Imagine if you will: You’re 23 years young and a defensive end in the NFL. You’re reaching the peak of your athletic ability, just came off your second season and had 19.5 sacks, which was second most in the NFL. Your team made it to the Super Bowl and you’re considered one of the top defensive players in the game.
How do you spend your short offseason? Traveling? Relaxing? Maybe working out every now and again. For 49ers' Aldon Smith, the answer is none of the above.
“I’ve always been interested in doing MMA,” said Aldon, referring to the fight sport training of mixed martial arts. “It’s definitely a good way to get into physical shape and it’s what I wanted to do.”
Smith is taking a route that more and more professional athletes are choosing. He's decided to join American Kickboxing Academy and gain the knowledge of mixed martial arts to keep him in shape. Not only does Smith see MMA as a way to stay in physical shape, but he views it as a way to increase his intensity on the field.
“I think taking it to that next level of physical,” the already dominant Smith said -- not what NFL quarterbacks want to hear. “Learning the other types of techniques you can use in football, because in football you use your hands and feet so much and they definitely do a lot in (MMA).”
After a breakthrough season, fans and 49ers brass have to be happy to see Smith wanting to get better. Offenses across the NFL, however, are probably not too fond of the idea.
Smith has been working with UFC Heavyweight Daniel Cormier regularly. After his first day of training, it was apparent how he would benefit.
“It’s going to help with his agility, his hand-eye coordination,” said Cormier. “It’s going to help in his endurance. We can pick up the intensity and once we pick up the intensity he’s definitely going to see the benefits of doing this type of training.”
Cormier has worked with his fair share of top competitors. He sees Smith as something special.
“He’s a big, strong athlete," said Cormier. "A very impressive athlete.”
It's a perfect marriage between two professionals seeking a competitive edge against their competition. Smith is showing a serious passion for his new outlet and is motivated to reach the next dangerous level of his career. And the former Olympic wrestler Cormier is more than happy to help the young football star reach his full potential.
“They’re athletes at the top of their game and I’m an athlete at the top of my game," Smith said. "We’re just guys out here trying to make it.”