Heath Sims has been in Singapore for the best part of two years and the former U.S. Olympian is loving life there.
As head coach of the Evolve MMA fight team, he gets to work with some of the best mixed martial arts (MMA) fighters in the region as well as plenty of up and coming prospects and he sat down with MMAmania.com for a chat about what's coming up for his athletes.
Sims, who prior to moving to Singapore was best known as being Dan Henderson's long term coach and corner man, retired from MMA with a record of 5-4 and faced a number of fighters during his career who are still active in Asia including Koji Oishi, Satoru Kitaoka, and Antonio McKee.
McKee was stopped in the first round by Shinya Aoki at what turned out to be DREAM's last ever event and according to Sims, an announcement is imminent on when the reigning ONE FC 155-pound champion will be back in action.
"Things are in the works for Shinya. Some news should come out soon," he said.
A recent addition to the Evolve MMA fight team is Ben Askren and he spent two weeks training in Singapore ahead of his successful ONE FC debut. Sims, who like Askren represented the U.S. at the Olympics, says he has been picking up some tricks from the standout wrestler.
"Askren's skills are very different, yet simple. He uses what he knows best. Nothing he does is fancy. It's maybe unorthodox, but it's things you know he is going to do to you but still can't stop. Many of the moves he likes I recognize immediately from wrestling. It's just I never thought of applying it the way he does. It's the way he adapts them that makes it unique."
While Askren's ONE FC career got off to the best possible start, the night did not go so well for his team mate Eddie Ng, who suffered a controversial first round TKO loss and while the Hong Kong native was magnanimous in defeat, Sims says he believes Yuji Shimada made a mistake.
"It was a terrible way to end the fight. I know Vincent does not like it. Yuji just plain messed up but it happens and I still respect him very much. Refs have to make decisions for the safety of fighters in an instant so they are bound to make mistakes occasionally. Eddie actually fought with a fractured wrist, he couldn't complete his takedowns or land the right hand. He should probably have pulled out, but he didn't want to let anyone down."
While he might not be as well known as the likes of Aoki and Askren, one of the most successful members of the Evolve MMA fight team in recent months has been Irshaad Sayed. Last year the South African won the Ruff 135-pound title and earlier this year he signed with the biggest promotion in his homeland, EFC.
Sayed has won both his EFC fights to date and although coaching commitments in Asia have prevented Sims from being cageside in South Africa, he believes his student is on track for a second title,
"Irshaad is a beast! At Evolve MMA we have multiple world champions in BJJ, boxing and Muay Thai and they are all impressed by his skill set. He was the former RUFF Champion and just keeps improving, When he first started out he was really just a Muay Thai fighter but he's won his last two fights by submission and his ground game is getting stronger every day."
There are numerous former Lumpinee champions at Evolve MMA with Muay Thai classes extremely popular in Singapore and one of them is set to compete in the cage for the first time this weekend. Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke already has over 300 fights to his name and Sims is looking forward to seeing him make his MMA debut at ONE FC: "Honor & Glory" this Saturday.
"He has concentrated on MMA for eight months and he has adapted amazing well. We are not trying to make him a wrestler or go out there and submit people. We want him to knock people out because that's what he does best, so we focus on technique and strategy that will keep a fight where he has the advantage and then learn positions where he can stay safe. Over time he will constantly improve and keep changing his game."
When MMA first started to gain traction in Thailand a lot of people predicted that Thai mixed martial artists would soon be among the best in the world. It hasn't happened yet and part of the problem for the big names at Evolve MMA like Orono Wor Petchpun, Namsaknoi Yudthagarngamtorn, and Attachai Fairtex, is that reputations as famous former champions precede them and they are in constant demand for private lessons.
Sims also says that after competing in Muay Thai for so many years and winning numerous belts and accolades some fighters simply aren't motivated to launch a completely new career, but he doesn't believe there is any reason why students of the "science of eight limbs" shouldn't be able to transition to MMA,
"If they are open to learning it's easy. Muay Thai fighters have great kicks, punches, elbows, clinch, and off balances. They are way ahead of the game before they even start and I think the hardest part for them is they have been warriors in competitions since they were young, training and competing for many years. To begin learning new skills takes humility and a strong desire and after 300 fights, I am not sure I would have much desire left in me."
As well as being home to some of the biggest names in Asia, Evolve MMA also regularly plays host to some big names from the U.S. with the likes of Dan Henderson, Joseph Benavidez and Rich Franklin having made training trips in recent years.
Next month Tyron Woodley, Demetrious Johnson, and Joe Warren, will all be training together at Evolve MMA and Sims thinks working alongside some of the highest ranked fighters in the sport can only help the fight team to improve.
"Having world class fighters consistently at Evolve is essential. The exchange of information between other world class fighters and our fight team helps us consistently grow and improve. We know how valuable it it to work with the best people you can find and keep adding tools to your arsenal."
As Asian MMA expands, there are more and more American coaches working here with Brian Ebersole and Roger Huerta at Tiger Muay Thai, as well as Andrew and Anthony Leone at Jakarta Muay Thai, but with his team competing in events from Jakarta to Cape Town to Las Vegas this month, no one is going to be busier than Sims.