On Sunday afternoon, news broke that longtime MMA coach Robert Follis died over the weekend at the age of 48. It was shocking news, and as the MMA world has mourned his passing, some of his most notable students have spoken out in remembrance of the legendary coach.
Among them is perhaps Follis’ most successful protege, former UFC women’s bantamweight champion Miesha Tate, who spoke with The Luke Thomas Show on Monday, discussing what made Follis such a well-respected MMA coach.
“Robert wasn’t a good coach, he was a great coach,” explained Tate. “He was probably the most underrated coach out there because he was quiet and all about the athlete. He didn’t care to boast or brag or be in the spotlight but what separated him from someone who could teach something - although Robert’s knowledge was very extensive, he was a walking encyclopedia of knowledge for MMA - what separated him was his ability to make you understand situations that you didn’t before. When you’re frustrated and you’re having a bad day of camp, him sitting down and talking with you and just relating and making you feel better, that’s so important. I can’t say how much that means for a coach to be able to do that, to be able to mentor you, to be able to put you in a better place mentally and emotionally and I think that’s what Robert really excelled at. Just sitting down for 15 minutes with Robert Follis could change your whole day. . .
“He really made an effort to be a well-rounded coach, not just what he could teach you but what he could help you with way more outside the Octagon, outside of the training room. He was always there to talk to you and he always made you feel better and I know I’m not the only one. There’s a lot of athletes out there that could say the same thing about Robert.”
And a lot of athletes have. In a business that can often be petty or cutthroat, Follis was an almost universally beloved character. As a founding member of Team Quest, Follis played an important role in launching the careers of MMA legends like Randy Couture, Matt Lindland, Chael Sonnen, and Dan Henderson, among many others. But rather than rest on his laurels, Follis continued developing young fighters, moving from Team Quest to Xtreme Couture where he shepherded talents like Tate and UFC interim lightweight title challenger Kevin Lee, all while building a reputation as one of the best coaches, and people in the sport, which Tate puts down to his passion for MMA and for the people he surrounded himself with.
“That’s what’s unique about Robert,” said Tate. “I don’t think people understand what goes into coaching. It’s a full-time job. If you want to be an exceptional coach, as Robert Follis was, it’s a 24-7 job. When he goes home he would study film on the opponents, he put together game plans, he would be there for you, good days, bad days, inside the gym, outside the gym. Whatever you needed, Robert was the guy you knew that you could call on and that’s I think what separated him.
“It’s such an underwhelming job in a lot of ways. Coaches truly get the satisfaction from seeing their athletes do well because there’s not a lot of money to be made as an MMA coach. They don’t get paid millions of dollars like football coaches and basketball coaches. MMA is still in many ways a very starving sport until you make it to the very top. Robert had all degrees of fighters, from me who made it to a world champion to Kevin who fought for the title, all the way down to pro debut athletes making $500 and $500. Robert was the kind of guy that was there for you no matter what level you were on and he was going to give you the time and dedication because he cared. It wasn’t about the money. You don’t become a coach in MMA because of the money. It’s not a very lucrative position. I know Robert was very passionate about what he did and he was damn good at it.”
After her interview, Tate posted a photo to her Instagram account of Follis hugging her after she won the bantamweight title at UFC 196, an image, she told Thomas, that was the biggest memory she had of Follis.
“He just gave me the most heartfelt biggest hug, and we both had tears in our eyes because we worked together for a long, hard time. I don’t know if he really knew how much he meant to me and how instrumental he was in me getting that title. I told him but I don’t know if could ever understand to the depth that I value that, but that moment, there’s a picture of us hugging and his eyes are closed and I’m just beaming and you could just see the emotion on our faces and how much we cared about each other and how that journey felt so good to accomplish that together. So that’s something that I’ll always cherish.”
The cause of Follis’ death was ruled a suicide. Follis’ family has asked for time for privacy but shared an email address where people can send memories, stories and photos of Follis: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Suicide. Death of esteemed MMA coach Robert Follis ruled a suicide.
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Robert Follis reacts to Miesha winning the belt at UFC 196.
Fight Motion is always worth your time.
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The welterweight division.
The MMA Hour. Interviews with Randy Couture, RDA, Gaethje, Till, and many more.
The Co-Main Event. Recapping UFC Winnipeg and previewing Cyborg-Holm.
Anik & Florian. Recapping UFC Winnipeg and mourning the passing of Robert Follis.
SOCIAL MEDIA BOUILLABAISSE
RDA is the new hot ticket item in the WW division.
A lot of prospects doing a whole lot of talking. Let’s remember who the top dawgs are! Your time will come young guns, but in the meantime let’s make this fight! #RDAvsWonderboy— Stephen Thompson (@WonderboyMMA) December 19, 2017
Welterweight is awesome now.
Don’t breathe just yet @ColbyCovMMA I don’t care how long it takes to heal that lil “toe injury” after I take care of Meek I’ll wait however long to hand you the spanking your father failed to do!! @danawhite @seanshelby @Mickmaynard2 @AliAbdelaziz00— KAMARU USMAN (@USMAN84kg) December 19, 2017
Couldn't sleep last night, can't sleep tonight. Emotions running ramped. The person I would call for advise in a situation like this is no longer here. I need to get this fight booked, I need to perform, I don't want to waste my last camp, I don't want to waste our time!— Tim Elliott (@TElliott125) December 18, 2017
You just turned the fight down for dec 30th you won't do shit but run your tiny little mouth— Tim Elliott (@TElliott125) December 18, 2017
Excuse me? You turned me down first I was getting fired up to fight someone of your caliber believe me. Tim you know I'm a goer HMU when the pay checks look the same too.— Jarred Brooks (@The_monkeygod) December 18, 2017
Nah they gave me options I picked an undefeated exciting guy, he couldn't make weight, then I took the most boring match up!! You.— Tim Elliott (@TElliott125) December 18, 2017
Call me what you want Tim you are on your way out of an exiting career . And I was shitting on your opponent when I tweeted that btw. Tim I do have sand and I respect you so give me a full training camp to beat your fucking ass .— Jarred Brooks (@The_monkeygod) December 18, 2017
What happened to "I'll fly to Canada right now" that's why I am talking shit. Your words— Tim Elliott (@TElliott125) December 18, 2017
Like I said I was shitting on your opponents weight cutting issues and I was ready to fight you then you said no so now I'm on my way to Florida . Then you say yes meet me a month from now and I'll show you what's up.— Jarred Brooks (@The_monkeygod) December 18, 2017
Well you will be talking about me one day my friend . And at least I had the sand to say yes a week and a half out and then you say no. Then I make other plans then you say yes?— Jarred Brooks (@The_monkeygod) December 18, 2017
I wish you the best— Tim Elliott (@TElliott125) December 18, 2017
Well I hope you get beat now. And hopefully by me @Mickmaynard2 @danawhite and don't be mad at me that you picked someone who couldn't make https://t.co/xgHL7pp7cS fight me , the fight is going to happen. I got screwed my last bout . You want an easy paycheck come get it hoe— Jarred Brooks (@The_monkeygod) December 18, 2017
He turned it down— Tim Elliott (@TElliott125) December 18, 2017
You turned me down first . At least I would have hot that catch weight you little pussy— Jarred Brooks (@The_monkeygod) December 18, 2017
Future champ he just lost to a newbie— Tim Elliott (@TElliott125) December 19, 2017
You lost against people that aren't in the UFC anymore. And I didn't lose . You want me to fall off so I don't fight you then you will have to explain why you got beat by a newbie— Jarred Brooks (@The_monkeygod) December 19, 2017
Michael McDonald fought a round and a half with that. Dayum.
I am proud of my performance & so should my opponent Peter. He truly rose to the occasion & put on a fantastic performance. I assume you all want to see the broken hand X rays lol. Here you go! Cant believe I fought another round busted like this lol. Praise God for adrenaline! pic.twitter.com/0RmlrqyU9J— Michael McDonald (@MaydayMcDonald) December 16, 2017
If you or someone you know is at risk of or thinking about suicide, please reach out for help as soon as possible by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
That’s all for today folks. Take it easy and see y’all tomorrow.
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