From the court to the mat: Pistons players bond through MMA training

Raj Mehta / USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Pistons have a well-documented history of being, shall we say, "physical."

Although the "Bad Boys" era is a distant memory for many, current Pistons players hope to channel their inner Rodman or Laimbeer - not to reenact the "Malice at the Palace," but to adopt a tough and gritty approach to their offseason training.

Pistons president and head coach Stan Van Gundy, who was concerned about his players' health, approved their request to work out MMA-style at the UFC's Las Vegas facility.

Center Andre Drummond and point guard Reggie Jackson initially submitted the request, and with the help of team equipment manager John "Kong" Coumoundouros, the players were able to secure gym time in Nevada.

The objective of this out-of-the-box training program is twofold: to provide a different type of athletic discipline during the offseason and to bring players new and old closer together.

"I've never done MMA before," rookie Darrun Hillard said. "I've watched it and I thought those dudes were crazy. How do you put your body through that? It's probably different because you're using different muscles and the intensity is different. I'm all for using different things to stay in shape."

Second-year guard Spencer Dinwiddie also sees the value in building camaraderie.

"I think the main thing is cohesion because obviously they are not going to allow us to fight MMA fighters. It will be more about training and team bonding," Dinwiddie said.

The partnership between the Pistons and the UFC was mutually beneficial.

The agreement involved sending a handful of MMA fighters to Auburn Hills, where they experienced the rigors of basketball drills. Led by former light heavyweight champion Forrest Griffin, Stipe Miocic, Jessica Eye, Aljamain Sterling, Ryan LaFlare, and Kevin Lee spent four days in Detroit working out with the Pistons' training staff.

With nearly the full roster in attendance - forward Ersan Ilyasova was excused due to Turkish national team obligations - the Pistons showed solidarity this summer.

Such a display of unity bodes well for this team, which aims to tap its opponents out next season en route to its first playoff appearance since the 2008-09 campaign.

From the court to the mat: Pistons players bond through MMA training
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