'The Crossover': Blake Griffin Flexes MMA Skills

In Episode 3 of "The Crossover," watch Blake Griffin grapple with MMA star Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone.
"The Crossover With Blake Griffin": MMA © John W. McDonough/Red Bull Content Pool
By Khalil Garriott

We know that Blake Griffin can dunk, shoot, rebound and block. But can he grapple? Can he kick? Can he box? Can he stick and move?

MMA fighter Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone recently got up close and personal with the NBA star and found out those answers. As the UFC’s second-ranked lightweight, Cerrone was able to teach a thing or two to Griffin about his sport.

An intimidating sight: Blake with MMA gloves on © John W. McDonough/Red Bull Content Pool

“The Crossover” is a new Web series featuring Griffin, a forward on the Los Angeles Clippers, trying his hand at different sports and exploring all his training options in order to reach his goals.

Griffin learned new ways to hold his ground as he bangs with the NBA’s biggest players under the basket.

“In basketball, there’s a lot of pushing, grabbing and shoving going on that nobody else sees,” he said. “I thought it was awesome that he [Cerrone] customized his workout towards what’s gonna help me.”

© John W. McDonough/Red Bull Content Pool

Throughout the workout, Griffin found that Cerrone’s success in the octagon starts and ends with hip flexibility and strength.

Cerrone said, “Everything that we do in my sport has to do with your core and your hips. We worked on hand-and-hip coordination.”

The stuff we learned can all translate so well to basketball.

The athletes sweated it out working on jab-hook combinations and proper technique for striking an opponent. Once Griffin put the gloves on, Cerrone knew he was dealing with a powerful athlete.

“Anyone can throw the haymaker, crazy punch, but he was real straight and down the pipe,” the MMA star said. “He’s got talent.”

Griffin learned that in mixed martial arts, fighters like the 6-foot-1 Cerrone need every edge they can get. 

“The interesting thing that he said was you have to use your strengths, and obviously against him, my strength is my height, so using that to my advantage,” Griffin said. “Figuring out what I do better, and exploiting that.”

To wrap up the session, Griffin and Cerrone engaged in some hand-to-hand combat. Grabbing, pushing, pulling — all common moves by NBA big men when jostling for position on the court.

“I was impressed — they were real natural movements for him,” Cerrone said of Griffin. “I never realized how dirty you guys got out there [on the court].”

How will Griffin use what he learned with “Cowboy” this season?

“The stuff we learned can all translate so well to basketball,” he said. “Just learning those quick movements and being precise with the movements and being in control of your opponent — instead of letting him be in control of you.”

On Monday, read a bonus story from Cerrone’s perspective on The Players' Tribune, which is releasing exclusive weekly content featuring the athletes who train with Griffin.

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