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Former Xtreme Couture, Team Quest coach Robert Follis dead


Robert Follis, a former coach at Team Quest and Xtreme Couture, is dead. His girlfriend, Myrna Fukuno, on Sunday confirmed the news via Facebook.

A cause of death was not revealed.

Former teammates, students, and MMA industry vets paid tribute to the coach on social media. In message after message, they spoke glowingly of him as a mentor and a friend who drew great joy from helping others.

Via Twitter:

“I can’t imagine where my life would be today if I never knew Robert Follis,” wrote Nate Quarry, a onetime UFC middleweight title challenger and longtime Follis charge at Team Quest in Portland, Ore. “As my coach, my brother, my friend, we shared so many meaningful times together.

“It breaks my heart knowing we’ve lost him so soon. He impacted THOUSANDS and made me a better man along the way.”

UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture also released a statement: “Robert was a friend, coach, mentor, and philosopher of martial arts to many of us,” he wrote on Instagram. “It is with a very heavy heart that I write this tribute to a man that touched so many.”

Via Instagram:

As one of the founding members of Team Quest and Xtreme Couture MMA it is with great sorrow that we say good bye to Robert Follis. Robert was a friend, coach, mentor, and philosopher of martial arts to many of us. It is with a very heavy heart that I write this tribute to a man that touched so many. Death is like the sun. There is no escaping it. It infuses every part of our lives, but it doesn’t make sense to stare at it too long. That becomes a real challenge when someone you know, love, and respect ends their life. This is where Robert has been since his brothers passing a couple years ago and where we are left now. It is very easy to get caught up in the urgency that comes from the limited span of our lives. It can push us to obsess over life’s meaning in the time we have. But obsessing over it, and staring directly at it too long can blind us to the possibilities of living. Robert was a Hero to many. Heroes have the whole earth as their tomb . . . There is, enshrined in the chest of every person he touched, a record unwritten with no tablet to preserve it. It’s that which he imprinted on our hearts. What lives on is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what he has woven into the lives of others. Those who have lived with us become a part of us. We honor the dead by living their values. Through our efforts, we ensure that the good things they stood for continue to stand even when they are gone. Robert stood for many good things. Let’s let Our actions become a living memorial to Robert Follis. R

A post shared by Randy Couture (@xcnatch) on

Two months ago, Follis spoke glowingly about his charge Kevin Lee in advance of an UFC interim lightweight title bout at UFC 216.

Lee, he said, was among the most elite athletes he worked with over 18 years, quite the compliment for a coach who’d shepherded dozens of fighters to the octagon as the quiet heartbeat of two of the sport’s most famous and accomplished MMA teams.

“I’ve gotta say it,” Follis told MMAjunkie with a slight smile. “You know. I don’t know how you put your finger on that. Some people have that it. They’ve got the charisma, they’ve got the confidence. They have that self-belief.

“Man, if I could make that happen – and I could control that – every guy would have it. Every woman would have that. But not everybody gets it, and not everybody can ever have it. It’s a special gift, and it’s part of what makes a champion. I saw that in Kevin from the beginning, and it’s only shined brighter as time has gone on.”

That gruff wisdom and generosity were among Follis’ defining features. Amidst all the typical bombast behind the scenes in MMA, he was a calming presence that didn’t draw much attention to himself.

Yet in person, his passion for the sport shined through in the gym, where his booming voice could be heard shouting orders to those inside the cage.

Follis spent years helping to build Team Quest into an MMA powerhouse, working with founders Randy Couture, Dan Henderson and Matt Lindland. He could be seen in the corner for some of their biggest fights. Unlike other well-known coaches, however, he didn’t come into the spotlight until late in his career. He spent the bulk of his time working at gyms established by Couture, building a reputation as a go-to guy for high-level instruction.

The Xtreme Couture gym gave Follis a second act after Team Quest’s slow decline in the mid-2000s and a messy breakup of its principles. Recruited by Dennis Davis, one of Xtreme Couture’s first official coaches, Follis joined the Las Vegas gym in September 2013. In the following years, he helped rebuild the team at a time when it was suffering from a critical lack of leadership.

“I’d been down here and seen it for myself,” Follis told MMAjunkie of his introduction to Xtreme Couture. “Practice started at four? Then everybody would roll in at 4:30, like it didn’t matter. Nobody was setting the standard and holding people accountable.

“I sat everybody down when I first got here and told them that four o’clock means four o’clock. And I know that might sound like a silly point to some people, but if I’m going to do this, it’s to win titles.

“To me, showing up 15 minutes late doesn’t say championship training. It says, ‘I don’t care enough to be on time for myself and my teammates.’ And I get it, it’s easier to let people roll in late than it is to constantly hold that line. But what I told them was, ‘I don’t want to look at you after a loss and go, maybe I should have made you be on time. Sorry.’ No, I want to know I gave everything I had on my end.”

Less than three years later, Follis was in the corner when that championship training netted the team’s first UFC belt. Miesha Tate, a talented women’s bantamweight who’d bounced around gyms on the West Coast to settle down at Xtreme Couture, shocked the world at UFC 196 with a last-minute submission of Holly Holm to win the promotion’s 135-pound title.

It was a moment of huge pride for Follis, who left Team Quest after a period of personal tumult and afterward spent a considerable time away from the fight game. But his time at Xtreme Couture would not come without its own acrimony.

Just one month after Lee lost the UFC 216 interim title bout to Tony Ferguson in a back-and-forth fight, Follis confirmed his departure from the gym.

In a statement provided to Bleacher Report, he thanked Couture for bringing him onto the team.

“Having the opportunity to build it back up to a world-class level has been one of the great experiences of my professional career,” he said. “At the time there was not a Brazilian jiu-jitsu program in place for non-fighters to come in for, so to see it take off and flourish was a great accomplishment.

“I’m really excited about some big possibilities that are currently sitting in front of me and I’m looking forward to watching these things unfold soon. I’m so grateful to everyone that partnered with me over the years to get the gym and the Brazilian jiu-jitsu program to where it is.”

Xtreme Couture manager and coach Eric Nicksick wished Follis well in his future endeavors, but indicated the coach didn’t always jell with his colleagues.

“I feel like we weren’t on the same page with a lot of things that were coming up with coach Follis,” Nicksick told MMAjunkie Radio two weeks ago. “I wish him nothing but the best. I feel like he’s better off on his own and doing his own thing and running his own program.

“He’s going to do well. He’s always been a successful coach, but I think the track record of him bumping around kind of speaks for itself.”

On Saturday, Keith Lee, the younger brother of Kevin Lee and another promising MMA prospect under Follis’ tutelage, won his third professional bout, stopping his opponent via first-round TKO.

Unlike so many nights where he’d shared in the successes and failures of his students, Follis wasn’t there to watch Lee win.

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