Former Royal Marine commando Martin Stapleton recounts his journey from fighter to coach

Martin Stapleton is a veteran of the U.K. MMA circuit and a former BAMMA lightweight champion. But before he pulled on a set of four-ounce gloves, “.50 Cal” was a veteran of a very different kind.

Stapleton spent 12 years as a Royal Marine commando and toured Afghanistan and Iraq during his time in active duty. But while he was away on tour he discovered MMA and, upon his return to the U.K., he jumped on Google to find his nearest MMA gym so he could sample the sport for himself. It set him off on a new path that eventually led to a major MMA title in the U.K.

The Rochdale native reached the quarterfinals of Season 9 of “The Ultimate Fighter,” won a one-night lightweight tournament for regional promotion Cage Contender in Liverpool and had a short stint in Bellator. But the Brit’s best form came for now-defunct U.K. promotion BAMMA, where he defeated Sebastian Fournier, Jeremy Petley, and Gavin Sterritt en route to capturing the organization’s lightweight title in 2015.

More recently, Stapleton (19-7) has been competing for Cage Warriors, but now the 37-year-old Englishman has turned his attention to coaching, where he is working from his gym at SBG Rochdale to help develop the next generation of British MMA stars. It’s a career change that he says is even more personally rewarding than his own fighting career.

“Honestly, I prefer being a coach than a fighter,” he explained. “I’d love to sit here and say, ‘fighter, fighter, fighter,’ and be that guy. But I’m not. I’m much better when I’m giving my attention and giving my focus to other people. I’ve never been able to be that selfish guy – as a fighter, you need to be selfish, but I’ve never been able to do that.

Stapleton said he isn’t completely done with fighting just yet, but his main focus has switched from his own career to building the careers of the youngsters who train at his gym.

“I love fighting, I love competing, and I’m going to continue to compete (but) the biggest thing for me now is to help other kids coming up from Rochdale and Manchester to achieve that, as well,” he said. “I’ve got lads in this gym that are going to achieve a lot more than I achieved, and I just can’t wait for those times, seeing them lift their belts and seeing them crowned world champions. I think my ultimate passion in life is coaching martial arts.”

Check out Stapleton’s story via the video above.

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