Radio host Bill Allred wasn't worried about working out with some local mixed martial arts athletes until his trainer told him to show up at the gym with a mouth guard.
"I'm kind of always game to try almost anything," said Allred, who co-hosts the "Radio from Hell Show" each morning on X96. "I was just curious. I did have a little bit of trepidation about it when Zack (Barlow) said, "You'll have to get a mouth piece.' And I said, 'What do you mean? Are you referring to the kind of thing that keeps you from getting your teeth knocked out?' And he said, 'Yeah, you won't really need it, but you'll have to get one."
It was just a casual conversation with Barlow, who is his trainer from Gold's Gym, that prompted Allred to try the unorthodox workout. Over the course of their four months of training, Barlow told Allred he'd once been a competitor in MMA. So Allred was a bit surprised to hear his trainer say he was heading to fight practice one afternoon and asked him about it.
"He said, 'It's a good workout. You ought to come try it out," said Allred.
That suggestion turned into an appointment at a gym in North Salt Lake where Allred worked with Barlow and current MMA star Jake "The Snake" Paul. Paul has been fighting since he was 19 years old and holds three world titles. He tried out for the "Ultimate Fighter" but the cast won't be announced for another month.
"I was worried that I was too fat and too slow," he said. Allred loves cycling but he didn't ride much in 2010, in part because he had plastic surgery to repair "a big cancerous hole in my face."
"Well, that's what I blame it on," he said. "I only biked about 300 miles in all of 2010. I usually bike about 1,000 to 1,500 miles. I've gotten real fat. I don't have as much stamina."
I heard about Bill's endeavor when I was in the studio to deliver my weekly "Title IX Sports" report, which I do each Monday morning. I was intrigued and asked if I could tag along and watch.
I was a little late for the session, so by the time I got there, Bill was soaked in sweat.
He said they did some calisthenics (jumping jacks, etc.) to warm up and then started learning punch combinations.
"You learn these rote combinations," he said. "It's like rehearsing a play. You do these combinations with another person. You both have an understanding about what punches are going to be flying."
For someone like Allred or Barlow, it's good exercise. For someone like Paul, the hope is that the combinations become second nature.
"So when it's not predictable, you'll react automatically because you've practiced all of this stuff."
He said rehearsing the punch combinations was a bit awkward.
"It was really, really hard," he said. "I felt pretty stupid. Those guys are tough guys … But they're not those punks in high school who thought they were tough. They're not bullies. They're really serious and they're really quiet."
They were also pretty good teachers. Paul and Barlow moved Allred through a progression of punches and defensive moves. When I got there, they moved to the ring. The drill was what he should do if he gets knocked on his back and how to defend himself in different situations.
It was interesting to me how precise the moves were and how demanding it was physically.
Allred was drenched in sweat and had to take a couple of breaks to catch his breath.
"It was a really good workout," he said. "It's harder in terms of — you need a lot of stamina to do that."
Bill dabbled in wrestling in high school and said he remembered it being "one of the most difficult things I did. It's just really, really hard. How do you keep your breath and not just collapse? It's so hard and it comes on you so quick."
Allred isn't sure he'll do it again, although he said he'd like to.
"No one's asked me," he said laughing a bit.
Allred and co-host Gina Barberi and producer Richie Steadman are all working with Barlow and Gold's Gym on a new challenge. Starting today, each member of the morning show will compete against the others in a 12-week fitness challenge. They'll be helped (or hurt) by two listeners who applied for spots on one of the three teams.
While Bill, Gina and Richie compete for bragging rights, the listeners on their teams could earn a year membership at the gym.
Allred has a strategy for winning — and it doesn't include more MMA sessions.
"I certainly don't want Gina to beat me," he said. "And I really want to beat Richie because he's in the best shape of all of us. With me being as out of shape as I am … I've got more (weight) to lose. I attribute almost all of it to alcohol … I'm going on the wagon for 12 weeks."
Not only is Bill game for more MMA workouts, he said he'd encourage his children to take up the sport for training purposes.
"It's a total workout," he said. "That's the one thing I noticed. It's muscle and cardio."