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Local MMA trainer Tompkins passes away in Canada

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

Brazilian middleweight Vitor Belfort jokes with trainer Shawn Tompkins before a workout Wednesday, July 14, 2010.

Shawn Tompkins

Brazilian middleweight Vitor Belfort gets a drink from trainer Shawn Tompkins after a workout at TapouT Wednesday, July 14, 2010. Launch slideshow »

There were several jaw-dropping moments at Sunday night’s UFC on Versus 5 event, the most bewildering of which was news of the passing of MMA trainer Shawn Tompkins. Between fights, UFC announcers Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg let fans know of his untimely death.

The 37 year-old kickboxer and mixed martial artist passed away in his sleep Sunday. Few details are available, and the cause of death is still unknown, pending an autopsy.

Though he hailed from Ontario, Canada, Tompkins spent much of his time in Las Vegas training fighters such as Sam Stout, Mark Hominick and John Gunderson. In addition to these younger fighters, Tompkins has helped train MMA veterans Vitor Belfort, Bas Rutten, Randy Couture and Wanderlei Silva. He trained at gyms all over town including LA Boxing, Xtreme Couture and most recently, the Tapout Training Center.

Despite a 0-4 record in his own professional mixed martial arts career, Tompkins’ star was on the rise in the MMA coaching world. In 2009, he was nominated for Coach of the Year at the World Mixed Martial Arts Awards. Though he did not win, being nominated in a category along with coaching greats Greg Jackson and Mark DellaGrotte was recognition of his status as a trainer.

Tompkins had many memorable experiences cornering his fighters, but one recent battle stands out. Tompkins trained fellow Canadian Hominick for his April title shot against featherweight champ Jose Aldo at UFC 129. Despite massive swelling in his head, Hominick went all five rounds against Aldo. At the end of the fight, Tompkins hugged Hominick like he would had he won, acknowledging his tremendous effort. It was support such as this that made Tompkins a favorite among fighters.

The outpouring of emotion in the MMA community has been overwhelming. Gunderson said on his Facebook page, “Lost a great friend & mentor today,” and changed his profile picture to one of himself and his former trainer.

Fighter Javier Torres did the same, opting for a shot of Tompkins giving him some water between the rounds of one of his fights. On his Facebook page, Torres called Tompkins, “my friend, my trainer and partner of wars” and a “legend.”

On his Twitter account, UFC legend Randy Couture said, “Shawn was a mentor and coach to many of us in the MMA world. He will be sorely missed.”

The Toronto Sun quotes Hominick: “I just think the reality is setting in now. We are trying to get our head around this and we just can’t. We’re trying to hold it together but it’s so hard.”

Local radio personality and MMA commentator Dave Farra had worked with Tompkins here and across the country. “Shawn was an awesome guy and an awesome trainer,” Farra said. “He was always giving 100 percent of himself to other people and this was evidenced by how close his team and his family are.”

Farra also noted Tompkins’ tendency to go above and beyond for his team. “He was always opening up his home to up-and-coming fighters in their time of need and now some of them are contenders to world championships. Shawn just loved what he did and you could tell.”

Tompkins’ compassion went far beyond the ropes of the training ring. In October 2009, aided troubled fighter Junie Browning when he attempted suicide. When asked about the incident, Tompkins said: “People have been questioning and asking about my openness to it and you know what, I am more than a trainer. It is a commitment. Everybody here is a human being so if I get a call that something like that is happening, I’m going to go for anybody.”

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