Tompkins helped get Winnipegger's career off the ground

KIRK PENTON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:31 PM ET

WINNIPEG - Shawn Tompkins didn’t just play a role in getting Krzysztof Soszynski to where he is today. He was a driving force.

Tompkins, a renowned mixed martial arts trainer, died in southern Ontario last weekend at age 37, reportedly because of a heart attack. The London, Ont., native coached notable MMA athletes like Wanderlei Silva, Vitor Belfort, Sam Stout (his brother-in-law), Mark Hominick and Chris Horodecki.

It was Tompkins, though, who gave Soszynski, a UFC light heavyweight fighter from Winnipeg, the motivation he needed to get his career off the ground.

“He helped me out tremendously with my striking and with my confidence,” Soszynski said Thursday from Victoria, where he is rehabilitating his seventh knee surgery. “I was one of those weak-minded MMA fighters who was really negative. I wasn’t really sure if this was the sport for me. He really changed that. He really helped me out with that.

“Because of him, I am where I am today.”

Soszynski has fought on seven UFC cards in the last two-plus years, and he sports a 5-2 record on the world’s top MMA circuit. He has reached his sport’s pinnacle largely because of a chance meeting six years ago when Tompkins brought his stable of fighters to Winnipeg for an Ultimate Cage Wars show.

“He and I just completely hit it off,” Soszynski said. “I was looking for a new place to train, and he was looking for some new students. He told me that if I fought with him he was going to make me into a champion. Those were basically the first words he ever told me.”

Soszynski moved to London for a few months, sleeping on Tompkins’ couch and soaking up as much instruction from him as he could. They also lived and trained together in Las Vegas for four or five months.

They hadn’t worked together for the last few years, but Soszynski has never forgotten the impact Tompkins had on his career.

“He’s done so much for me in my career, and my heart goes out to his wife and his team,” Soszynski said. “He’s one of the best striking coaches in MMA and one of the best coaches in MMA, period. It’s definitely a pretty tragic loss for the MMA world.”

Soszynski hopes to have his knee back at full strength in time for to fight at UFC 140 in Toronto on Dec. 10.


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