Some fighters choose to solely focus on their fighting careers, but when he's not been inside a UFC Octagon, Stephen "Wonderboy" Thompson has been doing his bit to help build the family business.
Stephen's father, Ray Thompson, opened Upstate Karate in 1983 in Simpsonville, South Carolina, and with the help of his two sons, they've built a school now recognized as one of the Top 10 martial arts schools in the US, Canada, Australia, and UK by the United Martial Arts Association.
Speaking exclusively to Champions.co this past week, Stephen revealed some exciting news about the growth of Upstate Karate.
"We're busting out the teams and we are about to move into a new property," Thompson said. "We are in a 12,000 square foot property now, hopefully we will be getting a new 22,000 square foot property inside the shopping center. We are growing and I'm just really proud of my Dad, my Brother and where we have got to. We're are all really happy, but we're are going to stay on that grind and keep beating the bushes."
With approximately 700 members right now, the school is going from strength-to-strength. "Wonderboy" spoke about how the gym was still mostly serving the local community, but how it had also now stated to bring in fighters from further afield.
"You look at other gyms like ATT, Tristar, Jackson-Winkeljohn, and not a lot of those fighters are ones they brought up," Thompson said. "A lot of them though have come in from other gyms and who are just looking for sparring partners or whatever. In Simpsonville, we are getting a lot more of that and we're getting a lot more popular, but still, most the people in the gym come from the area and most of them are on our karate program."
Wonderboy then outlined some of the challenges that exist for some people to get into martial arts. He highlighted that the rough and tumble of MMA isn't for everyone, but that people should never be afraid of giving it a try.
"To be honest with you, our MMA program is growing a lot right now," Thompson said. "MMA is a really hard sport to get in to. A lot of people watch the UFC at age 25 and think to themselves that they can do that. After the first week they soon realize it's not what they thought and not how they envisioned it. It's a lot of hard work, but we've had a lot of guys at that age come in and they just put in the grind and they progress well. The problem is, these days there are a lot of people who don't feel comfortable, being uncomfortable and being sore, having bumps and bruises and they just don't want to work hard."
Stephen then described the difference between Upstate Karate and other martial arts schools and he provided some words of wisdom passed down from his father, Ray.
"What makes it a whole lot better and different to other schools is that I think you got to really care about them," Thompson said, referring to his students. "Something my Dad has always told me is, 'people don't care how much you know, they want to know how much you care'. I think that makes all the difference."
Congratulations to the Thompson family and everyone at Upstate Karate from Champions.co.