Tuesday 16 January 2018

Boxing Pad-Work

Working on some Boxing and Muay Thai Combinations with one of my Students at Team Nemesis MMA.

Tuesday 9 January 2018

Being a Pro Fighter

There are several definitions. I have fought under professional MMA rules with punches & elbows on the floor, 5 minute rounds, getting paid in some way to compete. I wouldn't say though that I've ever been a professional MMA fighter. Throughout my fight career I've always had another job to support myself, fighting was just an ambition, a hobby & something I had to pursue on my own time.

Professionalism is rare in the world of fighting sports. Pretty much anyone can be a professional fighter, as long as they agree to fight a certain person on a certain date under specified rules. After that they will forever be considered as a professional fighter, this is in spite of the fact that we can clearly see from their performances & attitude that they’re preparation hasn't been professional.

Unfortunately for us, fighting sports are something that literally anyone can do & can become a professional at. People will turn up (& pay) to watch literally anyone having a punch up. The same cannot be said for other sports, for example no one will turn up to watch two untrained people having a tennis match or playing golf.

The lack of professionalism in fighting sports both from competitors and coaching staff is something that would not be tolerated in other professional sports.

This is from a typical daily schedule from a professional Rugby team


9:00 am
Skill work for the Backs followed by a strength training session

10:00 am
Skill work for the Forwards followed by a strength training session

11:00 am
Team video study, includes notational and statistical analysis

12:00 pm
Coaches meeting
Player Massage appointments

2:30 pm
Team Defence and aerobic conditioning.

As you can see the schedule is organised and everyone knows where they have to be and what they have to do at a certain time. In professional sports teams players are fined if they miss training sessions. If they are injured they still attend training to do rehab exercises & still work on other skills which will not interfere with their recovery from the injury

To me this kind of organisation is the real meaning of professionalism & it’s something I haven’t seen in the world of fighting sports anywhere in the world, bearing in mind that I’ve trained in Brazil, Japan, USA, Australia & all over Europe. Fight sports in general are the opposite of professional.

I understand that not everyone can commit the time required of a professional athlete but I think this is the standard that we need to aim for in terms of professionalism & organisation. Don’t be happy to just do what everyone else is doing & kidding ourselves that we are professionals when in reality we are treating the sport like a hobby.

If you truly want to be a professional the first step is to act like a professional.

Check out my Article on How many Hours a week you should be training to be successful as a fighter here:


Busy BJJ Classes to Kick off 2018

BJJ Beginners and Intermediate Classes at Team Nemesis MMA. Focusing on Takedowns to Mount Control and ArmLock from modified Mount for Beginners and some Oma Plata options and variations with the Advanced students.

Wednesday 20 December 2017

Becoming a Coach

My Fight Career

During my fight career I had 16 Professional and 25 Amateur MMA Matches. I had mixed results but I learned a lot from the experience.
Throughout this time I never had an MMA coach. I trained mostly at a BJJ club and did additional training at wrestling classes and Muay Thai and boxing gyms. I paid gym membership or casual class rates at each place I trained because I realised that the coaches were passing knowledge onto me that they'd spent many years acquiring.

I booked all of my own fights which generally meant phoning or emailing promoters and offering to fight on their next show. I only received payment for probably 5 of my 16 pro fights.
Promoters would offer to pay for a train ticket for me and one of my training partners to come along to corner me. We'd set off on a long train journey from London to some remote location, weigh in, warm up, I'd fight then head back on the train so I could be at work on Monday morning.

Check out my Fight Highlight Reel here: 

My Fight Highlight Reel

Having a Coach

Over the years I've come to realise how important having proper coaching is. I've seen lots of fighters who's results and fight records would be much different if they had different coaches.
Coaches can decide for the fighter which fights to accept and which to decline at each point in his career, the coach can organise the training of the fighter, telling him what to do and when to do it (but he can't do the training for him). Coaches can make tactical and strategic decisions about how to fight and what techniques should be used against an upcoming opponent.

Real Coaching

I believe there's more to coaching than just showing techniques. Teaching techniques is important and unless an instructor can break down and explain the techniques properly the student won't be able to learn and perform them. The instructor must also be able to explain the 'whys' of each technique so the student has a clear understanding of when to apply it.
These days however there is so much access to techniques via instructional videos and online subscription sites that anyone can learn anything. So what is the point of having an instructor or teacher?

Guiding the Students

For me the most important element of coaching isn't the actual techniques. It comes down to guiding and managing the progress of the individual student. The Coach must understand what is best to teach (or not teach) the student at any given point in time. The Coach must know what advice to give the Student and what changes they need to make to maximise their learning and improvement.
This is not something which can be picked up from an online video. Showing someone how to do a new tricky way of setting up an armlock and then having them successfully do it in live sparring is relatively easy.  Guiding a complete beginner from having no knowledge to winning fights and tournaments is much more difficult. Unfortunately I find that many people coming to the martial arts have this quick fix short term mentality and they will also find a coach out there to offer them the quick fix they think they need.
Over the years I've gained a lot of knowledge and experience about how to be successful in combat sports but I'm still learning more and more every week. I've been training for almost 25 years, have competed in many combat sports, gone on training trips all over the world, attended many seminars, private lessons and lots of research, planning and note taking.
I believe that one of the best skills that I have developed is knowing how to best guide and develop the training career of my students. I've trained all over the world and learned from many different instructors. I think I've learned just as much about how not to teach as I have learned about teaching.

Learn MMA in Melbourne

Monday 16 October 2017

Gym Culture

I've trained at lots of gyms all around the world. I've trained all over Europe, in the USA, Brazil, Japan and Thailand  I have tried to pick up all the best elements of each place i've trained while avoiding the things I felt didn't work.

My dream was to create a gym with high level training in striking, grappling and MMA. I'd been to many places that had excellent BJJ but non existent or very limited striking, or MMA gyms which had fighters but no real technical BJJ or Striking training.
The things that I've tried to do which I believe will lead us to being one of the best teams in the world include the following.

Train Smart

Smart Training methods - Not just everyone smashing each other in every session. Using progressive resistance and trying to learn and improve with each round of sparring or rolling rather than treating every round like a fight.


Focus on important fundamental techniques - We work on high percentage techniques 99% of the time. If you get those working well then its easy to add the rubber guards, berimbolos and flying heel hooks to your game. If you start with the fancy flavour of the month techniques you'll never get them to work.

Keep Getting Better

Focus on continual improvement - working on getting better every session, improving your game by 1% every day and after a year you'll be 365% better. This is a long slow process but you get better results than just training hard for 4 weeks leading up to a fight and then slacking off.

Team Culture

We have a culture of more experienced members helping the new guys and turning them into better training partners - This benefits everyone, New people get better quicker and experienced people have more quality training partners. The opposite to this is gyms where the people who've been training for 6 months consider themselves too good to waste their time on the new people.

The Right Atmosphere

We have a friendly atmosphere - Theres no need to convince people that you're a tough guy if you actually have the fights, wins and belts to prove it. Toughness is how you train and fight not how you act.
We still maintain the atmosphere of a martial arts academy. Everyone lines up, follows the rules, shows respect to their training partners, keeps the place clean and hygienic.


We don't disrespect other gyms or teams. I think if you spend all your time talking about how bad other gyms or teams are it shows insecurity, we focus on making ourselves and our students the best that they can be in every session rather than worrying about what others are doing.

Check out this Documentary about our Team and our BJJ Program:


Monday 9 October 2017

Becoming a Fighter

Long Term Athlete Development in Combat Sports

Since the beginning of our fight team we have consistently followed a long-term development program for our fighters. The Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD) Program is commonly found in elite level sports but is often ignored in the world of Fight Sports.

Stages in Fighter Development

The first stage in our system is to make sure the students have a solid foundation in the fundamental skills before progressing onto sparring in the gym. If they train consistently they can then progress to local inter-club/novice sparring events. After that they can move on to amateur fights and then finally onto Professional fights. 

Why do we follow this structure? 

We want to produce world-class competitors not just fighters who can win at local level events. Some coaches don't believe its necessary to follow a long term system like this. They believe their fighters are already good enough to go straight to Professional fights. In my opinion taking short-cuts in this area may seem like a good idea in the short term but can seriously damage the long term prospects and growth of a fighter.

Learning about your fighters

One of the reasons we follow this Fighter Development Program is because we learn just as much from the novice level events as the fighters do. Coaches can learn the strengths and weaknesses of their fighter, how they perform under pressure, how they respond to coaching and instructions during the fight and what areas they need to work on and improve upon as a team before the next event.

Improving your coaching

Becoming an effective coach takes constant learning, practice and evolution. Novice fights are a great opportunity for the coach learn how to best warm up the fighters, what instructions to give before and during the fight, how to adjust strategy during the fight and learning about how the fighter copes with and responds to the stress and pressure of competition.

Development of the Fighter

Becoming a great fighter is a long process. Novice fighters need to make mistakes and learn from them. They need to try new things in an arena where there is less risk if it goes wrong. Mistakes in Novice fights are no big deal. They are actually beneficial because they highlight areas of you game that will need improvement before you step up to professional fighting.

The Cost of Making Mistakes

If you make those same mistakes in professional fights there is usually an additional risk of serious injury as you will be up against much better opponents. There's also a risk to your career as a professional fighter of losing your fight contract, losing your motivation and confidence and ultimately derailing your career before its even started.

Taking time to develop as a fighter

Novices are not ready to jump into Professional fights straightaway. Not everyone is cut out to be a fighter. Novices need the opportunity to figure out if the sport is actually for them. They need to gradually experience the fear, stress and adrenaline dump in a safer environment. The fighter can then begin to figure out how to deal with the pressure of competing, managing the stress, fatigue and fear and learn to not let these factors affect his performance in the fight.

Better for the sport

I believe it's detrimental to combat sports to have first timers fighting on professional events. The public shouldn't have to pay to watch fighters who haven't yet mastered the basics skills of the sport. Seeing first timers with no amateur experience fighting on professional fight shows makes fighting sports look amateurish. Fighters should have a minimum of 10 matches away from the public eye before stepping into the ring in front of paying spectators. 

No shortcuts

I believe taking short-cuts may seem like a good idea to some young up and coming fighters who want to make a name for themselves but will ultimately cost them a lot in terms of their long term development and future prospects in the sport.

Here's another Article I wrote on how to Prepare for your first MMA Fight:


'I've found that taking shortcuts will get you to the place you don't want to be much quicker than they get you to the place you want to be.'
Lennox Lewis

Sunday 1 October 2017

Tough on your Team.

Popularity Versus Performance

One of the great lessons we learned from sports coaching expert Wayne Goldsmith earlier this year was that 'popularity is the enemy of performance'. 

Popularity is easy; performance requires honesty. If you want your teammates to perform at their best you need to be honest with them even if this will make you less popular. You need to be tougher on your team than their opponents will be.

This does'nt mean trying to knock them out or cranking on arm locks in every sparring session. That would actually be counterproductive, it will not allow them to improve and may lead to injuries, which could derail their progress. 

Being Honest with your Team-Mates

If you care about your teammate’s progress and success then you need to be honest with them about their training. If your training partner is on a losing streak and you don’t want to see them get knocked out in their next fight you need to be honest with them and tell them that training two hours a week then going for a run on Saturday isn’t going to get the job done.

Wayne’s point was that most people would not be honest. They don't want to offend their training partner so instead they just say ‘good job bro’, give them a high five and tell them we'll get them next time. 

The Reality 

The reality is that your next opponent doesn't care whether you are a nice person and doesn't worry about offending you. He is going to be brutally honest with you over the course of three five-minute rounds and will highlight the areas of your training where you took shortcuts

Popularity is easy; Performance requires honesty. The more you care about each other the harder you will be on each other.

Tough Coaching

The same is also true when it comes to coaching. Most fighters early in their career are open to advice and constructive criticism. They want to be told where they are going wrong and what they need to improve on. They realise that there will be a huge price to pay if they don't fix up the holes in their game. The job of the coach is to identify these holes and fix them before they can be exploited by a future opponent.

Coaches Versus 'Yes-Men'

If the fighter follows the advice of the coach he will usually experience initial success early on in his career. But this is when something interesting starts to happen. Often the fighters early success will cause him to develop an overblown ego, he decides he no longer needs to be told what he's doing wrong and instead surrounds himself with people who will constantly feed his ego by telling him what he's doing right and how great he is.

This is always a recipe for disaster. The new 'coach' will either not be knowledgeable and experienced enough to highlight the mistakes of the fighter or will just refuse to criticise him for fear of losing his meal ticket. Either way, it will lead to fighter going on a downward spiral of worse and worse results.

“A coach is someone who tells you what you don't want to hear, who has you see what you don't want to see, so you can be who you have always known you could be.”

Strength in Depth

The best part of coaching is witnessing the improvement and development of the students who can't train full time due to family, work, school and life commitments but who still make the effort to turn up and train hard two or three sessions a week every week.
I never wanted a team where there are just a few star athletes and everyone else is there to pay the bills and make up the numbers. I pride myself on the fact that everyone who commits to training regularly at my classes will learn to fight and grapple well. This in turn will be a huge benefit to the full time competitors as they have more quality partners to train with.

Wednesday 27 September 2017

About Me

Denis Kelly is a former Mixed Martial Arts fighter and now head MMA Coach at Nemesis Martial Arts based in Melbourne, Australia.

Denis has competed at a high level in various Combat Sports including Professional Mixed Martial Arts and Muay Thai.  He has fought in the UK, Europe, Australia & New Zealand. Denis has also competed extensively in Brazilian JiuJitsu, Freestyle Wrestling, Sambo Wrestling, Judo & Karate.

Denis did the majority of his training at the famous Carlson Gracie Academy in London. In addition to this he has trained extensively all over the world including BJJ & MMA training in Brazil, Japan & the USA as well as Kickboxing and Muay Thai in Thailand, Holland and Myanmar.

He holds a Black Belts in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Karate, Kickboxing & Krav Maga, Brown Belt in Judo , Certified Boxing Trainer under Boxing Australia & a Qualified Sambo Wrestling Coach.

In addition to his Martial Arts qualifications Denis also received a Business degree from Middlesex University London, Certificate 3 & 4 in Fitness, Certificate 3 in Sports Coaching & is a qualified trainer with the Australian Strength & Conditioning Association.

In 2009 Denis opened Team Nemesis Martial Arts together with Muay Thai Trainer Phillip Lai. In just a few years the team has produced several of Australia's top MMA & Muay Thai fighters.

As a trainer Denis believes the key to his team’s success is to constantly search for more efficient & effective training methods to continually improve his fighters every day.

Saturday 17 June 2017


The Role Of Sparring

Recently I've been discussing the importance of sparring in developing the technique and skill level of new students. Will students actually improve if the do lots of sparring in place of actual technique work?

Sparring Versus Training

I believe that sparring is necessary but I have seen countless example of aspiring fighters who did lots of rounds of sparring every week but didn’t do enough actual technical training. These fighters don’t go far. They usually have very bad technique, poor defence, and most importantly they had no idea that they weren’t learning/improving/benefiting from the ‘training’ they were doing. They believed that if they just turn up every week to get beaten up by better fighters that eventually they will get better too.

Developing Bad Habits

It doesn’t work like that. Improving at any activity requires conscious deliberate practice. What actually happens if you just spar all the time without working on your technique is that you develop bad habits which become hardwired into your muscle memory and are then hard to break. It is easier to build good habits from the beginning rather than break bad habits years down the track.

Common bad habits that we see include, dropping hands when throwing punches, not properly checking kicks, winding up or telegraphing punches and swinging punches with your eyes closed. There are lots of these types of habits which you can get away with because you are just sparring with your friends and teammates and are unlikely to get knocked out or seriously hurt, however what you are doing is training your body to use bad sloppy technique which will cause you to get beat up in a real fight.

Balance Sparring with Technical Training

I believe sparring has a place in training but you should do a minimum of five technical sessions for every one sparring session you do to maximise your progress. That means if you are training 5 sessions a week then only one should be focused on sparring while the others are spent on technical skill development during class time.

Sparring is a Practice Test

Sparring is like a practice test in your Maths class at school, it’s not as serious as a real fight (your final end of term Exam) but it’s a good way to gauge your improvement and how much you’ve learned since the last practice test. If you just turn up and do the practice tests every week without having attended any Maths classes in between then you probably don’t even know what a PLUS or a Minus sign looks like.

Heres another article I wrote about getting the most from your Sparring Sessions:

Friday 7 April 2017

Fight Ready - 2

This article was written with the help of Wayne Goldsmith who I have been working with for the past few months. Wayne is a sports coaching expert who has worked extensively with sports teams and organisations all over the world including Swimming Australia, the US Olympic Committee and numerous Football and Rugby clubs.

Why you need to Train Year Round and Keep Getting Better

I believe staying fight ready year round while constantly improving and upgrading skills is the key to success for any aspiring fighter. The fighter must focus on improving and adding new skills between bouts simply because as he progresses through his career he will come up against better and better opponents.

A successful fighter with a winning record will inevitably face opponents who have a much higher level of striking. grappling and experience than his previous opponents. The level of technique and fitness which was enough to beat the local level fighters he previously faced will usually not be enough to beat an international level opponent.

Stages of Fight Readiness

The first step in staying ‘Fight Ready’ is understanding the various stages of Preparation and Fight readiness. Wayne Goldsmith breaks the various stages down as follows:

·        BASELINE - (LEARNING AND EARNING PHASE)  In the "BASELINE" phase of training, athletes are focused on general fitness, flexibility, power, balance, co-ordination and the fundamental movements and skills of the sport. This phase of training includes exposure to a broad range of tactics, skills and techniques. Training sessions during the "baseline" phase may be relatively long in duration as athletes focus on learning new skills, building strength and endurance and laying down the foundations - the platform for long term success.

·         COMPETITIVE - (MASTERY AND SPECIFICITY PHASE) In the competitive phase athletes become focused on narrowing their skills and honing their "weapons" with an aim to developing a specific set of skills that are conducive of them fighting to the best of their ability. For example, in this phase of training, athletes may spend more time on kicking and grappling if these are considered to be the "weapons" that will help them win their upcoming fight. In this phase, the mental aspects of fighting become more important and athletes should be working with their coaches and training partners to identify areas of mental skill, mental toughness, concentration and focus that they can work on during physical training sessions.

·         WINNING - (PEAK PERFORMANCE PHASE) in the winning phase the emphasis becomes speed, power and explosiveness and on being able to execute excellence in technique and skill at fight intensity. Training may be a little shorter than in the Baseline and Competitive Phases but the speed and intensity of activity will be much higher as the athletes prepares specifically to win. There is a clear focus on mental skills in this phase of training. MMA athletes and their coaches should create training situations which "expose" mental weaknesses and provide opportunities to build and strengthen mental skills under simulated fight conditions.

Post Fight Period

An important consideration here is the post-fight recovery period. Experience suggests that the longer the time the athlete takes away from "baseline" training following a fight the more challenging and difficult it is to get back to Competitive and Winning shape.
Where possible, MMA athletes are encouraged to do something the day immediately following their fight, e.g. walking, easy bike riding, swimming, slow-easy yoga type stretching so that the recovery process can be accelerated and the transition back into "baseline" fitness can be smooth and relatively short.  

Recovery Block

Wayne Goldsmith recommends what he calls a ‘Recovery block’ of slightly easier training working on a new skill or weak area immediately following a fight.  I think this is a great idea because it gets the athlete back in the habit of consistent training rather than getting lazy or falling into bad habits.
This post fight period is perfect for working on a new skill (perhaps improving your boxing offense if you are mainly a grappler). This is the time to do it because there is no pressure from an upcoming fight. Also, you may have learned valuable lessons from your last fight regardless of whether you won or lost. This is the time to learn from the mistakes while it is still fresh in your memory.

Stay in Competitive Shape so you can easily get back to Winning Shape

The aim of this system of fight readiness is to keep yourself in the ‘Competitive’ stage so that when a fight comes along you're only a few weeks off ‘Winning’ shape. As previously stated, up and coming fighters need to be ready to take fights and make the most of opportunities when they come along.  There is only a small window of opportunity in the sport of MMA and there are a lot of talented athletes all fighting for the top spots.

Continual Improvement Instead of 'Fight Camps'

Obviously this continual training protocol is the opposite to doing ‘Fight Camps’. I always discourage fighters from doing fight training camps. Training hard for six weeks before a fight may help you to perform better on fight night but will not lead to consistent improvement. To be a great fighter you need to train consistently week after week for many years.
Six weeks can be enough to develop general fitness and some strength and power but real fighting techniques are complicated motor skills requiring hours and hours of practice and repetition over many years, you need to be practicing them all the time to develop flawless technique and acquire the perfect timing so that you can use them under pressure against a resisting opponent.

Stages in Skill Development

As skills develop, your capacity to perform the skill progressively changes. At first, you learn how to do the skill slowly as your brain and body try to master the fundamental movements of the new skill. Then, you repeat the skill with precision and through the repetition your brain and body learn how to perform the skill to a high level of accuracy.
These first two stages of skills learning can take as little as a few sessions or a few weeks. However, it is important that you learn to execute the skill at high speed, under fatigue and under physical and emotional pressure, i.e. the conditions you will experience in a fight.
Simply practicing a skill and learning how to perform the movements of the skill is not enough for a MMA athlete! The critical issue is "can you perform the skill accurately at high speed, when you're fatigued and when you're under pressure?"
Obviously this is something which cannot be achieved in just a few weeks leading up to a fight and requires long term commitment.

It is worth remembering that usually you won’t see immediate results from your training. You will only feel the benefit from it in months to come. When a fighter performs impressively in a match it usually has less to do with their training in the last two months and more likely a result of their training over the previous five to ten years

Thursday 6 April 2017

Fight Training Mistakes

Here are some of the things that I see aspiring fighters do which I think are very detrimental to their long term fight career success.

What is your Goal and What will it take to get there?

Not having a clear goal of what you want to achieve leads to unrealistic expectations of what it will take to get you there. If your goal is to win a local level amateur fight you will probably get away with training a few evenings a week however if you want to be an international level fighter you need to be in the gym for several hours every day, week after week, year after year even when you don’t feel like it or are running low on motivation.

What Stage are you at in your Fight Career?

Not having an accurate idea about what stage in your career or fighter development you are are at. This leads to not doing what you need to get to the next level. If you are already a UFC champion, you can probably get away with just honing you existing skills and doing training camps to make sure you ‘peak’ for your title defenses. Top level champions have already spent twenty plus years learning and perfecting the skills of Jiu-jitsu, wrestling and striking. If you are not yet at that level, you need to be working every day to build those skills.

How much Training are you really doing?

Not being honest with yourself about how much training you are actually doing. For example, some fighters are in the gym for three hours but they are actually training for 45 minutes’ total. They waste a lot of time chatting and training halfheartedly while chatting to their mates. Its OK to have fun and be sociable but its worth remembering that while you’re chatting and having fun your opponent might be already into his third hour of serious training and that will make a huge difference to the outcome of the fight.

Are you doing the Right kind of training or Just doing what you Enjoy?

Doing a lot of the wrong kind of training. Wasting too much time on the type of training you enjoy rather than on what you actually need to do to win fights. A big example I see of this is fighters doing fancy tricks in pad work routines which look good but which ultimately won’t help them to win fights. You need to identify the weaknesses in you game and spend your time working on fixing those holes. This is obviously not as much fun as doing the stuff you enjoy but its what you need to do to avoid losing fights.

Are your Training Partners helping you to become a better fighter?

Training with the wrong people. Training with seriously motivated people who want to train hard and work consistently to keep getting better is tough but its what you need to do to improve. If you waste time training with lazy, unfocused and unmotivated training partners it will rub off on you and you will eventually end up like them.

Are you Actually getting any better?

Staying in ‘maintenance level’ rather than focusing on continual daily improvement. Some fighters get to a certain level and the are not prepared to keeping putting in the same amount of work that will get them to the next level. You should try to improve your skills by 1% every day rather than being happy to stay where you are.

Are you actually sticking with the program or chopping and changing every few weeks?

Fighters can sometimes be easily influenced and will often adopt any new fad or training method to get short term results rather than thinking long term. Probably the biggest mistake I see with fighters is that they change their training routine and preparation in spite of overwhelming evidence that what they had been doing is working and getting them good results. Once you have a small amount of success in any field there will always be ‘experts’ who will appear to suddenly tell you what you should be doing better. If its not broke don’t fix it. Stick to what has been getting you the results.

Long Term BJJ Training

Eleven years ago since I got my black belt and I thought this would be useful advice for anyone who is in the earlier stages of their JiuJi...

Popular Posts