In October of last year, news broke that mixed martial artist Seth Petruzelli would be joining the list of NXT trainers as a striking coach. It seemed like a good hire, but lots of people (myself included) wondered how striking would end up improving the skillset of NXT trainees. Interestingly enough, it’s a question that Petruzelli himself was asking when he was brought on board.
In a new interview with Fox Sports, he reveals that NXT patron saint Triple H was pushing hard for legitimacy and wanted someone from the MMA world to contribute.
“A lot of guys asked about that, too, and that was one of my main concerns. Like, these guys are going to hate me because ‘We don’t need to learn this crap if we’re not doing the same stuff; we’re not really trying to hit the person’,” Petruzelli explained. “But Triple H really wanted them to get a real look at it — MMA is so huge now and people know like, ‘Oh, he dropped his hands’ or ‘Oh, he got caught with a punch’, so they are catching on to the phony stuff. So they really wanted me to teach them the proper footwork, the way to turn your hand over (for a punch), the proper hand and foot combinations, the timing, speed, and about how to keep your hands up to block, how to slip, how to bob and weave. They really wanted the wrestlers to look like they knew what they were doing.”
Petruzelli, arguably best known for being the first man to knock out street fighter Kimbo Slice, also made it clear that prior to being hired by NXT, it had been a while since pro wrestling was in his wheelhouse.
“When I was younger, of course, back in the days of the Ultimate Warrior and the Iron Sheik and all the old school guys. Definitely when I first started doing karate and kickboxing when I was 6 or 7, I was definitely into wrestling,” Petruzelli said. “Once I started getting more into MMA, I didn’t have time to watch it.”
Now that he’s part of the NXT staff, Seth has developed some star pupils that he’s proud to see succeed. Four in particular stand out:
“Two people who just got brought up recently, Baron Corbin, he was one of the great athletes and he actually knew a little bit about jiu-jitsu and boxing, but the more and more he worked and started doing it again, he really enjoyed it. He really stepped it up. Also Apollo Crews, he adapted really well, too. He was a superior athlete but the striking was different for him, so he’s come leaps and bounds from when he first started. He adapted really well,” Petruzelli said. “Another one is Simon Gotch — he actually started training at my gym about a month after I started teaching there and he got way into it. He started doing jiu-jitsu and kickboxing and he got really good at everything. Becky Lynch is another one. She joined the gym and signed up and started doing jiu-jitsu like crazy. She’s really into it as well.”
The whole interview is definitely worth a read. From the looks of it so far, this was a hire that’s now paying dividends.