High school, if we look at pop culture, is an overwhelming, scary place where the transition to adolescence is typically met with life-changing event after life-changing event. Kids, as they are, truly begin to experience the world for the very first time. Freedom becomes the norm and dreams will seem to come true far too often.

For a lot of students, though, it’s about survival. It’s about counting down the days until college so that they can reinvent themselves. Walking through the halls with books in hand, it’s almost as if this repetitive portion of their life will be locked away in a vault, never to be seen again. For others, like Heath Sims, high school is the start of a life-long journey.

“In high school, I began wrestling,” Sims explained to The MMA Corner. “It was a little bit late, I suppose—I was about 12 or 13 in my freshman year in high school and decided to join the wrestling team. In the United States, we have kids that start [wrestling] as young as six years old. High school is generally kind of the second step for kids—they join some clubs and they wrestle—so I was a bit of a late starter. I was at my junior high, and they came and did a wrestling demo for the high school wrestling team. I saw it and enjoyed it and decided right then that, hey, I’m gonna go for the wrestling team, and that was it.”

When mixed martial arts was just beginning its initial boom, Sims was training with some of the best fighters in the world at the time. Sims was a daily training partner of a number of fighters whose names are now quite recognizable to the vast majority of longtime fans of the sport. When his friends began riding the wave of MMA, he stayed with wrestling. From that, a coach was born.

“I wrestled for a long time and, as I was wrestling, all my friends and all my partners I was wrestling with started getting into MMA,” the former Team Quest fighter said. “The first was Randy Couture. We trained together at my wrestling club and we trained for the Olympic trials together, so when he jumped into it we were all very supportive of him. Then, my best friend, Dan Henderson, started fighting, and at the time we were living together, so I started training with him. But I was still competing in wrestling. I didn’t really have any desire to fight at that time. Once I finished my wrestling career, I figured I’d give it a shot.

“I trained with a good group of people. Originally I was training with Dan and Randy, but also in Huntington Beach [Calif.], where I lived with Dan, we trained with Tito Ortiz and [Quinton] ‘Rampage’ [Jackson] and Jason Miller and a whole group of guys there. We had a good group that we’d train together with.”

Then, the opportunity of a lifetime presented itself for Sims. He was offered a chance to travel to Singapore to become one of the head coaches for Evolve MMA. Under his guidance, the Evolve Fight Team has seen some great success, boasting several champions under the ONE FC banner.

“I was contacted by one of my mutual friends of Chatri [Sityodtong], and he asked me if I knew anybody that would be interested in coming to Singapore to fill in a coaching role,” Sims revealed. “At first, I was helping to find someone for him. As I started talking to more people and hearing more about the position, I thought it would be a good opportunity for myself. That’s when I actually got on the phone and I talked with Chatri over the phone, and after a 10-minute conversation, I was really sold. I liked his vision for the gym—his ideas of making the fight team and building it—and about three weeks later I was on a plane out to Singapore.”

With such a variety of world-class coaches in-house at Evolve MMA, it’d be easy for Sims to get wrapped up in the day-to-day running of the facility. With his experience in running a gym in the past, Sims has made sure that he does not repeat past mistakes.

“It’s a bit different,” Sims admitted. “You know, when I was at Team Quest I had a lot of hats. I was helping run the gym, we were managing fighters, we had a lot of other coaches. I would coach, but we were doing so many other things, and that was the one thing I didn’t really enjoy about it.

“When I was able to come here to Singapore, I was able to focus just on coaching. We have a very different training environment. We have some great Muay Thai world champions to coach our fighters. We have great jiu-jitsu guys, world champions who help with our ground game. We work as a team and share that talent, and I pretty much help organize it and run the practices and keep guys accountable and push them. And it works out really well.”

Evolve MMA is often seen as the the best training facility that Asia has to offer. Fighters from all around the globe have started to make their way to Singapore to get the best quality training all in the one place. With its increasing popularity, the gym is also attracting a significant amount of prospects who would like to join the Evolve Fight Team. Sims points out that there are a few qualities that a fighter must have if they are going to be considered.

“You’ve got the basics, the athleticism, people that have a good heart, that are willing to train and put in the sacrifices to get better,” Sims explained. “Everyone talks that they wanna be a world champion, but until they get in the room and do what’s needed, it’s just that—it’s talk. We look for people that are really dedicated to reach their full potential.”

It could be said that once a wrestler, always a wrestler. The values that the sport instills in youth, even to this day, is something that money just can’t buy. Sims took a chance when he decided that wrestling was going to become his pastime. At the time, he may not have known it, but it was going to grow into so much more than just a pastime. It was going to be his life.

There are so many life experiences that he can attribute to watching that demonstration all those years ago. He is thankful for everything that high school wrestling did for him, and for what it has meant for his past, present and future involvement in mixed martial arts.

Heath would like to thank Chatri Sityodtong for the opportunity to be part of Evolve MMA. He would also like to thank the Evolve Fight Team for all of their hard work. Follow Sims on Twitter: @heathlsims

About The Author

Staff Writer, Australia

Located in Queanbeyan, New South Wales, Neil Rooke has been writing about the sport of MMA since 2011. In the past, Neil has written for Cage Junkies and has written for Fight! Magazine as well as Fist! Fight Magazine. Neil is also a regular contributor to Fight! Magazine Australia and Yahoo! Sports Singapore.