My name is Nabih Barakat, Inventor and Co-founder of Calf Guard. I am a lifetime martial artist, personal trainer, coach and former Professional Muay Thai and MMA fighter. From 2007-2012, I competed under the Serra-Longo banner, training under the world-renowned striking coach Ray Longo and former UFC welterweight Champion, Matt Serra. After retiring in 2012, I transitioned to full-time MMA coaching and personal training out of Long Island, New York.
In 2009, a decision loss broke my 3-fight win streak at Lou Neglia’s Ring of Combat in Atlantic City, New Jersey. I was offered a comeback fight with Brazil’s multiple time Muay Thai World Champion, Edson Barboza. Being that Barboza was still early in his MMA career, I believed my grappling skills put me at an advantage, so I accepted the challenge. Unfortunately, my game plan of an early takedown did not pan out. I was knocked out in the first round, but it was the series of low kicks that came prior to the knockout that completely weakened me. Like many professional fighters, I’ve experienced triumph and loss but this loss in February 2010, would inevitably change my life, my perspective on fighting and ultimately lead me to develop Calf Guard.
In preparation for this fight, I had trained with regional high-level strikers, never anticipating kicks would lead to me being knocked out. Never in all of my years of training did I experience or even imagine of being kicked so hard. It literally felt like he was smashing my leg with a baseball bat. After suffering this loss, I went into a deep depression. Dealing with a concussion along with the thoughts of underperforming and letting my supporters down put me down a dark path. This became the lowest point in my life. Ten days after suffering this loss I had gained 45lbs, that’s when I put my running sneakers on and never looked back. Determined to correct my mistakes after fight night, I became obsessed with low kicks. I would spend 1-2 days a week in the gym throwing 1,000 low kicks. It became my weapon of choice and something I heavily implemented when I eventually transitioned to coaching.
Almost a decade later, a new low kick became a trend in the MMA world, completely changing the game. It was no longer the traditional Muay Thai low kick chopping down above the knee, but instead a modified low kick aiming for the calf. The calf kick is found to be more effective in MMA compared to the traditional thigh kick. By kicking the smaller calf muscle, it makes it almost impossible to condition for. It also targets the fibular nerve which causes foot drop. The calf kick can also be utilized from a longer range, making it harder to counter with boxing, and the lower target prevents your opponent from catching it.
Former lightweight Champion, Benson Henderson introduced this kick to the UFC in 2014, but there is evidence of Ricardo Arona and Luis Palamino utilizing this technique in MMA organizations as early as 2006.
Most people associate this kick with the high-profile fight between Connor McGregor and Dustin Poirer. Poirier immobilized McGregor with calf kicks early on in the fight which lead to his TKO stoppage in the 2nd round. McGregor left that arena on a Saturday night on crutches, and by Monday morning every MMA gym in the world was practicing calf kicks.
Though there’s evidence of this technique being used years ago, this famous fight was instrumental in reinforcing the importance of the calf kick and how detrimental it can be to a fighter. Almost every piece of protective equipment has been developed so coaches can train their students as moving targets with pad work for fight simulation. Mitts, Thai pads, belly pads, body protectors and leg shields are specifically designed for this training, except the calf. The loss I suffered in 2010, the obsession I developed with low kicks along with the more recent need to incorporate calf kicks in training ultimately lead me to develop Calf Guard.
The calf kick has not only become a strategic move, but an essential one, with Calf Guard being the only product available to support this level of training.