Fighters Only‘s Tony Reid discovers how UFC lightweight James Vick has added a new knockout dimension to his mixed martial arts game.


How have you focused on improving your standup to earn your recent TKO wins?

When I’m in camp, I do my camps out of state with Team Lloyd Irvin. When I’m out of those, I train at five different gyms in Texas. I do boxing and Muay Thai. In the last year and a half, I have added taekwondo and Korean karate. I keep diversifying my game.


Have any of those new techniques paid off for you in competition?

I am seeing these techniques working, and they did work in the Joseph Duffy fight. In the one with Marco Polo Reyes, I landed a side kick and a back kick. In the fight before that, I landed karate kicks and almost dropped Abel Trujillo with that. I’m not afraid to try this s**t because my ground game is very good and I have been working on it for years. If I get taken down, it doesn’t matter to me. I can get to my feet or submit them.

What did you do in the gym today?

This morning I did a taekwondo lesson and my coach is also a brown belt in jiu-jitsu. We rolled for five, five-minute rounds. So, this morning I did about an hour and a half of taekwondo with the warm-up, drilling and with kicking shields and pads, and then half an hour of jiu-jitsu. Last night, I sparred in kickboxing. My striking martial arts consist of boxing, Muay Thai, taekwondo and karate.


What made you adopt traditional martial arts techniques?

People have a messed-up image of traditional martial arts. That’s what I work on when I’m home or away from camp. When I go to camp it’s mostly boxing and Muay Thai. These traditional techniques are vicious. The reason they don’t get perceived as that is because most of the people that do traditional karate, and I hate to say this, are pussies. They are self-defense people, little rich kids who can’t fight. Karate techniques are so legit, it’s just that most of the people that practice are pussies. If you get someone who knows these techniques in MMA, they always shine.


As a developing brown belt, what BJJ training are you doing to take it to the next level?

I do a ton of drilling nowadays, in camp and out of camp. I had a lot of injuries over the years including four major surgeries in the last eight years. Most of them came from grappling. That’s when you get injured. I only roll two or three times a week. When I’m in camp, it’s even less as far as live grappling. I do tons of drilling. I have been drilling jiu-jitsu a lot since I have been in the gym with Lloyd Irvin. They do tons of drilling. That’s part of their system and they try to ingrain that in you.

What else have you been focusing on?

I have been doing tons of wrestling. Even though I haven’t had to use it in the Octagon yet, it’s very good. I have also recently started to work on judo, trying to mix some of that in with upper-body takedowns – judo and Greco stuff.


As a huge lightweight standing 6’3″, do you have to do extra work to improve your physical strength?

I am the only fighter I know who doesn’t do strength and conditioning training. I just don’t believe in that s**t. If someone has a deficiency or they don’t have any athleticism or physical attributes, then maybe they need that. I think it’s overrated. It’s annoying. It’s comical to me to see all these people talk about their new strength and conditioning on the UFC Countdown shows. They act like their whole game has changed now, and then I go in there and smoke that mother***ker and all I do is run, do sit-ups, push-ups and pull-ups.

If you practice five days a week, twice a day, that’s 10 practices a week. I’m not giving up three or four of my practices out of 10 strictly for strength and conditioning. I train hard. I hit bags hard. I grapple hard. I go live hard. I drill hard. I will add some stuff on top of my training, I may do 200 push-ups or jump squats. I may do that for 20 minutes after practice but I’m not giving up a full hour of training for strength and conditioning. It’s worked out great because I haven’t fought anybody who is in better shape or physically stronger than me.

This interview first appeared in the February 2018 issue of Fighters Only.