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Local UFC fighter trains for upcoming fight in Idaho
July 11, 2018

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Cape Coral resident Niko Price is training for his next UFC fight Saturday in Boise, Idaho, with his coach, who just opened a new gym in North Fort Myers.

Approximately eight years ago, Jeremiah Rodriguez met Niko Price in Cape Coral at another gym where Price was training. Rodriguez said they clicked that day and a year later he started working with him.

Rodriguez became Price's head coach, a match that has Price ranked 17th in the world in his weight class, 170 pounds. Price never was involved in street fighting, or trained in martial arts as a child, which makes his ranking pretty impressive, his coach said.

"My biggest accomplishment is to help him succeed as a coach," Rodriguez said.

When they first started training together, the duo would meet as early as 4 a.m. in Rodriguez's garage, so Price could get some training in before his 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. job cutting grass.

"He has four children, just had his fourth child recently. He has had hardships," Rodriguez said, which included a pink slip on his door because of back payments of rent.

Fast forward to now, his career as a UFC fighter has enabled him to provide really well for his family.

"To watch that process . . . money comes and goes. You are going to spend it, but building relationships and rapport with people and watching them succeed and being a big hand in that is the best thing for me," Rodriguez said. "I want to have that feeling over and over."

The pair is currently training for Price's next fight in Idaho.

"I take him all around. I take him to the best coaches because I am a student and I like learning," Rodriguez said. "I like to train with different people. I want him to succeed."

To prepare for a fight, Price does various sessions a day. There is a 90- minute to 2-hour session in the morning for strength and conditioning, which includes flexibility, mobility, explosiveness and cardio. Rodriguez said it's about working the body in a different way.

After taking a break, Price returns to the gym at 7 p.m. and trains for another two hours. This training is tougher, sparing live with other fighters.

"It's very taxing on him. From there he goes into sparing different guys, which is a lot more mental because he is tired," Rodriguez said, which puts him in a situation where he has to be coherent to defend himself properly.

In addition, Rodriguez works with him by wearing pads and gear as Price attacks him.

"If you are hurting him in a gym he goes and does his job with injuries. You are exposing him and putting more miles on him," he added. "I'm trying to change the way we train a professional MMA. Not abusing him, but pushing him."

Rodriguez said it's about training Price in all martial arts, so they are mixing the various techniques.

For example, they will start with striking, before going into wrestling and jujitsu.

"Then drill those things over and over, so it becomes second nature,"Rodriguez said.

In the best case scenario, Rodri-guez and Price like to have at least 8 weeks to train for a professional fight. Recently Price had a two-week and nine-day notice of fights, which is why training year round is important.

"Niko is a very driven individual and it doesn't take much to push him," Rodriguez said. "He is always in the gym. All the people I train I try to keep them in that same mind set . . . stay in shape and it makes it that much easier to take that call."

With year-round training, when the call comes, they can focus on the style of the specific fighter Price is paired against.

"It's important to be well-rounded and be training in everything and never have a true weakness," Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez, a retired Muay Thai kick boxer of 20 years, began teaching nine years ago. The old art form from Thailand grasped his attention at the age of 18 when he wanted to get involved in some type of martial arts.

"I started reading books about different martial arts. I wanted to try it and one day I walked in a gym and that's all she wrote," he said.

With his passion for teaching others, Rodriguez held a grand opening July 1 for his new gym, Futures MMA, located at 931 Pondella Road, in North Fort Myers.

Rodriguez said he and Price decided to start the gym.

"When we left, a lot of the students came with me," he said of the gym he just left.

For about two months, he and about 20 to 30 of his students trained in such places as parks and other outside spaces before the gym opened. Rodriguez said they would not have opened the gym without their support.

"My goal is to help kids. Single-family homes having problems raising their child, especially the boys," he said.

Rodriguez is in the process of putting together an after school program and summer camp program for the kids.

"I have professional fighters . . . (I want to) try to show them through Niko and the next batch of fighters that you can do anything you put your mind to. You can use the discipline and work ethic you learn from martial arts and apply it to every day life," he said.

The first class of the day begins at 7 a.m. and the final one ends at 9 p.m. There are men, women and kids classes every hour with a break between 12 p.m. and 6 p.m. Kids as young as 5 years old can take classes.

Rodriguez said he mixes everyone together, so individuals will have the opportunity to be on the mat with such professionals as Price.

"It's ideal as far as someone who just wants to do it for conditioning, self-defense purposes, or someone who wants to compete," he said. "If you are not training and mixing everything together, you are going to be left behind. Individually, they are all great, but mix them together and they are better."

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