his career in MMA fighting.

“I loved it. I woke up every morning and had a desire to fight every day,” White says.

Within a year of serious training, White began climbing the ranks in MMA. He went on to win several North American Grappling Association championships and two gold medals at the Pan-American Jiu-Jitsu Championships. In 2007, he had the opportunity to train with Ultimate Fighting Championship Hall of Fame inductee, Randy Couture, and further develop his skills at the Philippi Sports Institute in Las Vegas. But in July 2010, White’s interest in MMA began to fade; the televised Xtreme Fighting Championship in Tampa, Fla., would be his last bout.

“The drive to fight just wasn’t there anymore,” he explains. “It felt like routine, like a job. I got to the point where I dreaded getting up in the morning to train. Fighting is really on the backburner at this point.”

Like many MMA fighters, White started CrossFit to condition for his sport. After a few workouts and watching footage of the CrossFit Games, he became further intrigued.

“I saw some of the WOD videos online and I was really impressed with how crazy the elite guys were in the workouts,” White says. “I could always do deadlifts, but some of these guys were lifting my one-rep max 20 times as part of a workout.”

CrossFit, he adds, is a stark contrast to fighting. Although both sports require intense training regimens, the group-training aspect of CrossFit is a change for White. MMA fighting involves a coach or trainer working solely with one fighter on technique; occasionally there is sparring with other fighters.

“MMA was more of an individual sport, whereas CrossFit is more of a family,” White explains. “Everyone (at Albany CrossFit) is supportive and willing to share their expertise on something, which you don’t see everywhere. They make it possible to really push myself.”

In October, White started working out at the affiliate, where he focuses on strengthening his core and midline. In the short time he’s been a member, he has seen his one-rep-max snatch increase from 95 lb. to 225 lb., and his clean and jerk improve from 135 lb. to 275 lb. He attributes his success to his improved core strength and a focus on technique.

“I never realized how weak my core was,” White says. “I had done crunches and planks before, but the Olympic lifts really make a difference.”

In addition to CrossFit, the former professional athlete also swims at the local YMCA for an hour or completes additional met-cons before or after the daily workout on most days. White also incorporates workouts from Virginia’s Outlaw CrossFit, where he hopes to train in the spring.

“Working with different coaches will help give some different perspectives on where I can improve and how I can make things better,” he says.

In addition to changing his approach to training, White has converted to a 100 percent paleo diet.

“You have to eat well or there’s no way you’ll make it through some of these longer workouts,” he explains. “I’ll have a yam before my workouts and some protein directly after for recovery. Really, I just eat when I’m hungry. When I stop seeing gains, I’ll be more scientific with it.”

In the next few months, White and his coaches at Albany CrossFit will work on gymnastic movements like muscle-ups and handstand walks. He points to the movements as potential weaknesses going into his first attempt at the 2013 Reebok CrossFit Games Open, which begins in March. White says he hopes to qualify for the CrossFit Games North East Regional this year and one day compete against two-time Games champion, Rich Froning.

In the meantime, he’s simply enjoying training.

“The WODs are always different and challenging, which is really exciting. I get up in the morning and I can’t wait to go to the gym,” White says. “I actually find myself trying to figure out what the workout is going to be the night before.”

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This article was written by theory38