I was introduced to Shanon Woodward because he is the coach at Midwest Combat Academy, a gym where two athletes I work with train at. Through them I was able to learn a bit and became impressed with the things he is doing, his caring for his fighters and just anything that went along with him and the gym. From amateurs to pros, the gym has been very successful and behind every successful team is a successful coach, so I wanted to interview Shanon and let people know a little more about him.
Q: As I understand it, you got started in Muay Thai. Is that correct and what initially got you interested in that?
A: I had a Kempo background. I have been in Kempo since I was twelve years old. Then when we joined the Unified Kempo Association that is when I met Jessie Garcia, that is my coach, the guy who led me into Muay Thai and MMA.
Q: So you yourself, how long did you compete?
A: For seven years. I had a four year lay-off in the middle.
Q: From there you opened your gym, what made you want to do that?
A: My last fight, I sustained a hip injury to where I had to get a major surgery and could not compete again. I still had the love for it and wanted to be a part of it and thought I had a lot to offer the up coming new kids and pros. At first I would only work with pros when I was fighting and then after I opened a gym I found out that you have to have a higher attendance to keep your gym open so that is when I started opening my door’s for the amateurs. Once I did that, I really started to enjoy the amateurs almost more than the pros. You get to work with them from the ground up, from the street kid walking in to hopefully one day a higher caliber amateur that is holding a belt.
Q: If you go back to when you first opened it, has it progressed at a rate you expected?
A: Yeah! I have had gyms since I got my Black Belt. Owner or part owner of a gym since the early nineties. I always enjoyed teaching and helping out. I had no idea that one day I would be sitting in a corner in Vegas. I was just doing it to help pros further themselves and amateurs get a new beginning in their careers.
Q: Some gyms have just the one coach, your gym has the multiple coaches who each specialize in something, how much does that help?
A: It is fantastic. There is a lot of coaches who are so ego driven that they have to be the only coach, they have to be the only one talking, all the attention. Almost like they do it for their own attention because they’re not fighting. I want my guys to get the best they can. My Jiu-Jitsu coach Cody Criqui is gonna be sensational. He is an up and comer Brown Belt doing fantastic things and I could not have a better Jiu-Jitsu coach. Stand-up I have Lucas Kennedy who was just a normal guy that walked into the gym and worked his butt off and got to a place where he can compete and is doing very well. I have Chris Jones who is a very good striking coach who will hopefully turn pro by the end of the year. He brings so much more to our program. That shows you how I will bring people in to make people better.
Q: In addition you have people like a Wayman Carter there who has been there and done that, does it help having someone like that to show the younger fighters what they can achieve?
A: Yeah it does. When they see the talent level we have as pros and that they are doing so well at such a higher level, it is inspiration for everyone to work harder. They think it is possible to do that if they put the work in and train as hard as the pros.
Q: Rebecca Revelle said that you are not the typical coach, going off that, what do you feel makes you different?
A: I think I am a lot more personable. My coach helped me through some very very hard times so I feel like I try and give that back. I’m not only a coach but I am a friend, a father figure to a few of the fighters in the gym. I try and be an all-around good person and not a slave driver.
Q: On cards with multiple fighters on the same card, is it difficult to make sure each fighter is getting the individual attention they need?
A: That is tricky. That is why I like to have three or four different coaches with me. The local shows with six to seven people on the cards, I’ll have two or three coaches in the back that never see the fights because they are preparing the guys. I wrap all the hands, but they get them ready and I lead them out and corner. I try and put as many good people as I can with our group. As long as we are on the same page, that is how we succeed. I could never do it by myself with seven people. I have at least two in the back and one to two with me.
Q: Even just following on social media you can see that the gym has sort of a family atmosphere, for you, is that important?
A: Oh Yeah! It is most definitely a family atmosphere. When I had my first gym, my daughter spent more time at the gym than at home. I encourage the children, husbands or wives to be part of it. When the fighters are gone so much, I don’t want problems at home. If the wives can be comfortable being there with the children it makes it a better place to be.
Q: If you could narrow it to one thing, what is the best thing about coaching?
A: Just watching someone succeed. Giving someone a chance that never would have done it and watch them achieve something. That is the greatest satisfaction you can get.
Q: Since I manage them, I want to selfishly mention two people. I will start with Rebecca Revelle. She came in as a boxer, how important was it for her to learn Muay Thai for the cage and was it something you needed to teach her quickly?
A: Most definitely! When she would spar, boxers aren’t used to getting kicked and you give a boxer a good leg kick and they have a different reaction then they should in a fight. It was a major important part of her game.
Q: Confidence is never an issue with Rebecca, does that play a part in her success?
A: Most definitely! Sometimes all the attention my girls get drives me crazy. They have so much hype on them. But it is that confidence that pushes them through it. Their training, these girls work so hard. They train and work so hard. If they aren’t in my gym they are working out on their own, they cross train, they keep busy.
Q: Now Rach Wiley. I always say when I talked about her, she has been with me the longest and been through the most with me and why I started managing. When I met her she was 1-1 and there is so much pride seeing what she has done since then. As her coach how has it been to watch her from when she first came to you and progress to where she is now?
A: Rach and I have a good connection. She was with me with the very first group of fighters I had. She has been with me the longest out of anyone in the gym amateur wise. It has been a very fun ride watching her grow, watching her train. All the girls keep me on my toes, they sometimes blow me away with the conversations and things they tell me. But I would have it no other way. Rach has been fantastic to watch because she has improved so much. What makes it even better is just this last week, how she has been training for her fight, she picked her training up to a level that I have never seen before. To me, just a few nights ago was a refreshing experience to see how bad she wants this and how good she can get if she continues to train this way.
Q: You mentioned the hype and as far as amateurs Rach is as popular as anyone right now, but she has stayed so humble, do you think that is hard for a fighter like that?
A: She is a very humble person. She is a very good person, she would do anything for anybody.
Q: As a coach, all the different fighters, each one has a different personality, do you have to adjust yours and treat each one different based on their personality?
A: Yeah, I train towards the individual. I don’t have a lesson plan that everyone follows. Some people are long and use their long game, some don’t have the long reach and use their short game. We have to adapt to the person. You start with the basics, the fundamentals, but once you grow into your style, your coaches have to help you adapt towards your style.
Q: With the continued progression of the gym, where do you see it in five years?
A: I envision great success from all of my fighters. Probably one of my fighters will be coaching so I can sit and fish with my kids and spending time with my wife. I have one of the greatest wives who lets me do what I love to do and I love her for that.