Before Bellator heavyweight Matt Mitrione was a professional MMA fighter, he was a defensive tackle at Purdue, and thanks to Boilermakers strength and conditioning coach Domenic Reno, those two worlds have collided.
Reno has been training Mitrione for his upcoming bout with Fedor Emelianenko, and has brought the training from the Octagon to the football weight room.
"It's opened my eyes to look at the movements. MMA is a lot of rotational movement, so I've been able to implement different drills with the football players," Reno said. "Twice a week we do mitt drills with the football players to work with eye-hand coordination and the speed of the hands. We put the gloves on and the guys love it."
While the biggest benefit of MMA training may be increased stamina and endurance, Reno identified one specific area in which the training helps almost every player on the team.
"The building of the hand speed is huge, no matter what position," Reno said. "It translates to wide receivers, defensive backs, defensive line, linebackers. The only position group I don't have do the mitt work is the quarterbacks."
Reno's hard work as a trainer will be on display Saturday when Mitrione squares off against Emelianenko at Madison Square Garden, and again when Purdue opens the 2017 season Sept. 2 against Lamar Jackson and Louisville.
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