The fighters’ floor includes bedrooms, a common area with couches and television and MMA memorabilia. Tompkins provides a nutritionist and kinesiologist for the fighters.
They can cook for themselves or have dinner prepared by Emilie.
“Never again,” she said of housing nine fighters. “It wasn’t just the number but there was no place to put all the food they needed.”
“It’s unique,” Tompkins said of the set-up. “I wanted to provide them with a place away where they relax and think. Living here as well, it gives me a chance to be with them because I know when they’ve had a bad day training and I can come up here and talk to them.”
The house has a view of the mountains and is far enough away from town that the temptations of the strip aren’t that enticing.
“Not that it matters,” Tompkins said. “When these guys come here, they come to train. They are probably the only people in the world who come to Vegas to dry out.”
When Tompkins was 12 years old he used to lie down outside his home in the small Ontario town of Corinth and from there he could see the dome of light created by the city of London.
“And I can remember clearly thinking that one day I would be living in London under those lights and that I would be the best coach in mixed martial arts ever,” Tompkins said.
Now, 26 years later some nights he sits outside his home a 20-minute drive outside Las Vegas. He can see the mountains forming the bowl around Las Vegas and he can see the lights that light up The Strip.
Larry McLeod of MMA NewsLeak.com ranks Tompkins as one of the 10 best coaches in the world.
It’s been a long trip for Tompkins. At 18 he spent his last $500 to rent a building in Tillsonburg, Ont. to begin his own gym.
“My apartment was in the gym,” Tompkins said. “My bed was a blue floor pad and my pillow was a (stomach protection) pad.”
Now, Team Tompkins is a recognized brand in the world of mixed martial arts.
It was four years ago that Tompkins left London and moved to Las Vegas.
“I didn’t want to travel as much and MMA fighting in Ontario was illegal,”
Tompkins said. “I was always flying to Vegas. Now, ironically, MMA is legal in Ontario and with the UFC worldwide project, I’m traveling more than ever.”
After he got settled in Vegas, he started working with the likes of Randy Couture and Dan Henderson and soon became the head coach at Xtreme Couture, Couture’s training complex. But he also left a group of fine young fighters in Canada.
So they began to come to him. Two years ago Tompkins was recruited by Kekoa Quipotla, the main man behind the 20,000-square-foot Tapout Training Centre.
He bought his house and established a place for the fighters to stay.
He arranges for coaches and trainers to work with his fighters wherever they live.
“Then usually six weeks before their fight, they’ll come here to Vegas where I finish their training,” Tompkins said.
Team Tompkins now has 36 fighters among them top Canadians Mark Hominick and Londoner Sam Stout who is getting ready for UFC 131 in Vancouver.
“I came down at Christmas to check things out,” said 20-year-old Malcolm Gordon from Calgary. He has already had several MMA contests. “I saw what Shawn could do for me here. So I quit my job, moved here and started training.”
With Stout and Hominick, Tompkins has two fighters with UFC title shots or on the verge of title shots. That’s not a common occurrence.
Fighters with immediate fights spend the morning personally training with Tompkins. They then return for evening training sessions. During the day Tompkins deals with the business of professional MMA fighting — training schedules, sponsorship deals, his weekly radio show, endorsements that includes a new line of equipment (Hayabusa) coming out soon, Headrush clothing and looking after fighters who come to Las Vegas to train with him.
Normally, Hominick would be preparing to come to Las Vegas to train for his UFC 129 title fight in Toronto against Jose Aldo but Hominick’s wife is pregnant so Tompkins went back to London for the final six weeks.
“I don’t think I could have gone to Vegas,” Hominick said. “Not with this being the largest UFC in history and the biggest fight of my life. Then there is all the extra local demands. Then you have my wife expecting and being so close, I am stretching myself pretty thin. Shawn being here has made things 1,000% better.”
To make it work, Tompkins has established a fighters house in London. Even Hominick, who lives in London, uses the house.
“I’m pretty beat up with all the training. Some afternoons I just go to the house to get some rest because rest is so important.”
The popularity of MMA has been advantageous to Tompkins. The house, vehicles to get around and an assortment of other things have all come through way of sponsorship.
Hominick will enter the octagon in Toronto dressed in Hamilton Ticats colours. The Ticats are one of his sponsors.
“I’ve gone to a lot of the their games,” Hominick said. “I’m a big fan.”
The opportunity to work with some of MMA’s top names as they prepare for UFC 129 in Toronto April 30 isn’t lost on Tompkins.
“I think, here I am now training professional fighters at probably the biggest MMA gym anywhere and I’m about to be a part of what will be the biggest and most important card in MMA history,” Tompkins says. “It’s going to happen almost in my own backyard in Canada. It is the biggest moment of my career.”
Even though some of Tomkins’s most accomplished fighters will be on MMA’s biggest stage in a few weeks, he is just as invested in his up-and-coming students.
In March, Tompkins took six young fighters to Mexico for an MMA card. It was in San Luis, Sonora, just south of the American-Mexican border. Even for someone involved in MMA, it was not a comfortable trip.
All of his fighters returned victorious, most with a variety of bed bug bites.
Tompkins slept in his blue jeans and hoodie on top of the bed covers.
Why do it now?
“I’ve been really lucky,” Tompkins said. “I’ve worked with some of the top fighters in the business. I have Stout and Hominick. But you have to keep working. These fighters have dreams too and I just want to help them reach those dreams.”