I began transitioning from just teaching traditional martial arts to training people to fight in 1995. There was an extended period of time when we had over 20 active fighters and were attending fight events almost every weekend. I trained more than 16 national sanshou champions, three world sanshou champions, a US champion in Muay Thai, regional champions in both kickboxing and Muay Thai, finalists in Golden Gloves amateur boxing, an amateur MMA champion and even guys who medaled in grappling events.
Training fighters is a thankless job. Anyone who has ever done it will agree instantly. It’s the nature of the beast. A certain kind of person is and/or becomes a fighter. To be a fighter you have to be stubborn, you have to believe you are the best, you have to think you know better, etc etc etc. All these things mean they inevitably clash with what a coach is supposed to do. The coach HAS to be the poplar opposite of what the fighter is. Otherwise you have YANG without any YIN… you have no balance.
The paradox is, the more successful the fighter becomes, the more those opposing roles conflict. In the professional fight world, whether it’s boxing, kickboxing, Muay Thai, MMA, etc how often have you seen fighters change coaches and/or camps? Sometimes for the better, sometimes without significant changes, but many times actually for the worse. What the coach sees as managing the fighter (and knowing the fighter’s weaknesses as well as strengths), the fighter sees as holding him back, not giving him credit, disrespect etc.
The nature of things; the fighter is always the young person. They want instant gratification. They want titles and belts. They think they should have piles of sponsors and should be making a lot of money. The coach is older and like most people who have been around the block, they see the bigger picture. Titles don’t always mean much (most of the time they mean nothing), sponsors come with hard work and after you’ve been in the game a long time, money isn’t in great supply in combat sports. Face it, you may love Muay Thai, but in the US there is NO MONEY IN IT. Do MMA if you want money, and be prepared to work your butt off at self promotion.
Today, I focus a LOT less on fighters. There are a lot of reasons for that, but certainly two major reasons are that I can make a much better living with a lot less hassle in other ways AND I live a lot better not playing psychiatrist, nursemaid, mother, and confessor to one of the most difficult demographics on the planet.
In fact, there have been days I have said I’ll drop the whole thing and never do it again. But that’s just wishful thinking. I still see the larger picture. I still understand that these kids may be difficult, but there are reasons why they are. I still get that pump when I train them. I still have that thrill when they fight. There is nothing worse than the fight game, and nothing BETTER. And, just keep this between us, deep down inside I was also once a fighter (not a great one mind you, a really C class amateur) also….
NOW GO TRAIN