One of the most interesting questions I often get asked is how to successfully transition from a fighter to a trainer and coach, and more importantly how to be a great one.
My personal journey in the martial arts and the fight game started way back in 1990 after coming across an old friend whom invited me to a fight night in which he was competing. From that day on I was hooked.
To keep a long story short the main reasons behind my falling hopelessly in love with the sport was because of the things I had to deal with as a child – sexual abuse, hotel life violence, school yard bullying and bashing’s…the list goes on. Everything I had seen and dealt with in my young life was violence and it spurred a fear in me that I felt for a longtime.
I started my martial arts career in Kyukoshin Karate. I really enjoyed everything about fighting whether it was the training, travelling, discipline, sacrifice, team atmosphere, friendships. The ability to hit another man and get away with it didn’t go astray either.
As a young fighter I loved the mixed feeling of being pumped up on adrenaline and being filled with anxiety. I loved competing, being able to protect myself, the change in how people looked at me and of course…winning.
At first fighting started out as a self defence but it soon became an addiction. I started to get access to a lifestyle I had never been privy to before – acceptance from my peers, women, drugs and alcohol.
I can honestly say that I was a good fighter but I certainly wasn’t the best I could have been. I was always committed and sacrificed everything when I was in camp and in the lead up to a fight but when the fight was done I became engrossed in the celebration – partying and being admired by people in a way that some would a high profile celebrity. Let’s just say I enjoyed winning a little too much. To this day, after 54 fights across multiple disciplines, I have no real regrets. It was always a part of my journey but for me the most important thing I took away from it was the connections and friendships and the ability to always be learning and progressing.
Photo: Rich Fogarty with Donald Cerrone (Source: Rich Fogarty)
In 2005 I made the decision to finish up with fighting. I had lost the hunger. I still had the desire to be involved in the sport but in a different capacity and that’s when I made the decision to transition into the role of coach and trainer.
The process behind the transition wasn’t overly difficult. I didn’t know everything but I had a passion and enthusiasm to learn. I believe as a coach the day you think you know everything is the day you stop growing and you are no longer a benefit to anyone.
When I think about the challenges I’ve faced moving from fighter to coach, I would say that I have been the biggest hurdle. We all have doubts as an athlete and it is no different as a coach except now you’re not just worrying about yourself – you’re making decisions for someone else and there’s always that questioning in the back of your mind about whether it is the right one. The other challenge is proving to others that I am a great coach and I have what it takes. I believe in myself. The next step is getting others to do the same and because of that I have never grown complacent.
I was very lucky in my early days of coaching that I had a mentor and friend that taught me the way coaching should be conducted – not just because of the knowledge he passed on but because he showed me the dedication and sacrifices he made for his fighters. Even to this day when I am praised for my coaching I always give a lot of credit to Joe Hilton from Sunshine Coast Thai Boxing Centre as the man I was mentored by and still to this day I have the utmost respect for what he has taught me.
Photo: Rich Fogarty and Rob Fogarty (Source: Rich Fogarty)
I have had the opportunity over the last five years to work alongside the best in the business – that being JacksonWink MMA in Albuquerque New Mexico. In that time I have learnt more than I have in the previous 20 years when it comes to my fight IQ, game planning, studying of fighters and coaching techniques.
Whilst my journey of coaching continues sometimes I really sit back and think just how privileged I have been to of worked with some of the best martial artists in the world: Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone, Alistair Overeem, Michelle Watterson, Diego Sanchez, Kyle Noke, Jakes Matthews, Kurt Finlayson and Warren Elson just to name a few.
Now more then ever coaching has become my life. I spend my time as full-time striking coach at my own gym – Steel City Boxing in Newcastle which I run with my brother Rob Fogarty. I am excited to make this place a home for the next generation of fighters coming up through the ranks.
Even though I am now 43 years of age I still have the passion, excitement and enthusiasm that I did when I started out. The way I see it is that I have another 43 years ahead of me to coach, learn and teach so many more people and truly contribute to their life. In the end that’s the real job of a coach – it’s not what you show them, it’s the way you make them feel while their under your guidance. This will be your legacy.