Death is concept that is never far from the mind of a martial artist. In the case of Robert Follis, it may have been a thought that sat for too long in his consciousness since he lost one of his brothers via suicide.
It is no news that many successful combat sport athletes came a difficult background. Death within the family, or the stark absence of loved ones that is a akin to a metaphoric version of death feeds into a deep dark void of anguish that is often inextinguishable. It is a common misconception that athletes sought violence as a remedy to relieve their need to punch out at the world. In fact, there is a kind of peace in devoting body and mind to an heightened focus that can only be achieved when in intense combat.
Unfortunately, the biggest battle of all lies not within the competitive arena, but within the confines of one’s skull. The most difficult every fighter faces is usually himself. It is sadly through suicide when that war is finally lost.
The sudden death of Robert Follis, a young, healthy and successful MMA coach, well regarded within his community sent shock waves within industry. One of his most well know student Miesha Tate became a UFC Women’s Bantamweight title holder under his guidance – that is a testament to his outstanding work as a trainer. The Follis’ family have asked for privacy, and the entire MMA community, trainers, fighters, writers and viewers alike held their tongues dutifully. None had dared to discuss the D word and the S word.
Tragically, Robert Follis is not the first to stun the pugilistic world with such an abrupt departure. But one can hope the community can learn to be watchful of each other, to be open and accepting to those who are brave enough to discuss their inner demons, perhapshe will be the last.