MINNEAPOLIS -- Jared Allen is an unabashed mixed martial arts fan, to the point where he incorporated the combat sport into his offseason training regimen and has become friends with numerous professional fighters.
The Vikings All-Pro defensive end will gain even more insight into MMA next week when he works the corner of close friend Alex Karalexis in a WEC event at ARCO Arena in Sacramento, Calif.
Karalexis, a well-known MMA fighter who competed in "The Ultimate Fighter" reality series, has trained Allen the past few summers and is usually the one who barks out instruction and encouragement. Their roles will be reversed when Allen works Karalexis' fight against Anthony Pettis.
"The 'Mullet Militia' will be in full effect," Karalexis said.
Allen, the leader of the Mullet Militia, already knows his strategy as a corner man.
"I'm going to pull out as many lines from 'Karate Kid' as I can," he said. "You know, 'Put him in a body bag, Alex.' That's going to be my line. Really, he'll have his trainers. I'm just there for support."
Karalexis will have his two regular trainers working the fight, but he invited Allen to join them because he knows how much passion he has for the sport.
"Jared has always wanted to do it," said Karalexis, a Boston native. "And with my head trainer, he's pretty much got everything under control. When it comes down to fight time, you're only listening to one voice because there's so much going on. It's kind of like the head coach. We have everything covered. We're going to let Jared sneak in there. He's been so good to me. This is something he wants to do."
Karalexis and Allen have become extremely close after training together the past few years. Allen said last summer that MMA training has made him a better football player because it has enabled him to improve his conditioning, mental focus, hand skills, footwork and flexibility.
"It's really crazy to see how similar what linemen go through and what fighters go through," Karalexis said. "It's hand-to-hand combat in close quarters. Getting your footwork to throw the right punch is almost the same as getting your footwork to get around a tight end or a tackle."
Karalexis and Allen will resume their training once Karalexis recovers from this fight. Karalexis, who has not competed in 14 months while recovering from a broken hand, said he has a new training program he wants to use with Allen this summer.
"I'll have him come down 1/8to Arizona 3/8 and he'll put me through my paces a little bit," Allen said. "As I get older, I'm just trying maintain what I got."
Allen downplayed his actual role in Karalexis' fight, saying he's simply there for support.
"I'm going to let the professionals do their thing," he said. "He needs to go out there and put on a dominating performance, and he will. He knows the stakes are high. He knows he's at a point in his career where every fight is a huge fight."
Karalexis doesn't discount the value of having his friend in his corner, particularly since Allen has performed in pressure situations on big stages.
"What Jared brings to the table with me is how to be disciplined and how to be professional and how to go after what you want," he said. "He can help me with the mental 1/8part 3/8 so just having him in my corner and looking over and seeing him behind me gives me an added strength."
Allen's inner tachometer is always red-lining so it's hard to imagine he will be able to sit quietly. Karalexis' other trainers might have to keep Allen from jumping into the octagon himself.
"He's going to be so excited," Karalexis said. "He will be behind the scenes at the weigh-in, getting the hands taped, going through the warmups and the walk up. I don't care who you are, there's that split second where the music starts, that curtain opens and 19,000 people are going to jump up and scream. That's a real charge man."
Allen experiences a similar feeling every Sunday during the season. He is beginning the necessary but tedious part of the NFL schedule now, his offseason conditioning. He began lifting weights a few weeks ago after his body had healed. Allen said he's also mentally put the painful loss to the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Championship game behind him.
"You can't let it bother you for that long," he said. "New year, new tournament. It's one of those things where you learn from it and hope you can get back there and find yourself in that situation again and end up on the better side of it."