You are a Mixed Martial Artist. This is your dream: You wake up bright and early, ready to face the day. A run along the sunny waterfront starts you off, then you head to the gym for workout number one. After some jumprope, shadow boxing, and circuits with every kind of equipment imaginable, twelve Thai guys who happen to be Muay Thai champions appear out of nowhere, grab some pads and your whole group starts padwork. Then you do some light sparring with guys from ONE FC, DREAM, Bellator, Strikeforce, and UFC in the cage. After a rest and a healthy lunch, you head back for workout number two, in the gi. There are one, two, three, four, wait – no – five Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belts on the mat today. A few classes follow where you help other aspiring athletes learn the ropes. Your work out tomorrow will include wrestling with an Olympian, and boxing with a WBA Champion. Life is good.
You’re not dreaming if you’re on the Evolve MMA Pro Fighter Team – this really is your every day life. And if you’re not on the team, maybe now is the time to stop dreaming and make it a reality. Right now Evolve MMA is actively seeking full time professional fighters to add to its team as part of a yet-to-be-revealed major expansion. To find out a little bit more about what is in store for potential applicants, MMA-in-ASIA talked to a couple of the guys who are close to the matter. Here’s what CEO Chatri Sityodtong and wrestling coach Heath Sims had to say.
Heath, you’re the newest high-profile addition to the Evolve MMA team. What were some of your feelings and observations the very first time you worked out with the pro fight team there?
Heath – I was very impressed when I first came to Evolve. The entire Evolve Fight Team was in excellent shape, trained twice a day, and was hungry to learn and improve. The thing that sticks in my mind the most was the Muay Thai training. It was just amazing to see so many talented world champion trainers in one room working together. In the United States, most gyms are lucky to have one superstar world champion coaching. Evolve has about a dozen! Our biggest challenge is having enough time in the day to extract all the years of knowledge from them.
Can you describe the atmosphere at the gym?
Heath – If there is one thing that can ruin a gym very quickly, it is a bad atmosphere! Evolve is very fortunate. Chatri has taken much time in finding not only excellent trainers and fighters, but outstanding people! Everyone he chooses has gone through a very rigorous interview process. This leaves only trainers and fighters who are motivated, skilled, passionate, have great character and want to build the best academy in the world! The gym flows very well. Everyone has a defined role, duties and responsibilities. Even with all the alpha males in one room we have created a very productive, positive, and motivating training environment.
That leads to an important question: how does Evolve MMA handle women participating in fight sports?
Chatri – I believe in equality for everything when it comes to women. In fact, you will find it surprising, but most of my senior management team at Evolve MMA are women who have been with me for a few years. They rose through the ranks on their own merit, often outworking and outsmarting men who are more experienced and more formally educated in business. I run Evolve MMA like I run the Evolve Fight Team. Only the best survive and rise to the top. I am ruthless about meritocracy, performance, and excellence. So yes, I believe in women competing in MMA. The Evolve Fight Team even has Singapore’s first female professional fighter, Nicole Chua.
What kind of personal qualities make a successful fighter?
Chatri – For me, I believe the spiritual qualities of a fighter like humility, work ethic, courage, mental strength, and desire are much more important than the physical abilities. Of course, I always look for athleticism, cardio, explosiveness, balance, and speed in a fighter too. For sure, the most special fighters in the world like Anderson Silva and GSP possess everything. I think Rafael dos Anjos and Shinya Aoki also are in that same special category as well as their teammates on the Evolve Fight Team like Zorobabel Moreira, Leandro Issa, Eddie Ng, and the others. They have everything it takes to become world champions.
Do you think that your background as a fighter gives you any special insight when it comes to adding people onto your team?
Chatri – For sure it helps. I can’t speak for other businessmen, but I know what goes through a fighter’s mind, body, and spirit because I have been there too. Over the years, I have developed my own formula when I assess a fighter’s potential to become a world champion. Of course, it also helps that I am surrounded by so many world champions here at Evolve MMA too. I look for commonalities between our world champions and our potential future world champions.
How important is having a “team” mentality important for a pro fighter? How big is the emphasis on team spirit at Evolve?
Heath – That is actually a funny question! There is no emphasis on team spirit. It just happens. Everyone has their role. Everyone knows they cannot succeed without the others. Our team includes sales staff, operations, trainers, video/computer team, and marketing. We cannot succeed without all functions. I am very grateful to have the best team supporting Evolve. Marketing to help expand the brand, sales to increase our member base, world champion Thai trainers to improve the standup of the fighters and students, world champions in Jiu Jitsu for our Jiu Jitsu Program, and the fight team and operations to make sure everything runs like it should. No one has an easy job. Everyone works very hard and supports the others so we can all succeed together!
Chatri – Most people believe that fighting is an individual sport. It is the farthest thing from the truth. A champion can only be made by everyone who surrounds him. Fighting is the ultimate team sport. If you surround yourself with idiots, then you will also become an idiot. If you surround yourself with champions, you will also become a champion. To answer your question, team is everything at Evolve MMA. We are a family here.
What is the average work day like for a professional fighter at Evolve MMA?
Heath – As of now all of the Evolve Fight Team are also employees of the academy. Fighters have a responsibility to train twice daily as well as fulfill their schedule of instructing classes. This is an ideal situation. Evolve fighters have enough free time to train full-time. This also allows them concentrate on training and improve as martial artists to further their careers. They don’t get stuck in a situation when that have to fight because they have no money. This is a very common hurdle for many fighters. We only have fighters fight if they are well prepared, physically and mentally.
How much mental support is given to the Professional Fight Team from you, Chatri, the management, and coaches like you, Heath? Are new team members helped to acclimate to the surroundings and company culture?
Chatri – Evolve MMA is a big family. We all care deeply for one another. And whenever a new fighter joins, we make sure to make him feel at home.
Heath – I believe our Fight Team has the best support of anywhere in the world. I have been to many gyms all over the world. I have not seen one that can compare to Evolve! Many do things very well. Many specialize in one area. But Evolve puts the package together better than anyone. Our Fight Team has housing, a monthly salary, world champions coaching, management, marketing, and access to ONE FC when they are ready. It is a dream situation! Chatri is a huge influence on our Team! He is our leader, coach, motivator, biggest supporter and will slap us around if we get out of line! Ha ha, Evolve would not be what it is without him.
Chatri, are you in your own gyms every day?
Chatri – I try to train almost every day alongside our professional fighters at the afternoon session of the Fighters Program at Evolve MMA, but there are some weeks when my workload from my other companies takes me away from Evolve MMA. On average, I train about 4-5 times a week of Muay Thai and 1-2 times a week of BJJ.
And that’s a little bit more about Evolve MMA from the guys ultimately closest to the situation. If you think you have what it takes to be on the Evolve MMA pro fight team, stop dreaming and go read the details on what is involved at the Evolve MMA website here.