Our second coach up on our series is Tiger Muay Thai head MMA Coach George Hickman, who currently now lives full-time in Phuket, Thailand and has the privilege of training some of the hardest workers in the world.
Tiger Muay Thai is one of the most famous gyms in the world with the talent they produce. The gym welcomes athletes from all over the world to accommodate all levels. The facility they can offer their fighters is second to none. Names such as Israel Adesanya, Dan Hooker, Alexander Volkanovski, Cody Garbrant and the Shevchenko sisters are well-familiar with the gym.
Hickman is a professional mixed martial artist and a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu purple belt under Roan Jucao Carneiro. Hickman started wrestling at a young age and went on to become a 3x Wrestling State Champion and a four-time finalist in the USA. He then went on to wrestle for Bloomsburg University, which is a Division 1 program.
While wrestling in college, George was a 4-year starter. After graduating from college, Hickman moved to Atlanta to begin fighting professionally in mixed martial arts. While in Atlanta, he trained under Muay Thai trainer Manu N’toh.
Hickman had a successful record of (9-3) before deciding to call it a day on his MMA career. An appearance on Bellator, fighting in Bangkok as well as various other countries to gain as much experience before transitioning into that full-time coaching role. Not only does the American take the MMA classes, but his brother, Frank Hickman, is also the Wrestling Coach at Tiger.
There’s a reason so many professional fighters worldwide are coming here and this man plays a huge role in that. From cornering athletes on the biggest stage in the major organisations to helping the amateurs achieve their goals on the regional scene. Let’s dive into our interview with Hickman and find out more about his coaching and life in Thailand.
First of all, could you tell us a bit about your background and how you first got involved in combat sports and when you began coaching?
Hickman – “I wrestled from the time I was 5 years old through college. I knew going into my senior year of college wrestling, that when I was done that I wanted to fight. The summer before my senior year I did some cross-training at an MMA gym in my hometown and went to see a live fight shortly after and was hooked. I had coached wrestling quite a bit throughout my life, but I didn’t become an MMA coach until I moved to Thailand in 2014. I was coaching and still fighting, but since my last fight in 2016, I have been coaching full-time.”
As the Head MMA Coach of Tiger Muay Thai, you obviously deal with a lot of athletes and can’t always give your full attention to everybody. How do you build that team of coaches in the gym and have your full trust in them as at the end of the day they are representing you and your job essentially?
Hickman – “There are definitely a lot of athletes that come through our doors, but we have a great coaching staff. The coaches that we have all have a similar philosophy and work well with each other. Tiger is a different gym. In one Class of pro fighters, for example, if I have 40 people in the class, I give attention to anyone who needs it and I want to help them. But within those, I have fighters that we consider Tiger fighters and they are a priority and we make sure they are looked after.”
How much of your training that you do with your fighters is physical and how much of it is mental? Do you ever play the role of a mental coach for your fighters if need be, as well as passing the knowledge down?
Hickman – “I think every fighter just like every human is different, so I must approach them and speak to them differently. I’m not a mental coach, but if I think an athlete needs that help, I definitely will advise them to seek that, but I do try to help with that aspect through other ways.”
Can you tell us about how being from the US, yourself and your brother ended up moving to Thailand full-time? How tough was that whole process and adapting to it? #
Hickman – “I first came to Thailand in 2014 for the TMT tryouts. My brother came shortly after to visit and that was all, but he loved it. After returning home and working, he decided to make the move here a couple of years later. It was an easy change for both of us and has been great.”
Fast-forward to fight day, how do you prepare the athlete themselves backstage before battle, what are you saying to them, anything specific to calm things such as nerves and anxiety?
Hickman – “Again all fighters are different. But, yes before the fight I speak to all of them differently. Some I try to keep calm and others I try to pump up and get going, but it all depends on their personality.”
Every coach has their own unique style and philosophy when it comes to fighting and coaching. How would you describe your coaching philosophy?
Hickman – “I’m pretty laid back, but at the same time I expect the fighters to train hard and be prepared for the fight because it isn’t all fun and games once you’re in there. The sport is always changing, so you have to adapt and learn constantly, so fighters need to always be learning and up-skilling.”
In your view, what makes a good cornerman. Are there rituals that you stick to every time you’re in your fighters’ corner?
Hickman – “Just being aware while in the moment, as everything is happening, because from the time you start walking out until the fight is over a lot is going on and you have to stay clear. I personally try to speak clearly and be concise and not overload the fighter. Again, yes with some fighters, there are some things, or rituals they like to do before the fight.”
What do you feel is the most important attribute for a good student/fighter?
Hickman – “Belief.”
Are there any coaches that inspired you to do what you do day in and day out and how so?
Hickman – “I don’t think any coaches inspired me to coach, but I do have tons of respect for some coaches.”
All social media links will be left below for Coach Hickman. Go show him some support and make sure you’re following his athletes’ journeys. I’d like to thank George for his time on getting this together.
Also, be sure to check out the Overtime Heroics Forums page to join in on the discussion!