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MMA Pad Holders Explain Stresses of Job: Let's Hope Francis Ngannou Doesn't Miss

Listen closely, and the sound tells the tale. It’s thunderous.

Thwap. Thwap-boom!

A swirling melody of low notes and high notes, backbeats and off-rhythms that explode through the air like orchestral cannon fire.

Thwap. Thwap-boom! Thwap, boom-BOOM!

Francis Ngannou pauses to reset, letting the tremors from his right hand settle. Watch any pad session between the UFC heavyweight champion and coach Eric Nicksick, and the soundtrack the two produce is the most jarring part. The harmonies of 100 miniature car crashes colliding with effortless precision. It’s enough to make your palms sweaty.

In the summer of 2020, nine months before Ngannou dusted Stipe Miocic to seize the crown as the most dangerous unarmed combatant alive, Nicksick gave the world a taste of his average Mondays when he posted a point-of-view clip of the soon-to-be-king charging at him lobbing haymakers from every angle. “I hope you get hazard pay,” joked one fan on Instagram. The rest of us normal folk mostly marveled in dumbfounded awe. Even on a routine afternoon, the life of the Xtreme Couture head man is clearly not for the faint of heart.

Like most coaches in MMA, Nicksick juggles many hats. But the role he first assumed during his early days in the gym is one he still wears with pride: That of a padman.

It’s not exactly glamorous work, sacrificing one’s body day after day at the altar of the world’s deadliest athletes. But after more than a decade on the job, Nicksick has stories.

Oh, does he have stories.


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