The Ultimate Fighter
“As much as this is a sport and winning and losing is very important, I also understand it’s an entertainment business. If it weren’t for the fans tuning in and watching and coming out to the fights I wouldn’t be making any money fighting, so I look to put on a show."
When UFC lightweight Sam “Hands of Stone” Stout trains for his next fight against England’s Paul Taylor at UFC 121 in Anaheim, CA, it’s a family affair.
At the TapouT Research and Development Training Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, older sister Emilie is keeping time while Sam spars inside the cage. Her husband, Shawn Tompkins, is Sam’s coach. And working out nearby is WEC lightweight Chris Horodecki, Stout’s business partner, teammate and one of his best friends. WEC featherweight Mark Hominick rounds off the team, who all hail from London, Ontario in Canada.
“That’s been one of the secrets to our success, having a real strong support system that’s been around since the beginning,” says Stout. “Shawn’s been like a big brother to me since I was 16, and there are a couple other guys back home in Canada that have been with us since the beginning and that family aspect to the team is one of the most important things to me. Without that I wouldn’t be where I am today,” he said.
Where he is today is on solid Octagon ground. Stout’s 4-5 UFC record (16-6-1 overall) doesn’t reflect the fact that he’s won three consecutive Fight of the Night bonuses in fights against Matt Wiman, Joe Lauzon and Jeremy Stephens, and he expects more of the same against Taylor.
“I think I match up pretty well with him,” he said. “We’re both primarily strikers, we’re both really technical. I think it should make for an interesting MMA fight.”
Stout is known for his exciting fighting style, keeping the fight on the feet and showcasing impressive kickboxing skills and a lot of heart. He came up short on points against Stephens in his last bout at UFC 113, and while he’s tweaking things here and there, fans shouldn’t expect to see any dramatic changes in his style against Taylor.
“I’ll definitely lead into the fight standing up but I will keep him guessing,” he says. “I’ve been working all aspects of my game with Shawn and (jiu jitsu coach) Keebo Robinson and I think Paul’s a perfect opponent to try to start working new things on.”
This fight marks Paul Taylor’s (10-5-1, 1 NC overall and 3-4 UFC) return to the sport after he dropped out of his bout against John Gunderson with a migraine headache at UFC 112 in Abu Dhabi, where the lightweight belt went to Frankie Edgar in a surprise upset against BJ Penn. Edgar recently defended his new strap in a rematch with “The Prodigy” with another five round unanimous victory at UFC 118.
Stout was impressed.
“Frankie Edgar is a hell of an athlete,” he says. “His two wins over Penn were brilliant. He executed a perfect game plan in both fights. He presented angles, he moved a lot. He kickboxed with him and didn’t stand there and try to match hand speed because BJ has one of the best jabs in the game. He moved around, kicked him a lot, tired him out and shot in for those takedowns and he’s the only one who’s really been able to do that. Good on him,” he says in a slight Canadian accent.
Stout is looking at this fight against Taylor to put him back into that title contention conversation, which is exactly where he wants to be in one of the deepest divisions in the sport.
“After that win against Lauzon I was thinking that I was getting close but then that loss to Jeremy Stevens kind of derailed me,” he said. “It doesn’t just depend on W’s and L’s. It’s how you win too. If I start knocking people out and winning in exciting fashion I can see it in three fights, but if I keep squeaking out decisions it could be longer, you know,” he said. “I try not to think about it too much. I’ll fight whoever Joe Silva and Dana White want me to fight.”
Stout has a mature perspective on the sport and his career, and perhaps having a brother-in-law who is considered one of the brightest coaches in MMA has something to do with it. Sam certainly seems inspired by Tompkins.
“Just look at where he is,” says Stout. “He’s one of the top coaches in the game, and he’s come from such humble beginnings. You don’t get from there to here without a lot of hard work and knowing what you’re doing,” he said.
Sam knows what he is doing as well, particularly when it comes to giving fans what they want.
“As much as this is a sport and winning and losing is very important, I also understand it’s an entertainment business,” he said. “If it weren’t for the fans tuning in and watching and coming out to the fights I wouldn’t be making any money fighting, so I look to put on a show. I think the fights that end up like that are more fun anyway,” he said.
For Stout, a professional fighting career was far from a sure thing. He split his training time with a job installing flooring and as a student, studying to be a paramedic.
“I wanted to help people but really I just thought it would be an exciting career,” he said. Stout knew he had to put full time focus into his fight career if he was going to be taken seriously. “I knew that a chance to fight in the UFC was a once in a lifetime opportunity, so I had to take the risk,” he said.
Stout fought for six years before even stepping foot inside the Octagon, competing in over 30 kickboxing matches all over the US and Canada, and he got his start fighting MMA in Japan. He even went to Las Vegas to try out for K-1 when he was 19 years old.
All that work has paid off, and these days Stout’s not installing floors, and he’s not tending to any injuries as a paramedic, but what he is doing is pursuing a dream that’s getting closer and closer every day.