On Aug. 14, 2011, tragedy struck. Famed mixed martial arts trainer Shawn Tompkins died after suffering a heart attack in his sleep.
It was a devastating loss for the MMA community but even more so for those close to him that have trained under his tutelage. One of those men is George Roop, who will take on Hatsu Hioki this Saturday night (Oct. 29, 2011) in Las Vegas.
Tompkins cornered Roop in his last several fights, save for his bout against Mark Hominick at UFC Fight Night 23. It's no surprise, then, that the former Ultimate Fighter cast member's only defeat since March 2010 came at the hands of another one of Tompkins prized pupils.
Unfortunately, when Roop goes into battle at UFC 137, he'll do so without his trainer and friend for the first time, at least not in body. But, as he tells MMA Weekly, Tompkins will be there in spirit, as the angel on his shoulder:
"Words can't even express how valuable of a coach (Shawn) Tompkins is, and even more how valuable of a friend and mentor he is. So it's a huge loss not only to me, but definitely to the whole MMA community. He's definitely helped me take my game to the next level. It's a huge loss. Him not being in my corner, there's always going to be that void there. I'm going to take him in there, he's going to be the angel on my shoulder as I go in there and take it to Hioki and get my respect."
Save for the loss to Hominick in January of this year, Roop has looked all but unstoppable. He earned "Knockout of the Night" with a head kick destruction of Chan Sung Jung as well as a run through of Josh Grispi this past June.
In short, he's rolling.
Now he'll get the chance to prove just how good he is when he tests his might against the man ranked number two on the USA Today/MMA Nation consensus rankings.
It won't be easy. But with his trainer and friend watching down on him, still guiding him as he goes, at the very least he'll give it everything he has.
And Tompkins wouldn't expect any less.