"People would turn around and throw up into a bucket because they're so exhausted, and then start training again, and I thought that was the greatest shit ever," enthuses Sick of It All guitarist Pete Koller, recalling the first time he visited then-UFC heavyweight champion Randy Couture's gym. "It was the pro's training time so there wasn't anyone from the outside in there. I was allowed in there. It was everyone you saw on TV."
Mixed martial arts (MMA) have been a very important part of Koller's life ever since he watched the first-ever UFC event in '93. He started training in Brazilian jiu-jitsu the very next week, and went on to train, in the mid '90s, with the famous Gracie family in California. Over the years, he's added Muay Thai and straight boxing to his fighting repertoire, and he's seen fighters return the love that he feels for their art form: Former UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar even has the Sick of It All dragon logo prominently tattooed on his shoulder.
Koller says that his MMA training has served him well not only in the Octagon but also onstage, where the guitarist is known for his high-energy performance. "I could always just stand around like some people do, but the music makes me do what I want to do," Koller explains. "So I have to be in shape to do it."
The guitarist will put his fitness to the test when his band hits the road later this year in support of its new, 10th studio album, The Last Act of Defiance. Despite the title, this is far from Sick of It All's musical epitaph. "It can't be," Koller says, laughing. "This is my life. If it wasn't for metal or hardcore, I wouldn't have anything. This is what makes me want to live. It's my passion. I don't think I could ever stop doing it unless I'm physically unable to do it—which brings us back to training. See what I did there?"