If anyone wants to know the type of person Robert Follis was, ask Tim Credeur. The UFC and Ultimate Fighter veteran and coach wasn’t one of Follis’ students at Team Quest or Xtreme Couture. Instead, Follis, who passed away Friday at the age of 48, had trained a trio of fighters – Chael Sonnen, Nate Quarry and Ed Herman - to beat Louisiana’s Credeur.
“If you want to know how incredible of a guy Robert Follis was, he cornered three fighters against me in three of the biggest fights of my life and three of my losses,” Credeur said. “He coached guys to beat me – very well, might I add. And regardless of that, I still loved Robert Follis.”
That may be the lasting legacy the renowned and respected coach leaves the world, and his impact on everyone in the mixed martial arts business was seen as soon as word of his passing hit social media on Sunday. From fighters to media members to his fellow coaches and friends, the consensus was that the Oregon native was someone irreplaceable in this tight-knit community.
“It’s a bad day for MMA,” Credeur said. “He was an incredible person who not only understood the art and combat and what we do, but he understood people. He was a great person, very kind, and it seemed like every interaction I had with Robert, I walked away with lessons that far exceeded the sport that we participated in. And that was one of the blessings about him. We all struggle with things, but he left a great impression in my life that very few men in this sport have left. And that’s saying a lot because we have the opportunity to be around some incredible people.”
One of the original members of the Team Quest squad that produced the likes of Randy Couture, Dan Henderson, Matt Lindland, Evan Tanner, Sonnen, Quarry, Herman and Chris Leben, just to name a few of the UFC luminaries to emerge from that gym in Oregon, Follis’ coaching style didn’t just focus on Xs and Os, but on the mental game necessary to succeed at the highest levels of the sport. And when he was in a fighter’s corner, it wasn’t just on fight night.
“It’s almost indescribable,” said Herman when asked Follis’ impact on his life and career. “I wouldn’t be who I am today without Robert. He took a young kid with no real guidance, a lost kid, and he put me on a path to where I am now. He believed in me and told me I could do whatever I wanted to.”
Eventually, the gym was the toughest in MMA.
“Yeah, back in the early 2000s, for sure,” said Herman, and Follis became someone fighters wanted to work with to up their game.
“It was more than just this country,” said Herman. “There were guys from all over the world who came to train with Robert or ran into him and made the time to train with him. He invested in so many people’s lives.”
He invested in so many people’s lives
And even when Credeur transitioned from fighting to coaching full-time, Follis was someone he always looked forward to talking shop with. That may be the rarest of Follis’ gifts, as combat sports coaches aren’t exactly known for sharing what they know with peers that might become adversaries on fight night.
“I don’t care what anybody says, we’re in a specific type of business,” Credeur explains. “The people who are in charge of our business are a specific type of people who come from a specific type of background, and fighting has always been held very close to the chest. Most of the real fighting coaches and fighters, these are hard people, and they’re not necessarily that open and honest always about everything, especially something so close to their heart and what they value in the world. They’re not open to everyone about it for free without you investing time and some sweat into them. And Robert was just not like that. He was an open book. He was a unicorn, really. And that’s what made him so special to so many people. He was completely different than most anyone else in the industry. He was just a wonderful guy.”
After a decade with Team Quest, Follis would eventually set up shop at the Xtreme Couture Gym in Las Vegas in 2013, a place he remained until leaving last month. While in Vegas, Miesha Tate won a world title and Kevin Lee challenged for one, and the roster of world-class fighters he worked with grew. And no matter what was going on outside the gym, he was always generous with his time and smiling from ear to ear.
“Every time I saw him, he was smiling,” Credeur said. “He would hug me and we would talk and I looked forward to seeing him and talking to him. It was kind of like he always had a secret and you didn’t know what his secret was, but you were excited to be around the guy that knew the secret.”
There was no secret to his smile. Robert Follis was just happy to be around fight people talking about the sport he loved. And the sport loved him back.
“He was there for me from the beginning,” Herman said. “He was my mentor.”