Interview with Hywel Teague: Editor of Fighters Only and the Original Part Time Grappler - Part One

"Hywel Teague is the editor of Fighters Only, the UK’s leading MMA and lifestyle magazine. He has been actively involved in the MMA scene since 2002, rapidly establishing himself as one of the industry’s leading reporters. He assumed the position of editor of Fighters Only in 2005 after working with them as a freelance reporter since their inception."

The above text (and pics) is copied from the "About Me" tab from Hywel's blog "Notes from The Ringside" which is sadly no longer active due to work and life commitments.

That's not how I was introduced to Hywel.

The first time I stepped on the mat at the old SBG-UK location on Spear Street about 5 years ago, Hywel was one of the BJJ blue belts then. I remember looking at him doing his usual 12-Knee-on-Belly-transitions-in-3-seconds and thinking: "Yeaaaaah, I'll never be able to pull that shit off!" Anyone who's ever rolled with him will tell you that he's very hard to get hold of. Dude's slippery and can never be accused of low work ethics on the BJJ / Grappling mats.

That same night after the session, as I was leaving the gym, Hywel was walking out as well. I asked the question every beginner asks:

"How long have you been doing this?"

Of course, I have forgotten the answer since but I'll never forget his follow up questions:

"So, I heard you're Swedish. What brings you to this country?"

Now you have to understand that Spear Street is your typical dark alley and Hywel, who is a much more physically fit and better fighter than I'll ever be, standing there across from me with a shaved head & tattoos asking me why I was in this country could've made a lesser man nervous.

But I knew what he meant. Hywel is a curious man. A journalist by heart. He is curious about life and living, something which will become very apparent in the interview. He simply wanted to know.

That was my introduction to Hywel Teague. Someone I'm proud to call a friend and it is my absolute pleasure to give you this interview (in two parts):

Why don't we start by you telling us a little about yourself?

I’m just an average guy, really – a true part-time grappler. I’m a recreational jiu-jitsu player, nothing special. I consider myself ‘just’ a club purple belt. I’m lucky though that I work full-time within the combat sports industry.

Are you currently working / studying? Is that Full time / Part time?

I am the editor of Fighters Only, which is the world’s leading MMA and lifestyle magazine. It’s a very, very full time position. In an average week I’ll work anywhere between 40-60 hours a week – 10 hour days are the norm, with a couple more hours of work at night for good measure.

You also set aside time to practice a sport. Which sport(s)?

I’ve had a go at all of the various styles that make up MMA – BJJ, submission grappling, judo, wrestling, boxing, Muay Thai, and of course I did MMA itself. Now, due to injuries, I focus exclusively on BJJ and submission grappling.

How long have you done that?

I first stepped on the mat in 2002. That makes eight years of semi-consistent training. The longest (enforced) break I’ve had in that time is about two months.

Do you follow any special diet? Do you use any Dietary Supplements?

Is Ben & Jerry’s considered a supplement? ;)

Diet wasn’t something I really understood until possibly last year. I had always eaten healthily compared to your average Joe – plenty of fluids, fruit and veg, limited refined carbs, limited sugars, moderate alcohol– but my diet was lacking for someone involved in consistent physical activity.

My current diet is loosely based on the Paleo or ‘caveman’ diet. No bread or pasta or starchy carbs – basically loads of fruit and vegetables and good quality sources of protein (such as salmon, turkey and beef). I’d say about 70% of my meals are Paleo, but I’m not anal about it. One thing I know though is that my energy levels, mood and performance are all directly as a result of what I put in my body. The better I eat, the better I feel.

I do use supplements, although not excessively. I try to get the good quality calories and nutrients from my diet, but sports supplements can be quite useful depending on your goals. I take Omega 3 fish oil daily, and ZMA most nights (but mostly after hard training).

I’m fortunate in my position with the magazine that I’ve been able to sample most of the major supplements companies here in the UK. As such, through personal experience I’ve found the following to be very, very useful and reliable.

My Protein Recover XS: I believe a good quality recovery shake is extremely important after training. Unlike a lot of propaganda surrounding supplements, the science supporting post-workout nutrition is there to see. I’ve tried a few and along with CNP’s pro-recover, find this to be the best.

Sci-MX protein flapjacks: Because once in a while we all crave sugar, and these bad boys are the best-tasting protein flapjacks I’ve ever had.

Maximuscle Cyclone: If you’re going through a strength-training cycle, this is gold. I used this last year and the gains were evident within about a fortnight. It’s got creatine in it so maybe it’s not suited for everyone, but if you’re not worried about putting a few kgs on then it’s great.

How do you manage to fit your training around work, study and family time?

It’s tough – really tough – and it’s become increasingly so over the last year or two. I think as people reach a certain stage in their life and careers, their level of responsibility and workload increases substantially, and this means that the work-life balance can tip toward work rather than life.

I had to make some tough choices, although these were also necessitated by my current state of health (I have recently been diagnosed with bulging discs in my neck). I’ve scaled back my grappling to one session a week until I’ve recovered enough to the point where my body can handle more frequent training. To compensate, I’ve upped the level of physical conditioning I do – namely Crossfit – which helps keep me fit and active and also aids my performance on the mat. Crossfit’s emphasis on short, intense workouts means I don’t have to spend hours in the gym and can easily fit them in around work. The intense, competitive nature of their approach also fills the big, gaping void BJJ has left.

When it comes to ‘special time’ with my partner, we’re lucky in that we both practice BJJ, and though we’re based in different clubs, we’re able to train together once every couple of weeks – it’s like a mat date!

Do you compete in your sport(s)? Have you won any competitions?

I competed in BJJ, judo and submission wrestling, and fought MMA in both ring and cage. I probably lost or drew more than I won, but I was never really bothered about performance – I knew my limitations and had realistic expectations. That was a long time ago though – now I’m just a recreational (as opposed to competitive) athlete.

I think competition is very, very useful though, even if you haven’t got a desire to be a hardcore competitor. Everyone can benefit from doing one or two – it makes what we do ‘real’. You may only compete as a white or blue belt, but I think once you do it serves you well for the rest of your ‘career’ on the mat. It’s like running – loads of people can go out for a nice jog, but I bet everyone has had at least one race in their life, even if it was only as a kid. Why should BJJ be any different? There are many jits guy who turn up to the gym for their ‘jog’, but some of them will never have had a race, and I think that’s kind of missing the point. You should definitely do at least one – even if you lose, you can learn something from it, and you will never be left thinking “what if?”.

(Stay tuned my friends - Part Two to be published very soon)

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graham cooke said...

Hywel is someone i've always admired, really like his writing and his blog was awesome.

Rolled with him YEARS ago at Darrin Richardson's sambo gym and he calf crushed me into oblivion.

Great interview so far looking forward to part 2!

The Part Time Grappler said...

Many thanks Graham. Yep...Hywel is defo a character. In part two he talks a lot about motivation and time management and gives some really great tips.

Welcome to the blog bro.

Meerkatsu said...

Great stuff Liam, Hywel's interview is really interesting. Love the jogging/running analogy. I bought FO for the first time this month and I really enjoyed reading the whole mag - even though I know nothing about MMA. Just goes to show, good journalism, with good feature writing and photography can make anything accessible, informative and enjoyable to read. Well done all.

The Part Time Grappler said...

Thank you Meerkatsu. It takes a good eye to spot a good magazine :)

I'm just like you with hardly any interest in MMA but I still love the magazine.

There always needs to be a balance between Professional athlete coverage and information for the amateur recreational hobbyist-the Part Time Grapplers. Fighter International (the Swedish magazine) is tipped more towards the latter while FO is more in the middle. Hywel (and his crew of course) work harder than Chinese algebra!

Georgette said...

Really nicely done. Ever since I read that bashing-blogs post of his from long ago, I wanted to know more about him. (No hard feelings of course!)

The Part Time Grappler said...

Many thanks Georgette!

If you liked this you'll love the 2nd half :)

Meerkatsu said...

Oh and you're quite right, splitting large posts into two or more parts defo works better in many cases. It's something I am now conscious of. And makes for a tantalising wait for the next parts LOL!
I'm gonna post something about this on the GOBB site and make sur eI credit you as my source for this!

The Part Time Grappler said...

You know?! We're all part time grapplers. We read blogs and online material while working, studying, checking emails...etc. It needs to be small enough to be read comfortably around all this, but of course big enough to satisfy the reader.

I can't take credit for the tantalising wait tho. It's only tantalising coz the people I interview are interesting and give insightful answers :)