Episode 90 – Weston Barnes, Team Lionheart MMA
The Heart of a Lion
Mixed martial arts is becoming more popular and Weston Barnes believes that it saved his life.
Weston was a fighter for 11 years and in his last fight, he sustained an injury that took him out of the cage forever. “It was 4 or 5 months of not training and I missed it. I love the sport and I needed it in my life,” he said. He equipped his garage with some puzzle mats and started training his daughter and girlfriend. People got wind of this and asked if he'd train their kids too and it grew from there.
Although this is fighting, Weston knows this sport teaches much more than MMA. “It teaches discipline, it teaches respect, and it also teaches humbleness,” he explained. Weston has strict rules for the gym that include if the kids are fighting outside the gym or bullying, they are immediately kicked out. In addition, if the kid's grades drop or if they are being disrespectful at home they are required to do burpees every day while training until the grades improve. “It's not just fighting, it follows through to every aspect of your life.”
Weston said for himself that for most of his youth he was frequently in trouble and in and out of jail. This progressed and he ended up incarcerated serving a 4-year term. While in prison he spent an entire year in solitary confinement, 23 hours a day in a cell, alone. Having time to consider his decisions he said, “I promised myself that I'm and going to find something that's going to keep me passionate, find something new. Because getting in trouble and stuff, I liked it because I felt cool and all that. I [thought] I'm going to change, I'm going to find something cool that's going to give me that same feeling but not get me in trouble. That's going to be positive.” When he was out of prison his cousin took him to an MMA fight, and he was hooked.
Weston signed up as a professional and was soon in the ring. His first fight taught him that street fighting knowledge didn't necessarily translate to professional MMA fighting, but he kept going and by his third fight he'd joined a gym and started training. “I didn't have time to get in trouble anymore, that was my life,” he said.
“I don't need crime and drugs to have fun in life,” he said. He shared that his own confidence has grown and his self-esteem has grown also.
Working with troubled youth is near and dear to Weston. Parents frequently come to him for help. “It warms my heart to be able to help them because I've been there,” he said. He's never had to kick any kids out for bullying or fighting and feels it's because of the unity they have in the gym and the self-confidence that the kids are gaining, they love to be there and so they follow the rules.
Weston's primary focus is working with beginners but he also has two professional fighters that work with him who train other fighters. Team Lionheart has fighters who are winning and putting east Idaho on the map.
Advising others on business ownership Weston advises, “Start off small, that's what worked for me. I didn't go take a huge loan and hope it worked out. I bought things little by little,” Weston admits for him it was important to prove his concept before he took on debt and a huge risk. Currently, he is running the gym in the afternoons after working his full-time job.
Weston admits that he gets stressed especially because he's learning how to run a business while building it. He's grateful for a good support team that has helped him along the way.
Although Team Lionheart MMA has just moved into their present gym space in September of 2020, they have already outgrown it and are looking for a larger space. They will soon be having a raffle for multiple prizes to help with fundraising efforts to help them afford a new space.
For more information on Team Lionheart MMA check out their website at http://wwwlionheartmma.org or on Facebook at Team Lionheart MMA.
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