As a trainer, Shawn Tompkins never should have succeeded.
By the time Tompkins began to really succeed in MMA as a trainer, the sport had moved past the point of single discipline fighters. Fighters now needed to be well rounded, trained equally in the many aspects of fighting that make up Mixed Martial Arts. Tompkins created a training system that flew in the face of this idea. Team Tompkins would build up MMA fighters, but they would be fighters with a strong focus on just one aspect of the game - striking. Tompkins put a heavy emphasis on K-1 style kickboxing, and how to best use that kickboxing inside the MMA cage, giving his fighters a consistent advantage in this particular phase of combat. And, despite the idea of the modern, all around MMA fighter, it worked.
Last weekend, Shawn Tompkins, the acclaimed MMA trainer, died unexpectedly at the age of 37. Sam Stout, a trainee and brother-in-law to Tompkins (Tompkins was married to Stout's sister), told the London Free Press that Tompkins died of a heart attack.
"I don't know what to say," Stout says. "It's not supposed to be happen to a healthy 37-year-old person. Who would think he had to get checked out for that?"
Tompkins began his career as a trainer nearly 20 years ago, opening his first gym at the age of only 18. He quickly created the idea of Team Tompkins, dedicated to training MMA and kickboxing in his native Canada. One of the important aspects of the Tompkins philosophy was always to find new, young talent; he was much more interested in building a fighter up from the very earliest stages of his career than working with the big, established names. Some of those young fighters he cultivated include Sam Stout, Mark Hominick, and Chris Horodecki. Many of these fighters remained fiercely loyal to Tompkins, and always spoke extremely highly of him as a trainer and friend. Stout, Hominick, and Horodecki would go on to found Adrenaline Training Center in Canada, describing the gym as "a continuation of the world famous Team Tompkins originated by head trainer and founder Shawn Tompkins."
In early 2007, Tompkins joined the IFL, taking over as head coach of the Los Angeles Anacondas for his friend Bas Rutten. Later in 2007, Tompkins moved his team to Las Vegas to partner with Randy Couture at the new Xtreme Couture gym. There, Tompkins was the chief striking coach to the dozens of elite fighters that either trained full time at Xtreme Couture, or simply stopped in. Some of his protegees at that time included Vitor Belfort, Ray Sefo, and Wanderlei Silva. He left Xtreme Couture two years later, citing his desire to bring back the idea of Team Tompkins that had become somewhat lost under the Xtreme Couture banner. He would spend the remainder of his life training at the TapouT training center in Las Vegas.
The passing of Shawn Tompkins is a true loss for the sport, as he was a dedicated trainer, devoted to helping his students succeed. The proof of that success is found in every Team Tompkins trainee using those crisp jabs and textbook striking skills to rise up the MMA ranks. But more than just a trainer, it's important to remember that Shawn Tompkins was a friend to so many. From all the staff at Bloody Elbow, our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Tompkins.
For those interested, AMR Group, who represents Tompkins, has set up a guestbook and established the Shawn Tompkins Memorial Fund. You can view or sign the guestbook here. And if you are interested in donating to the memorial fund, please email TeamTompkins@ShogunMMA.com. AMR Group's website will have more info on Shawn's memorial service soon.