Cushing gets new edge from MMA training

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Brian Cushing has brought his training – and his trademark intensity – to a new level this offseason.

While taking classes at USC in Los Angeles, the 2009 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year has been training in mixed martial arts with FOX NFL's Jay Glazer, an MMA enthusiast, and UFC fighters including Randy Couture and Karo Parisyan.

"We do everything from Muay Thai to judo training and jujitsu to wrestling and boxing," Cushing said. "I think it's really helped my flexibility and just my overall athleticism. I've become a lot more flexible and I've become a lot more conditioned."

At Reliant Stadium on Monday for the start of the Texans' offseason program, Cushing said that the cardiovascular-heavy MMA workouts have helped him return to good health. The 6-3, 262-pound linebacker sat out of the Pro Bowl in January because of a litany of injuries – shoulder, knee, ribs, finger, foot – that he played through as a rookie.

On Thursday, Cushing will fly back to Los Angeles to return to school, where he'll graduate with a sociology degree in May. He'll also resume his grueling MMA training schedule: four days a week, an hour-and-a-half each day.

{QUOTE}"It's intense," Cushing said. "It is the quickest hour-and-a-half of my life. You're doing one thing before another and have 30-second breaks with water, and that's it. You're boxing, you're kicking, you're punching, you're wrestling. You're doing everything with guys that do it for a living, so you have to bring your best every single day."

The training is more than an endeavor into the extreme – Cushing hopes it will directly correlate to increased on-field success.

In recent years, NFL stars including defensive end Jared Allen of the Minnesota Vikings and linebacker Patrick Willis of the San Francisco 49ers have done similar offseason MMA training with Glazer, looking to take their already-elite games to another level.

"The NFL is a lot of technique and a lot of one-on-one kind of combat," Cushing said. "I think that when you get the proper technique and the right hand placements and leverage and those kinds of things, it can only help you more."

Last season, Cushing led the Texans and ranked second in the AFC with 133 tackles. He had five sacks, four interceptions and a safety, and his smash-mouth intensity gave an edge to the Texans' defense that had long been missing.

The MMA training – Cushing even grappled with UFC legend Chuck Liddell for a few rounds in early March – has given a new edge to Cushing.

"I think it pushes you past your breaking point," he said. "Whatever you think your breaking point is, I've topped it. And now knowing that, I feel like I'm a lot more mentally tough and I have a lot more physical capabilities, and I'm looking forward to seeing how far I can push it this year."

It's safe to say that's music to the Texans' ears.

Follow Nick Scurfield on Twitter at *twitter.com/NickScurfield or find him on the "I'm A Texan Club" at imatexan.com/profiles/Nick_Scurf/.*

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