In the aftermath of the tragic passing of beloved mixed martial arts trainer Shawn Tompkins, Gamma Labs has released a candid look at the last known footage of the Canadian before he fell victim to a heart attack on the morning of Sunday, August 14th, 2011.
While no death can ever truly feel "right," the unexpected nature of Tompkins' passing was massive blow to a community already accustomed to the capricious. It hit each individual in a different and hard-to-articulate manner, as is likely the case with this bittersweet four-minute clip. Mike Fagan of Bloody Elbow summed it up much more personally and eloquently than I ever could.
I don't believe in fate, but the timing of Gamma Labs CEO Cliff Morgan's email was coincidental all the same. I'm sitting in the bowling alley at the South Point Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada for the Amateur Bowlers Tour Fall Nationals tournament. I sat here around the same time last year. One evening during the tournament, Shawn Tompkins walked in with a group in tow. There was nothing special about the run-in. I didn't introduce myself. (I wouldn't want random people walking up to me when I was trying to enjoy an evening with friends and/or family.) He went to the counter, got a lane, and bowled with the group.
But now he's dead. And he looked so healthy a year ago. And he was only 37. Morgan sent me the link to this video. Gamma Labs have been giving fighters Flip cameras. The fighters film themselves training and using Gamma Labs products, return the camera, and the video goes up on the company's Youtube page. One of the fighters they gave a Flip camera to was Chris Horodecki. This video was shot just a few days before Tompkins passed.
Like my run-in last year, there's nothing special about this video on the surface. It's four minutes of Horodecki hitting mitts and a heavy bag. Tompkins opens up the video. Horodecki's coming off his victory over Chris Saunders in Bellator, and he's back in camp just a couple weeks after the fight. It's alarming just how HEALTHY Tompkins looks.
I didn't have much of a reaction when Tompkins passed away. Not that I didn't care, per se, but he was just a guy, a trainer, in the world of MMA. But this video hit me. We're all aware, somewhere deep in the recesses of our mind, of our own mortality. We try to ignore it, but sometimes it's a fact we cannot avoid. Sometimes it's in the form of Christopher Hitchens, battling through oesophageal cancer, coughing and willing his way through the acceptance of the Richard Dawkins award. Other times it's in the form of this video of Tompkins. It's the realization that life can be taken away in an instant, in ways we could never have imagined.