By John Matisz
With their late leader Shawn "The Coach" Tompkins in their hearts, members of Adrenaline Training Center's (ATC) Team Tompkins are primed to pay tribute to perhaps the area's most prominent mixed martial arts (MMA) figure.
Tompkins, a Tillsonburg native, died of a heart attack Aug. 14, 2011. The news triggered an outpouring of sorrow worldwide as Tompkins' training methods and personality were well-known within the MMA community-at-large.
At the Western Fair District Agriplex Oct. 29, ATC will join forces with Global Warriors Fighting Championship (GWFC) to produce a dual-focused event based on remembering Tompkins as well as breaking ground in London.
The event, entitled Global Warriors II: Halloween Havoc, will include a handful of ATC fighters as well as other up-and-coming MMA competitors. Its headlining battle is between Jeff Lentz of the Ultimate Fightning Championship (UFC) reality show and local Jesse Ronson, an alumnus of H.B. Beal Secondary School.
Garnet Ace of GWFC and TapoutT Training Centers, the event's title sponsor, said Global Warriors II will act as a test of the local MMA market. If all goes as planned, the promotion agency may very well make London its permanent home in the future.
One of the gym's managers, Alex Gasson, told London Community News recently the event's purpose of paying tribute to The Coach, as well as showcasing local talent, resonates well with ATC as a collective unit.
"Every time you see them fight, they'll be doing it for Shawn," he said, noting the timing of the event is important. "We'll be loyal to him forever. We miss him, I miss him, but what he's taught us is shown in these fighters."
Gasson, who is a recently retired fighter himself, knew Tompkins for over a decade as both a friend and co-worker. He, along with numerous marquee MMA stars, such as UFC fighters Mark Hominick, Sam Stout and Chris Horodecki, continue to train and coach out of ATC.
Although the gym closed for a week after Tompkins' passing, Gasson said things are somewhat back to normal nowadays.
"Everyone deals with it in their own way," he said, adding communication between members has become much better since the tragedy. "I miss him as that person to call for advice. I still have all of the emails he sent me saved and check them when I need guidance."
Most of all, Tompkins' former MMA companions miss the 37-year-old's personality, said Gasson.
"There's that void, and the last thing you want is to be alone," he added. "It's a pretty big blow but everyone is doing what they can."
According to Ace, Tompkins attended the first Global Warriors card in Hamilton on Aug. 13, the night before he died. Following the event, Ace — who said he only met Tompkins a handful of times — received several texts from attendees who praised The Coach's passion for the sport and general friendliness.
"He made you feel like you knew him your whole life," Ace explained. "There's no question he had a burning passion for MMA and ATC."
Calling the selection of London as the site for the follow-up Global Warriors show a "no-brainer," Ace is keen on the area's unofficial MMA headquarters.
"If Adrenaline Training Center wasn't in London, we wouldn't be either," Ace said. "I have a ton of respect for those guys as athletes, as people."
On top of the fights, a silent auction featuring both MMA and professional hockey memorabilia will take place. The event will also mark the launching of Team Tompkins tee's, a project where 100 per cent of proceeds raised will go to the Shawn Tompkins Memorial Foundation.