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Hyperice CEO Jim Huether talks recovery in MMA, partnership with UFC and Amanda Nunes

How do fighters recover from frequent training sessions and brutal bouts to fight several times a year for multiple decades? Hyperice CEO Jim Heuther talks developments in recovery technology and partnering with UFC.

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Each weekend, about two dozen UFC fighters meet inside the Octagon. Whether those bouts are contested in UFC’s APEX gym in Las Vegas, Nevada, or the quarantined “Fight Island” in Abu Dhabi, a majority of contests see both athletes battered and bruised by the end of the night.

That’s only the damage visible to the public eye. To make it to the cage in fighting shape, combatants typically go through six-to-eight week training camps, putting in multiple training sessions per day while often at a calorie deficit. That’s a recipe for injury, one of the most frustrating aspects of the sport for fighters and fans alike.

Fortunately, UFC is working on minimizing these struggles. Last month, UFC named Hyperice its “Official Recovery Technology Partner,” combining the company’s technological developments with the UFC Performance Institute (UFC PI) team of medical experts.

I spoke to Hyperice CEO, Jim Huether, about this partnership, Hyperice’s first UFC fighting brand ambassador (Amanda Nunes), and the overall developments in recovery technology.

Origins Of Hyperice’s UFC Partnership

“We’ve had a lot of fighters use our product for four-to-five years now, just authentically, like Daniel Cormier, Amanda Nunes, Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje, among others. We have a unique relationship with the athletes. A lot of the guys and girls who have been around for a long time take pride in preparing their bodies and creating advantages for longevity and performances.

“We had those relationships, and then we also had a relationship with Dr. Duncan French, who runs the [UFC] Performance Institute. We had done work with him, providing products for fighters, discussing potential research studies around how our products could elevate performance and recovery. We saw eye-to-eye on how important technology was to elevate health and longevity for fighters.

“From there, we got in conversations with UFC.”

On Recovery And Success

“The ones who really care about recovery and longevity, a lot are champions who have been in the game for a long time. There is a direct correlation the athletes who take the time to care about their bodies and prioritize health and wellness ...

“We talk a lot about the career arc. If you’re fighting for 10 years, the amount of revenue you can create vs. the guy who comes in and is often injured and is out of the game quickly. Fighters are getting a lot smarter about how important it is [to recover] so that they can compete at the highest levels for the longest periods of time. That new mentality has resonated not only through MMA but other sports. It’s been an emerging trend over the last five years.”

Why Do Fighters Seek Unusual Recovery Methods Like Cupping?

“Because MMA is a newer sport ... over the last 10 years, the level of differentiation between fighters, the gap has narrowed. The top-tier fighters, there’s not as a big of a difference between the champion and number one or two contenders. Everybody is getting multi-dimensional, everybody is learning all elements to be effective ...

SWIMMING-OLY-2016-RIO Photo credit should read MARTIN BUREAU/AFP via Getty Images

“It’s the same thing here on health technology. People are looking for competitive advantages. What can I do to make my body feel better, faster that’s ethical? You want to find ways to get yourself in a position to perform at the highest levels. With the emergence of technology ... there’s new ways to elevate and speed up those recovery processes. Because the level of differentiation is so small, any competitive advantage — even small — can really elevate you, making the difference between a fighter being in the top 10 versus champion or No. 1 contender.

“Fighters now are willing to try a lot of different things ... One of the big benefits of our technology is increased of range of motion and flexibility, which is huge. They’re looking at this as a way to increase movement, which makes them more malleable and gives them new opportunities to excel in a competitive environment.”

Massager Vs. Masseuse?

“I think they’re complementary — both are extremely valuable. Therapists and massage therapists are actually using our technology — the Hypervolt for example — to elevate their specialization. Let’s say you’re not a deep tissue therapist, now you can be ... we don’t think of ourselves as a substitute for a massage therapist. It’s quite the opposite. We’re arming the physical therapist with tools and technology so that they can be more effective.

“They’re starting to uncover new modalities and methodology with percussion technology, vibration technology, pneumatic compression, and thermal technology that have never been done before. That’s what’s so exciting about what we’re doing with UFC Performance Institute: we’re testing new things, combinations of physical therapists with tools and technologies, trying to find outcomes that can be extremely effective for fighters.”

Recovery Rooms

“We’re building recovery rooms inside the PI, both in Shanghai and Las Vegas. In the state of the art facility, we’re building a whole section, so people have accessibility to our tools and technology. We’re also going to be doing new studies, protocols, and programing, combining movement patterns, our technologies, and different scientific regiments so that we can see, ‘this is most effective for warm-ups, this is most effective for recovery, this is really helping athletes with body maintenance.’

UFC Shanghai Combine Photo by Yifan Ding/Getty Images for UFC

“Combining stretching, mobility protocols with cold and compression therapy with Dr. French and his team’s leadership — we think we’re going to uncover really new and exciting programming for UFC fighters ... They [UFC PI] are willing to invest, and we’re willing to invest as much as humanly possible to try to find new modalities and methods that can help fighters.”

Relationship With ‘The Lioness’

“[Amanda Nunes] and Nina [Ansaroff] both have used our products for two or three years. They’ve used the Hypervolt, used the Vyper. I met her for the first time at UFC Gym event a couple years ago, but they both organically used our product. First time we talked to her about doing something more formal, she was really excited. Not only to be an ambassador for what we’re doing but also to extend our message globally. She was really passionate about stuff we could do in Brazil. We talked about doing a recovery room in Brazil, and I think what’s interesting about her outside of being champion is she’s very multi-cultural and very connected to [Brazil], so we’re going to do some really cool things on the international side ...

“All these athletes that are champions, they care about their bodies, they take care of their bodies. She’s obviously in her prime right now and wants to fight for many more years. It’s a lot of athlete’s secret weapon.”

Hyper Smart Technology

“Our new connected tech ecosystem ... actually pulls date from your wearables and prescribes you customized body maintenance and warm up routines based on your activity. We’re going to do something really creative with UFC and Amanda that’s specific to fighters, where we’re going to be able to pull activity from your Apple Watch and have specific routines coming from Dr. French to help with mobility and recovery.

“We’re getting into this artificial intelligence connected ecosystem, and UFC is going to be a big part of that, along with Amanda.”

Universal Wellness

“We just announced yesterday that Patrick Mahomes is part of the Hyperice company. He’s a now brand ambassador. We announced our partnership with NBA about a month ago. So now, you have some of the top athletes in every sport ... all part of Hyperice because they all believe in the message ... it’s great that UFC is taking such a proactive approach and being forward thinking, getting ahead of the game to provide tools and technology to provide health, wellness and performance.

“[Recovery] is the one like ... you can be a UFC athlete, track-and-field, NBA player, NFL — everybody recovers the same for the most part. That commonality is really important for us, and it’s why we have different athletes and partnerships with different sports.”

Coming soon: UFC women’s Bantamweight and Featherweight “double champ,” Amanda Nunes, talks exclusively with about re-surging title contenders, recovery, motherhood and more.

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