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  • Writer's picturePretty Top Team

Pretty Spotlight: Introducing Muay Thai and Boxing Coach At Pretty Top Team Jono!

Meet Jono, an esteemed Muay Thai and boxing coach at Pretty Top Team in Cairns, Queensland.

[The Pretty Process has] become so well refined and gotten more structured and more efficient, and if you look at the build a fighter program, we're seeing people go from never having stepped foot in a fight gym in their lives to not just having their first fights within 14 weeks!
Jono Muay Thai and Boxing coach At Pretty Top Team


Having participated in a few fights, Jono has transitioned his passion for the sports into coaching, where he excels in nurturing and developing new talent. His dedication and expertise make him a valued mentor, inspiring athletes to reach their full potential in the ring.

- Can you tell us a bit about your journey in boxing and Muay Thai? How did you end up coaching at Pretty Top Team?

My journey actually began with BJJ, but after spending a bit of time there I figured I should at least have a basic understanding of how to look after myself on the feet, so I jumped across to try a Muay Thai class with Paul and have never looked back. I've been training consistently for over 5 years now. I went from doing the first ever round of beginners classes, to then training in the fitness classes, then into the fight team where I then went on to fight under Paul. 

Being in the fight team at that time, it was really important that we all learnt to be great training partners not just to help each other develop and get ready for fights, but also to help bring through newer prospects into our team and help them out to bring them up to speed. Moving into a more dedicated coaching role was really just the natural progression of things from there.

   - What’s your approach to coaching? How do you adapt your training methods for people with different skill levels?

I try to approach everything from a very technical viewpoint. I've played a lot of sports growing up so while I've always been relatively coordinated. I've never really had any freakish athletic gifts - I was never naturally very quick or explosive or strong compared to everyone else (and I don't know if I've ever met someone who is less flexible than me) - but I think I have a pretty good mind for fighting and have had to really rely on that to be able to set things up instead. All of my development has really come from being shown the ins and outs of not just how to do things and all of the technical details of skills we learn, but also why they work and when to apply them.

Fighters with high fight IQs that don't rely on their physicality have always been my favourite to watch and I try to emulate as well. I try to coach along those same lines too with a big focus on the fundamentals and things that keep you safe in the ring which is crucial at any level, from absolute beginner to the top of the sport. I think people get far more out of every session and progress substantially faster if they also understand why they're doing something, when it's useful and when it's not. You can never be too good at the basics, and once you've got them locked down, the more that you'll understand how and when to then bend some fundamental rules and open up more opportunities. 

   - How do you find teaching “the pretty process” helps foster new Muay Thai talent? 

It makes things substantially easier for newcomers. We're always improving and we get better with every Build A Fighter challenge and every rotation of our beginners classes, and the rate of improvement is really impressive every single time. Because I've been around for so long, I know first hand just how far our systems have come and how much more structured the pathway is. When I first started training, it took me about 6 months before I was at a point where I felt comfortable enough in my skills to start showing up to sparring consistently, and a lot longer to actually feel like I was getting somewhere with it. Since then all of our systems have become so well refined and gotten more structured and more efficient, and if you look at the build a fighter program, we're seeing people go from never having stepped foot in a fight gym in their lives to not just having their first fights within 14 weeks. But also fighting at a substantially higher standard than I was at the same time period in my own development. Everything is really well mapped out now. 

   - Boxing and Muay Thai have their own unique techniques. How do you blend the training for both sports for your students?

There are a lot of differences between the two sports but there's also a huge amount of crossover between both, and while each might look totally different from the other, conceptually a lot of things are the same. There's plenty from each sport - and even from other, completely unrelated non-combat sports - that you can take and apply to whatever you're learning. As long as you can make sense of how they relate to what you're trying to achieve and how to tweak things where needed to fit your chosen sport.

I do think there's a huge benefit in particular with learning to box to supplement your Muay Thai. There are definitely a number of things that boxers typically do far better (and vice versa), having great hands and great footwork on top of everything else you learn as a Thai boxer is a massive advantage, especially when you come up against people who don't train in both disciplines. The key is being able to pick which parts of each sport work well for the other, adjusting and applying those things, and discarding the rest of what you don't need.

   - How do you help your fighters get mentally ready for a fight? What do you do to boost their confidence and focus?

Confidence comes from putting in the work in the gym. Like with everything in our gym, structure is key, so before we start any fight camp, I have a plan mapped out for what we need to cover technically, where everyone is at and what needs to be done with cardio & conditioning, and how much we need to pressure test certain elements.

By the time fight week rolls around everyone has already been through the hard yards, faced adversity and put all of the work in. This means nobody should be doubting if they've done enough or if they're ready and all that's left to do is get in the ring and have some fun. We also make a big point in the gym around the mental side of things. There will always be an emotional rollercoaster and lots of nerves in the lead up to a fight which is completely natural regardless of how confident you are, and it would be abnormal not to have those feelings. We always try to make sure everyone stays as open as possible about how they're feeling through the course of a fight camp so that we can help navigate that with them as coaches, and also rely on our other fighters who are going through the same experiences to help each other out. Fighting can be a very individual thing a lot of the time but it's crucial to have a good team behind you to help you out and back you as well. 

- What are some common challenges you face as a coach, and how do you deal with them to keep your fighters improving?

Because we have so many genuinely lovely people at our gym, probably the most common one is initially getting people comfortable with actually punching other people in the face! Especially by the time we've developed enough of the fundamentals and people are at the stage where they're ready to start sparring, then they come up against their training partners who they've built great bonds and friendships with already, trying to get them to then go and do things that can hurt their friends can be a big block initially. 

There are questions we always ask our members that help us as coaches to understand what motivates them individually and what their natural tendencies in a fight setting might be. Their answers help us to get to know them better which will then dictate how to get the best out of them. For example, Fighter A might respond better to more competitive, statistical cues, making less about the violent aspects of the sport and more about numbers, whereas Fighter B may respond better to cues that are more "fight" based or emotional to get them fired up. Everyone's approach and motivation towards fighting is different so the goal as a coach is to understand what makes each fighter tick and try to tailor the training and coaching methods around what they each respond best to. 

 - How would you describe the vibe and culture at Pretty Top Team? What do you do to create a positive atmosphere?

It's a very open, friendly, community based gym. Probably the complete opposite of what you'd imagine a stereotypical fight gym to be if you'd never stepped foot in a fight gym before. Everyone is really welcoming, there are no big egos, and all of the more experienced fighters are always around to get stuck in and help out with everything all the way down to the beginners classes, so there's no divide between people on their first day and people who have been around for ages, fight professionally and have championship belts on the wall or anything in between. Because of the culture we have established in the gym I think we tend to just attract like-minded people which makes it easy to keep that same energy all the way through the gym and keep the community growing. No real secret to it, just a really genuine group of people who are all here to better themselves and want to help those around them too.  

 - Can you share a success story of a student you’ve trained at Pretty Top Team? Tell us about their journey and what they’ve achieved.

It's massively rewarding as a coach every single time someone crosses the ropes. Having been around the gym for quite a while now, it's been pretty special to have been able to train with people from the absolute beginning of their journeys, sometimes from their very first time ever entering a fight gym, to watch them then going on to win titles. Success is very subjective to each individual and what their goals are though and not everyone's goal is to make a career out of fighting, so it's also just as special to get to know everyone over the course of their development and see all of the personal challenges they overcome along the way.

I've been so proud to corner every single fighter that I've been fortunate enough to coach. Fighting and training consistently has had such a positive impact on my life, and as much as I obviously love to celebrate wins with my fighters, the results of the fights themselves are always secondary to everything else that comes with the fight experience. Getting to see people push past barriers, achieve things they didn't think they were able to, and generally just develop into stronger and more resilient people always has a much bigger and longer lasting effect. I've had so many people that I've been able to share my love for the sport with across many fight shows and have gotten to see them reap the same benefits from the sport that I have. Without wanting to sound like a cop out answer, I genuinely couldn't possibly single any one person out specifically - I'm very grateful to have been a part of the journey of every single person I've worked with and all of them have achieved great things in their own right. 

 - What are your future goals for Pretty Top Team? How do you plan to keep growing the gym and helping your fighters succeed?

Just to keep building, keep helping people along their fight journeys, and to continue to grow the combat sports community in the Far North and beyond. We've seen huge amounts of growth over the last couple of years and always have big plans in place, so long may it continue. All of the framework is there, the community is amazing, and we have more and more people on trajectories to achieve huge things. Watch this space! 


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