The afternoon sun beams off the corrugated iron that makes up the Integrated MMA headquarters in Stafford, Queensland. The gym’s head coach, Dan Higgins, walks through the opening made by the sliding roller-door. For the most part, the team works like clockwork. Everybody has their place, and whether it be the first person through the entrance or the last, they will always be working towards a common goal.

Everybody is striving to be the most complete martial artist that they can be. Higgins started his journey decades ago. Whilst the scope of what it takes to be a martial artist may have changed in the years since his journey began, Higgins’ dedication certainly has not.

Higgins (

Higgins (

“It was a different time when I started getting into martial arts,” Higgins recalled. “I started training when I was around six or seven years old and have been involved in martial arts for about 32 years now. There was no social media as such back then, and I didn’t get into it for the money or to be famous or anything like that. I got involved in martial arts to better develop myself and to have something to work towards.”

Over the years, Higgins has seen it all when it comes to people wanting to chase down the dream of being a full-time professional fighter. The success of Integrated MMA means that there are always people knocking on the door to join what is arguably Australia’s most successful fight team. Higgins is not as concerned with what a person can bring to the table in accomplishments as he is with the qualities that define the person and where the journey that is martial arts can take them.

“I think that training in martial arts should be used to develop character,” Higgins explained. “I have a very traditional outlook on training and on martial arts as a whole. And I think that if someone is worried about accolades or trophies and belts, then they aren’t going to last long in the sport. Once they lose a fight or are out of the spotlight, then they start to lose interest. I am a very basic kind of guy, and, for me, it’s about training a skill set first and being a fighter comes second.”

One important aspect of being able to continue to grow and succeed in martial arts is the ability to forge healthy relationships. Higgins has built more friendships than he can count. He considers those friendships to be pivotal in his ability to continue to follow his martial arts journey.

“I’m very grateful for the friendships that I have made through my involvement in martial arts,” Higgins said. “I’d really like to thank Adrian Pang and Tony Green for all everything that they have done to help make Integrated what it is today, as well as Greg Jackson and Luiz Tannuri, who is my BJJ Master. My students and everybody that is involved with Integrated MMA are also very important to the success of our team, and, really, seeing them grow is the reason that we turn up to the gym every night.”

“Steve Irwin was a very good friend of mine, and he just loved martial arts. I was his bodyguard and trained him for about five years,” Higgins continued. “He was instrumental in me being able to go over to the U.S. and build a relationship with Greg Jackson and train over there. He did that all out of his own pocket, and he was the one who organized everything, so that is something that I am always grateful for. I am still good friends with Greg, and while we don’t talk as much as we used to, it was still good to see him come in and do a seminar at Integrated MMA when he was in Australia for the last UFC event. He’s a world-class trainer and coach, and for him to take the time to do that was great for everyone from our gym.”

Higgins (center) (

Higgins (center) (

In any kind of training, consistency is always a key to being able to achieve success. The team at Integrated MMA has been lucky enough to have the same people involved in the operation of the gym, and that has been instrumental to them being able to continue to produce fighters who are successful on the Australian mixed martial arts circuit.

“We’ve had some of the same core guys involved in the gym over the last 10 years, and I don’t think that’s something that many other gyms around Australia can say,” Higgins said. “We believe in things being done right, and if you turn up at the gym with a clean slate with no other training, then it will take a few years for you to fight. Yeah, we might lose some of the newer guys who start, because they want to be in there fighting straight away, but we believe that a certain amount of work needs to be done. And as a trainer, I have a duty of care to the fighter to make sure that they are best equipped and ready to compete.”

The basic principles that Higgins adheres to in his life as a martial artist are what keeps him grounded and dedicated to the core development of his team. Every night when that sliding roller-door at Integrated MMA comes to a close, Higgins exits the facility confident that he has done everything in his power to share his knowledge with those who are the most hungry to absorb it. A true martial artist will pride themselves on knowledge instead of accolades, and that’s Higgins to a tee.

Follow Dan on Twitter: @CoachDanHiggins

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.