Remembering the Coach
Words cannot express our grief at the loss of Shawn Tompkins. Shawn was a good friend to each of us here at HeavyMMA, and we wanted to take a moment to remember Shawn in our own way and share our own personal stories about a great man who was taken way too soon.
My deepest condolences go out to the Tompkins family and Team Tompkins. The MMA world is greatly saddened and know that our thoughts and prayers are with you and yours during this trying time.
It’s pretty hard to try and put all these emotions into words, so please bear with me.
From the moment I met “The Coach” Shawn Tompkins, I knew we’d be friends. His bright smile, electric hair and thick Canuck accent always spiced up the room and I kinda liked that. Sure, he was from Canada and I from Louisiana. Sure, he lived in Las Vegas and I lived (at the time) in Atlanta. Sure, he coached at one of the most prestigious MMA gyms in the country and I was a stranger from an upstart MMA magazine. All that being said, an onlooker would have assumed that we were long-time buddies – grew up together. Or if someone heard I was in the media – perhaps from SI or ESPN. That’s the kind of person Shawn was. He made your questions seem unique and interesting. He made his time, your time. He had a way of making YOU feel important. He made everyone feel important.
I had the privilege (and it was just that) of spending a lot of time with Shawn over the last several years and if there was a kinder soul in the sport, I’d be impressed. Send him a text? It was returned within minutes. Need to swing by the gym for something? Always greeted with open arms. Want to talk MMA? My lungs would give out before he’d run out of valuable insight. The examples of his kindness go on and on and to try and sum up Shawn in a few short paragraphs would be an injustice. There’s too much to tell.
To have known Shawn was to have liked Shawn. He was as one of a kind as one of a kind gets.
There will never be another Shawn Tompkins.
We’ll miss you buddy.
I’ll never forget the first time I met Shawn Tompkins.
I don’t remember which UFC show it was, but I’ve never been good with details. My memory can be fuzzy that way. But it’s impossible not to remember the first time you met Shawn, and I bet there are countless others out there who feel the same way. It doesn’t matter if you met him in Toronto or New Jersey or Los Angeles or here in Vegas – you never forget it.
We only talked briefly that night. He had a fighter competing on the card that picked up a win, and I wanted to get a quote from him for a story. Even though it was the first time we’d met, Shawn greeted me like we’d known each other for years. He enveloped my hand with both of his in the warmest handshake I can ever remember. I’ll never forget that handshake, or the smile that came along with it. Shawn’s smile was infectious. He could brighten your day with it, and he did, for myself and so many others.
Shawn was one of the most giving men I’ve ever known, with his time and with that smile. A few months ago, we asked Shawn to film a series of small instructional videos on the art of striking. We just wanted a few minutes of his time, to get him to show our readers how to throw a proper punch or a kick. But Shawn went above and beyond, giving us an hour of his time to teach us how his famed mitt-hitting exercises worked and how to properly train head and foot movement. He did so much more than we asked him to. Afterwards, he asked us if we’d gotten all we needed to get from him. He really wanted to make sure we were happy.
That was Shawn to the core; selfless and caring, always trying to make others around him happy. He did that every single day of his life.
We’re all better for having known Shawn Tompkins, and we’re going to miss him dearly. We already do.
It takes a lot to leave me without words, but that’s where I am right now. I still can’t believe that Shawn is gone. My heart goes out to Emilie, the Team Tompkins family, their friends and their loved ones.
Shawn made me feel like I belonged in this sport. There have been a few people who have made me feel this way over the last couple years, and Shawn was definitely one of them. I’m sure I’m not alone in this feeling; I think it’s how Shawn made a lot of people feel. That’s who he was — a huge smile, a hug instead of a handshake, and a genuine interest in how you’ve been and how he can help.
We didn’t do interviews — we talked, falling into a rhythm like old friends whether we were side-by-side or speaking over the phone. It didn’t matter that I was just a guy with a Blogger account and a dream the first time we spoke, he answered every question thoughtfully and in-depth, and made sure I knew that I could contact him any time, for anything.
When we sat down two months ago in Vancouver, it was more of the same. He teased me about my tie. I made fun of his hair and made sure to call him old a time or two in the course of asking him questions. He invited me to an event he had organized later in the week, and asked me “You good? You doing okay?” 186 times during the course of the night as he scurried about playing host. He made sure I felt included, comfortable, and had whatever I needed, not just that night, but whenever I saw him or spoke to him.
I’ll never forget the last conversation I had with him; it was who Shawn was to me to a tee.
I was leaving the event, and found him to say thanks and goodbye, and wish him good luck with Sam’s fight the following night. We had one of those man-hugs — part handshake, put hug — and he thanked me for coming.
“I was talking to Em earlier,” I said. “I was telling her that I might end up moving to Vegas, join the rest of the team down there. We decided that if I do come down, we have to celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving.”
“Absolutely,” he answered, smiling as always. “You come down, you need anything — just call me or come by the gym. I mean it. Anything.”
Thank you, Shawn — being able to call you a friend was more than I could have asked for, and something I will always hold on to.
I miss you, Coach. We all do.
I knew Shawn for less than a year, but the impact he had on my life has been truly profound. I first met Shawn in December of 2010 when we filmed a tour of the Tapout Training Center with the acclaimed striking coach. The gym was Shawn’s headquarters. It was obvious he loved being there. Shawn was personable and fun to be around, and he made everyone feel like they belonged.
From that day on, every time I saw Shawn he was friendly, accommodating and genuinely interested in everything I had to say. We became instant friends. Shawn’s smile and positive attitude were contagious. And he always had an open door. Whenever fighters asked to hit pads or get some time with him, no matter when or where, he gave them 100% of his attention. In fact, he always gave everyone 100% of his attention. I frequented the Tapout Training Center, and during those hours Shawn and I would discuss everything from fights to movies to our upbringings. He was a great storyteller and also a great listener.
Shortly after meeting The Coach I had the pleasure of meeting his beautiful wife, Emilie. She is a fantastic woman with a heart as big as the city of Las Vegas. Shawn and Emilie were a perfect match, and they were so inviting with everyone they came across. They housed fighters, shuttled them to and from training and took care of anyone who was in need. Emilie and I had an instant bond, and just nights ago spoke about how lucky she is to have a husband like Shawn. They were best friends and truly made for each other. My heart aches for my friend Emilie. She and Shawn completed each other in every way. It is devastating we lost such an amazing man, and even more heartbreaking that Emilie has lost her other half.
Shawn, it was an honor to have called you a friend. Thank you for welcoming me and those closest to me into your life. I will never forget the wonderful memories we shared, and I promise to do everything I can to comfort and take care of your Emilie. I’ll miss you buddy.