GREELEY (AP) – Tommy Thompson likes to look professional when he meets with a client for his real estate business.
He always checks for blood on his clothes before the meeting.
Thompson, 31, of Greeley owns Champion Realty, but he’s also a Mixed Martial Arts fighter, and eight weeks before one of his battles, his face inevitably shows a little wear and tear from all the training and sparring with his teammates at Infinite, an MMA academy in Loveland. After a recent fight, he had a shiner under one eye and a cut under the other.
“It can be awkward,” Thompson said.
He doesn’t mind telling his clients what he does. He thinks it shows how hard he works. But he has to read his customers, and sometimes, he knows they may not be as comfortable with someone who trains more than 30 hours a week to beat up someone in a cage.
Thompson relies on his fiancé, Mandi Rhodes, a hairstylist at Atmospheres Salon and Spa in Greeley, to apply makeup to cover up the nicks and bruises if he thinks he may make his clients queasy. He also uses superglue to keep the deeper cuts closed.
It’s all part of the sacrifice of owning a business and training to be a fighter. Between that and watching their 14-month-old daughter, Gianna, on Rhodes’ long workdays, he has no down time. He still has Christmas lights on his home.
“There are days when I’m just starting to head to the gym,” Thompson said, “and I’m already exhausted.”
In fact, Thompson faces the same challenges most parents face on his Dad days.
“There’s like, what, 50 pacifiers in the house, and I can’t find one?” Thompson said and laughed.
Thompson wrestled in junior high school in Seattle, where he grew up, and said he rarely lost. But he quit when he was in high school. It’s one of his life’s biggest regrets.
So when he went to an MMA match to watch a buddy, he was intrigued. This was in the early 2000s, when MMA fights weren’t nearly as popular, even mainstream, as they are now. Thompson began training at Infinite Mixed Martial Arts Academy in Loveland, though it had a different name then. He loved it. He took a break from 2004-07, but his regrets about quitting wrestling haunted him enough to take it back up again. He’s loved it ever since.
“It wasn’t just beating each other up,” Thompson said. “It was working to improve your technique and skill. It gave me confidence and discipline. All that makes you a better person.”
MMA is far more technical than it appears, as fighters need to learn boxing, wrestling, a ground game, martial arts, all while cutting weight and building muscle and endurance. Plus they have to like being punched in the face, or at least be able to tolerate it well.
That’s why Thompson trains four to five hours a day, up to six days a week, highlighted by heavy sparring in the cage, where a fresh fighter enters every two minutes hoping to hurt him a little. So far it’s going well: He’s 7-0.
“It can be harder than a fight,” Thompson said. “Guys keep coming at you, and they don’t want to go easy on you because a fight isn’t like that.”
His family is supportive of him but don’t necessarily like watching him get hit.
“If Mandi thinks about it, she gets a lot of anxiety,” Thompson said and chuckled. “I think she watches my fights, but she doesn’t remember them.”
Most of the time, if a client asks about, say, his black eye, he’ll tell the truth. He’ll say he’s a MMA fighter. Thompson admits that a few blanch.
“But most of them wind up asking me for tickets,” he said.