Article by Erik Whynot
Jimmy Lyons, Jr., a/k/a Master Markus, is a man who makes a flood of martial arts and business claims. There is precious little proof of most of his claims, and much evidence that he has made up some of the most important parts of his biography and credentials.
Currently, Mr. Lyons is the owner/founder of Tyson Sports Institute based in Orlando, Florida. The school markets itself to the public as a martial arts school that specializes in "MMA, Brazilian JiuJitsu, Muay Thai, Kickboxing & Boxing".
- 1 Executive Summary
- 2 How I learned of Mr. Lyon's School
- 3 The Claims
- 4 The Claims and Investigation Results
- 4.1 Jimmy Lyons, Jr., a/k/a Master Markus
- 4.2 Alleged Association with the World Combat League (WCL) and Chuck Norris
- 4.3 Jimmy Lyons, 5 time MMA World Champion?
- 4.4 Jimmy Lyons and his $50 million dollar facility…including unicorns?
- 4.5 Claims to be a sponsor of the 2008 USA Olympic TKD team
- 4.6 Lyons' Claims to be Involved with the Presidential Council on Physical Fitness and be Personal Friends with Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bill Clinton, and George Bush
- 5 From the Mats of Babes
- 6 The Last Word
Contrary to his claims, Jimmy Lyons aka Master Markus has no association with the World Combat League (WCL) and Chuck Norris.
He is not a 5 time MMA World Champion
He is not a sponsor of the 2008 Olympic TKD Team
Most of his business claims, such as owning and running a $50 million dollar martial arts facility are figments of his imagination.
His personal ties to the Presidential Council on Physical Fitness are not as a member, sponsor, or contributor as he claims.
Jimmy Lyons has a TKD background, and his school does not offer qualified Mixed Martial Arts Instruction. He charges grossly over-inflated prices for sub-par facilities and questionable instruction.
How I learned of Mr. Lyon's School
Mr. Lyons' school was brought to my attention by a friend of mine who found a flyer for the "Tyson Sports Institute" sitting on my kitchen counter with the rest of the junk mail ready to be tossed. It read…
Tyson Sports Institute
Personal Training…call now for an appointment
Train with the best, 5 time MMA World Champion Jimmy Lyons
Shape up now…with kick aerobics, Olympic boxing, co-ed kick boxing, MMA and TKD
From a press release for Tyson Sports Institute which was found during a cursory google search…
Tyson Sports Personal Training Institute Launching New Health Club in Orlando, Florida
Orlando, FL, January 25, 2007 --(PR.com)-- Jimmy Lyons, 5 times World Martial Arts Champion and Fitness Expert, will be opening a Personal Training Institute in Orlando, FL. Students from all over the world are invited to attend their Tyson Sports Training Institute (TSI). Along with obtaining their personal training certificate, students will obtain their certification in CPR, AED, Aerobics, and 1st degree black belt. The personal training program lasts 6 months. Their program allows students to obtain a multi-certification and hands on training. Tyson Sports Institute will be opening up hundreds of new Health Clubs across the country. With Tyson Sports Institute opening up multiple health clubs across the country, this allows students to have a successful future in the health and fitness industry. TSI's goal is to teach students how to make $100,000 a year. TSI students will have the opportunity to meet fitness celebrity's during their school year. TSI is scheduled to open April, 2007.
For more information on Tyson Sports Institute (TSI ) personal training certification program, contact Jimmy Lyons at [email protected]
So far I had discovered that Mr. Lyons was claiming the following:
- He was a "5 time MMA World Champion" while a press release states that he is a "5 time Martial Arts World Champion";
- He promises students that they will "meet fitness celebrities";
- He will teach students how to make $100,000 a year, presumably opening up one the "hundreds of new Health Clubs across the country";
- In 6-months time "students will obtain their certification in CPR, AED, Aerobics, and 1st degree black belt".
Mr. Lyons was pretty much screaming to be investigated given the size of the red flags he was waving. Keep reading, it gets better…
On October 23, 2007, at approximately 5:30pm, I walked into the school and spoke directly to Jimmy Lyons.
The awning in front of the school read "Tae Kwon Do **** Kickboxing **** MMA"
The school was pretty small and the mat space was maybe 20'x20' with three heavy bags hanging over the door side of the mat.
The mats were pretty bad, i.e., Day Care puzzle mats.
When I walked in there were two people on the mats "working out". Both women; one dressed in a Tae Kwon Do Gi with a yellow belt and the other in the typical cardio kickboxing get up. The cardio woman was running laps and looked to be in pretty good shape. The TKD girl was definitely overweight but she was wearing a sweat suit under her gi so she was obviously working on getting in shape.
So far not bad, the gym was small and kind of dingy but that didn't mean the training or instruction was bad it just meant that the gym didn't have a load of capital to get some good mats and gear… Then, I spoke with Jimmy Lyons…
I was up front with him from the get go. I told him I usually train grappling and BJJ with American Top Team near the University of Central Florida but that his gym was only 5 minutes from my house and I would like to have an option to still train if I could not make the 35 minute trip to ATT.
I asked him when his MMA class trained.
He said that the beginners trained on Mon, Wed, and Fri at 7pm and the more advanced guys and a few "pro fighters" came in on the weekends.
I asked him about his 5 MMA World Championships and specifically asked what promotions he held belts in and at what weight class. He said he fought for a bunch of promotions over in Japan that I probably had not heard of. I said that I actually heard of a few and asked him if he fought in Pride, Deep, Pancrease or Shooto. He said "none of those, but I fought a few MMA guys when kickboxing." When I asked again what promotions he fought in he failed to provide any specifics and asked me if I had ever been to Japan. I said no.
I then asked him who taught the grappling at his school. His response was that he has a few wrestlers come in and train and one of the guys was a Pro "Wrastler" from the TNA production. He then said he had an MMA pro come in on the weekends who had more than 80 fights. He told me the name but I can't remember him.
He then said that he does not teach grappling to his students until much later in their training because he has found that MMA fighters who train grappling first get knocked out more and that he "has never had a fight go to the ground anyway."
…um, what? my thought was that he is "teaching" MMA but does not think grappling is an important aspect of the training…actually, he thinks that training grappling is more harmful to a MMA fighter.
What I actually said in response was a nod of my head and "uh ha, hmmm."
I asked him if he had anyone come in to teach BJJ to his students. He said that he found that if you get 2 BJJ students from different masters on the mat there is always conflict in the way in which things are taught and there is uncomfortable tension. I have been grappling for approximately 5 years with about 1.5 years with ATT. During my time at ATT I have attended a seminar with Carlos Gracie, Jr, trained under guys who have been given rank by well known instructors (Helio Soneca, Ricardo Liborio, Marcio Simas, De La Riva, Renato Tavares) and at no time was there ever any tension when these guys (Liborio, Soneca, or Tavares) or their upper rank students got on the mats to train. No, I'm not name dropping, I'm simply demonstrating the ridiculousness of Mr. Lyons statement.
At the time he said he was having trouble getting people to stick with the MMA program because they don't want to train and I "must know that you have to actually train to get good at MMA." This is honestly the only accurate statement he proffered during our whole conversation.
He said he primarily focuses on the boxing, kickboxing, and TKD because that is where his experience lies.
Now he may very well be and accomplished kickboxer but I was not able to find any listing for "Jimmy Lyons" here for boxing…
There are a few "Jimmy Lyons" but none with boxing careers after 1954.
As an aside, I told him that a few of the pros I train with at ATT have fought in the UFC and have outstanding contracts with the UFC to which he responded that he "has not been impressed with the UFC fighters" and that "they didn't know how to use their hands".
The Claims and Investigation Results
Here are the claims made by Jimmy Lyons that were gathered from many website reviewed by the investigative team for this article, i.e., SamboSteve and wingchundo. All of the websites visited are provided herein.
Jimmy Lyons, Jr., a/k/a Master Markus
The research shows that Mr. Lyons was a bit of a traveler, not unlike David Carridine in Kung-Fu…well, actually, nothing like that. Anyway, we discovered that at one time he owned and operated a TKD School in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and then in Orlando, Florida. During these various moves Mr. Lyons operated his businesses under two names, Jimmy Lyons, Jr. and Master Markus.
It is unknown specifically why Mr. Lyons moved through three different states opening up various TKD schools at each stop. Two schools turned up in Michigan, Master Markus Tae Kwon Do and the Master Markus Olympic Center. There are also two schools in Florida, Master Markus World Martial Arts and Tyson Sports Institute.
Mr. Lyons did have a number of different black belts hanging on the walls of the school that DaChink and I trained at. Each of the belts was a different dan rank and one of the belts had the name "Master Markus" embroidered on it.
Alleged Association with the World Combat League (WCL) and Chuck Norris
On just about every press release one will find for Mr. Lyons' and Tyson Sports Institute there is reference to some connection between him, his school, and the World Combat League. For example, see this press release:
Grand Master Lyons ( better known as Master Markus from Michigan) and owner of Tyson Sports, will also be teaming up with movie star Chuck Norris to help promote the World Combat League. The World Combat League can be viewed on cable tv. Grand Master Lyons is always looking for Instructors, Fighter & Volunteers/Interns.
We went directly to the horse's mouth on this one and contacted the World Combat League to ask them what the deal was. Here is the email exchange:
Some questions have been raised regarding a Mr. Jimmy Lyons (AKA Master Markus), of Florida. On several press releases and internet postings he has claimed to be working directly with Chuck Norris and the WCL…and in one case promoting a reality show currently in production.
You can read about some of these claims here: http://www.bullshido.net/forums/showthread.php?t=61695
Can you verify if Mr. Lyons is, in fact working in any way with the WCL or Chuck Norris?
I appreciate your time and reply.
Thanks in advance,
President, American Sambo Association
Head Coach, New York Combat Sambo
Head Coach, Team American Sambo
PO Box 5773
Long Island City, NY 11105
Here is the reply from WCL Marketing:
From: WCL Marketing
To: American Sambo Association
Sent: Wednesday, February 06, 2008 1:18 PM
Subject: Re: Tyson Sports/Jimmy Lyons
No one with the WCL is aware of Mr. Lyons' involvement or who he is.
Hope this helps.
WORLD COMBAT LEAGUE
3410 Midcourt Rd., Suite 108
Carrollton, Texas 75006-5914
Yes, it helps a lot. Thank you, Mr. Fuqua.
Jimmy Lyons, 5 time MMA World Champion?
This one was tough to verify or to shoot down with 100% certainty. Honestly, many of the older fighters who were competing in MMA, NHB, or Vale Tudo prior to 1993 would not have their respective fights show up on any of the modern MMA databases. However, the lack of any record in any style (MMA, Muay Thai, Boxing, Kickboxing) coupled with clearly evasive and ambiguous answers to the direct question when asked, goes a long way toward shooting down the credibility of the claim and the veracity of the person ,making the claim. The following fight record keeping databases were searched and no listing of a Jimmy Lyons or anyone with the last name Markus fitting the description of the Jimmy Lyons subject to this investigation (approximately 5'8", 17-180lbs, late 30's, male, African American) was found to have either an amateur or pro record:
- MMA Databases:
- Kickboxing Databases:
- K-1sport database
- Boxing Databases:
- boxrec.com (6 fighters named Jim or Jimmy Lyons came up. However, all were retired with the latest retirement being in 1954)
We were not able to locate any record, database, news article, promotion recap, or fight card that list Mr. Lyons as a pro or amateur fighter.
Kickboxing, Muay Thai, and pre-1993 MMA databases are historically incomplete. So, the fact that he didn't show up on any of the above referenced databases is not definitive on this issue, but, as stated above, it certainly goes toward the preponderance of evidence that is piling up against Mr. Lyons' claims.
Jimmy Lyons and his $50 million dollar facility…including unicorns?
From a post on zeromillion.com:
The new $50 million facility will have many exciting, entertaining amenities. Mr. Lyons stated, " I won't go into detail about the new arena, but I will say the sports arena will have amenities such as a, mini mall, sports museum and Orlando's 1st MLS Team.
According to sources, Mr. Lyons and old time friend David Beckham, World Soccer Great, will be attending the sports arena's grand opening. According to Mr. Lyons, the goal of the sports arena is to bring a variety of sports and entertainment to Orlando, FL. Mr. Lyons stated, " I promise to bring sports such as Professional Boxing, UFC Fighting, WWE, Major League Soccer and all Minor League Sports.
Lyons has several investors for the sports arena, ranging from Hollywood Celebrities, Nascar, NBA Players as well as Pro Boxers. Lyons is still open to interested investors, for more information you can contact Jimmy Lyons at: [email protected] or 407-240-1444.
Jimmy Lyons- Owner
Orlando, FL 32812
Interested investors interested in New Sports Arena & Orlando's new MLS Team contact Jimmy.
There were other press releases stating that he was going to open a $10 million dollar facility:
Orlando, FL, October 03, 2007 --(PR.com)-- President and Founder, Jimmy Lyons of Tyson Sports Institute will open the new $10M Personal Training hands on Facility in Orlando, Florida (Home of Disney World). The luxury personal training facility will feature a Hall of Fame room, with a Hall of Fame dinner and Expo once a year. The Personal Training facility offers the Certified Personal Trainer Program.
His plans for this $50 million facility -- or was it only $10 million -- are interesting considering that neither Tyson Sports, nor James (or Jimmy) Lyons own any property in all of Orange County that are zoned for commercial uses, much less an athletic facility. Just to make the wrench a bit bigger, you'll see here that only 2 people named James Lyons own property, both zoned residential. Neither is our Jimmy Lyons, a/k/a Master Markus.
Regardless, if Mr. Lyons' current training facility is any indication of his actual financial capabilities, $500,000 is a pretty big stretch of the imagination and $50,000,000? That's just pure fantasy. Here is a satellite picture of Mr. Lyons' current training facility for Tyson Sports:
According to Orange County property records, even if he did own the entire building and the land where his school is, it still wouldn't total $1 million. The entire property was worth $489,189 in 2007.
Claims to be a sponsor of the 2008 USA Olympic TKD team
…The AATA is proud to announce that they will be one of the 2008 Olympic Taekwondo sponsors…
African American Taekwondo Association
National President: Jimmy Lyons
Once again, we went right to the source to get the answer to this question; and we are proud to announce that USAT has never heard of the AATA or Jimmy Lyons.
An e-mail was sent to Mr. Bill Kellick, director of Communications for USAT to inquire about Lyons' claims:
I am writing to fact check a press release published by Tyson Sports and a Mr. Jimmy Lyons.
In this release, Mr. Lyons, who also claims to be the president of the "African American Taekwondo Association", states that his association is a sponsor of the 08 US team for the Olympics.
My Lyons has been discovered to have falsified other business relationships (read here: http://www.bullshido.net/forums/showthread.php?t=61695) and I was wondering if you could confirm (or not) his relationship with US TKD.
Thank you in advance for your reply.
President, American Sambo Association
Head Coach, New York Combat Sambo
Head Coach, Team American Sambo
PO Box 5773
Long Island City, NY 11105 www.ussambo.com
Here is the response from USAT:
He is in no way affiliated with the U.S. Taekwondo Team that we will be sending to the Olympic Games.
Director of Communications
One Olympic Plaza
Colorado Springs, CO 80909
Tel: (719) XXX-XXXX
Cell: (719) XXX-XXXX
Fax: (719) XXX-XXXX
Email: [email protected]
Lyons' Claims to be Involved with the Presidential Council on Physical Fitness and be Personal Friends with Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bill Clinton, and George Bush
Here, Mr. Lyons claims to have worked with Bill Clinton, President Bush, and Arnold Schwarzenegger (with the presidential fitness council and the Arnold Classic):
Grand Master Lyons has teamed up with various celebrities to promote health, fitness and the martial arts. Grand Master Lyons has worked with President George W. Bush and President Bill Clinton with the President's Council promoting Physical Fitness, Chuck Norris (WCL) and Arnold Schwarzenegger (Arnold Classic). Grand Master Lyons has also worked closely with the YMCA's after school program, promoting health and fitness to our youth, as well as Tyson Sports Institute working with students and preparing them for a career in personal training.
We were unable to find any record of Tyson Sports or Jimmy Lyons as being a counsel member or partner with President's Council promoting Physical Fitness). Neither Tyson Sports nor Jimmy Lyons are listed as a Florida partner for the counsel.
A call was placed to Mr. Leslie Liff, Secretary of the President's Council of Physical Fitness. Mr. Liff stated that he had no knowledge of Jimmy Lyons or Tyson Sports. He did some further inquiries of other council members to the same result. However, the name "Tyson Sports" did "ring a bell with him", though he was not sure from where or why.
He also suggested I check www.presidentschallenge.org to see if he was listed there.
Upon checking that site, neither Lyons nor Tyson Sports are listed on any of these member lists:
- Champion Schools
- Corporate Partners
- Member Organizations
- Non Profit members
- The Board
- Supported Links
Nevertheless, Mr. Liff requested that we provide him a list of links where Mr. Lyons' claimed to have been connected with Bush, Clinton, and the Council. We were happy to oblige.
- Jimmy Lyons, Jr., a/k/a Master Markus: He is one in the same and has apparently opened TKD based martial art schools in three different states.
- Alleged Association with the World Combat League (WCL) and Chuck Norris: According to the WCL, they have no idea who this guy is.
- Jimmy Lyons, 5 time MMA World Champion? According to all fight databases available online, Jimmy has not been awarded any Championship belt for any organization that keeps such records. Further, his evasive explanation as to what promotions he has held a belt under goes a long way to answering this question.
- Jimmy Lyons and his $50 million dollar facility…including unicorns? Does not exist. His current facility is likely leased and is valued at approximately $489,000 according to the Orange County Florida property appraiser's records.
- Claims to be a sponsor of the 2008 USA Olympic TKD team: According to the Director for Communication for USA Tae Kwon Do they have never heard of Jimmy Lyons of the AATA.
- Lyons' Claims to be Involved with the Presidential Council on Physical Fitness and be Personal Friends with Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bill Clinton, and George Bush: A board member on the Council confirmed that they do not have Lyons, Tyson sports or the AATA listed as a member, sponsor, or contributor to the Council. Further, the Presidential Council has fairly detailed listings online of members and sponsors for each state and Jimmy Lyons is not found on any list. It is EXTREMELY doubtful that Jimmy Lyons is a CLOSE friend of 2 ex-President's and the Terminator.
From the Mats of Babes
Training With the Champ
The following are two accounts with the observations and opinions of myself and DaChinkofSteele. We went to Mr. Lyons' school on February 16, 2008, and trained with him…well, not really with him, but with the "MMA Instructor" that teaches the MMA class for him.
My account is limited to the grappling aspect of the training while DaChinkofSteele's account is focused on the striking aspect. Our training background is as follows:
- Brown Belt (3.5-4 years training) in Vee Arnis JuJitsu under Daniel Torres - Split focus on Judo, Traditional JuJistu, and Self-Defense;
- 2 Stripe Blue Belt (@1.5 years training) in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Submission Grappling under Paul Rodriguez at American Top Team - I am a 3 time NAGA competitor, 1 time Atlantic Cup competitor, a continue to compete in BJJ and Submission Grappling tournaments as often as I can.
- Blue Blelt in Brazilian Jiu Jistu under Marcio Simas;
- 2+ years Muay Thai under Bobby Robare with American Top Team
On February 16, 2008, DaChinkofSteel and I attended an MMA class at Tyson Fitness.
The $50 million dollar facility was about $49,999,999.07 short at the time of our entering.
The awning out front read "MMA, Brazilian JiuJistu, Muay Thai". When we entered Jimmy Lyons was instructing what looked like a cardio-type class; lots of active stretching, crunches, push ups, jumping jack things. He came up to us and we introduced ourselves. He was cordial and introduced us to his MMA "Instructor" who was clad in a "Tap Out" shirt straight off the racks from Hot Topic and was wearing a Brazilian Top Team rash guard underneath it. He was a nice guy, we shook hands and he asked us what our experience levels were and we told him (See above).
Before we started I asked the instructor if he had any fights and he said he had 7. I asked him under what promotions he fought and he was pretty ambiguous and simply stated he fought up in the Jacksonville area and had a couple fights in Atlanta, Georgia. He did say that he was an under-card fight on a card which featured "Franklin". I can only assume he meant Rich Franklin. A cursory search of Rich Frankilin's fights listed on Sherdog does not show him as having any fights in Atlanta. I wish I could remember the instructors name but after the training we received I seriously question his pro-fight claim. He would have been fighting in the 140-150lb weight class.
The training consisted of probably 45 minutes on strikes and 30 minutes grappling. I am going to breeze through the striking with some offhand observations and leave the technical critique on the striking to Chink, my critique will be more focused on the grappling.
Anyway, we put on our gloves and each of us did about a five minute round hitting the mitts so that he could "evaluate us, to see where we were at." Now, my striking sucks, my striking technique is very sub-par, my footwork is awful…hell, I grapple. But, I did my best to fake like I knew what I was doing and he told me that my kicks and hands were very good but my footwork needed some adjustment. If by adjustment he meant "drop down and butt scoot" or "pull guard you uncoordinated jackass" then I agree, but otherwise…
Next we moved to the heavy bags and punched them…I did my best impression of Rocky IV.
Next we moved to the kick pads. Because I am half-retarded I grabbed the kick pads the wrong way. Chink immediately gave me a funny look but let it go. I ended up switching my grip to the correct way and found out later that Chink thought I was just testing the instructor to see if he noticed I was an idiot holding the pads backwards; which test he would have failed because I switched it on my own.
On to the ground…
The "instructor" told us who he trained under for BJJ but I can't remember who he said. Regardless, it really does not matter. We stretched on our own and waited for him to lead us on to some drill. Nothing doing, he asked if Chink and I wanted to roll for a 3 minute round. We said sure and rolled live. Looking back he deliberately did this so that he could see what he was up against as he just sat there and watched as there was another guy there to roll with if he wanted to while Chink and I were rolling.
The mats were the same small puzzle mats that you find at a day-care school for children. Awful. It was like trying to grapple on a slip-and-slide that was coated with oil instead of water.
Next we watched the instructor roll against an obvious beginner. This guy literally had NO knowledge of grappling. It was horrific to watch. The instructor had obviously been on the mats before as he was giving small indications of control and base but…very small indications. He attempted a few basic sweeps that vaguely resembled a scissor, hip heist, or pendulum sweep but his positioning and opponent control were way off. Having rolled (i.e., having my ass kicked by) with many skilled grapplers, I know that even if they are "working" with you, they are NOT sloppy…ever. He was sloppy to the point of being flatly incorrect in his technique. He ended the roll with an arm bar on the newb.
He then brought the guy over to explain how to do a couple arm bar reversals/escapes; 1) Clear the knee over the head and stack up, 2) roll back over the far shoulder. He asked me to get him in a tight arm bar so he could demonstrate the escapes. I wrestled with the idea of being a dick and actually holding the sub and making him do it 100% correctly to pull it; I decided against it and kept it loose to let him do what he wanted and not be a dick about it. His application of 1 was bad. The only way that the "push off" escape works is if you do it very early in the submission or your opponent is a rank beginner who forgets to pinch his knees together. He waited until the arm bar was fully extended and ended up fighting with my knee the whole time until I let him push it off of his head allowing him to come up into my guard. Number 2 is a good escape that I use all of the time...sometimes it gets countered and sometimes it works. The key to this escape working is to get your hips away from the "L" shape and make yourself more inline ("l" shape) to roll over you far shoulder to hit the reversal. He tried to roll it probably three times in a row until he finally hit the angle close enough to pull it. Not good, not good at all.
He then tried to explain another escape from an extremely improbable submission attempt. The ever so deadly Kimura from Mount (<--SaRcAsM). He had Chink get him in mount and asked him to get him in a Kimura. Chink gave me the best off hand "WTF?" look and then applied the kimura from mount without adjusting his base at all…ridiculous. The escape was awful. He stated that you had to reach over with your other hand and push the guys elbow (which is by the tricep) away while bridging and shrimping away, upa style, and reversing to being in the guys guard…wait…what?!?!?!?!?
Anyway, I then got to roll against the instructor. The first thing he did was try to pull me into guard and he ended up almost pulling me into mount but he scrambled and recovered half guard. I pushed his far elbow and locked the arm triangle position. I then past his guard to the arm triangle side and squeezed. He gasped a bit but didn't tap so I released, pressured, and transitioned to his back. I sunk an RNC and then released rather than finish. I then crushed around in side control and hit and arm bar and transitioned to a triangle, then to a triangle mount and he tapped. The whole roll I was slow, methodical, and purposefully merciful. I wanted to see how he moved, how he countered, how he escaped, and how he set up attacks. He did noting but barely survive and refuse to tap. Granted, I outweighed the guy by 50lbs, but he did nothing, and showed no competent knowledge of position, transition, or control whatsoever.
Now on to Mr. Lyons.
We were not able to get a straight answer out of the MMA guy as to what "World Titles" Lyons held and there were no Championship Belts anywhere in the school that we saw. The instructor did say that he,Lyons, was big in TKD until he tore his ACL and that he was also a good boxer. But, no specifics.
As far as the "7 black belts" we only saw wall to wall TKD stuff, poster boards showing TKD forms, Korean flags, WTF Flags, and 6 TKD Black Belts hanging on the wall; all different ranks.
One of the belts had the name "Master Markus" on the side and the MMA guy explained that Markus was Jimmy Lyons real name.
I honestly did not think it was necessary to confront Jimmy Lyons on all of the unanswered research, the conclusion was clear…he is a TKD guy who is trying to take advantage of the MMA upswing and is hoping to capitalize on the general public who is simply uneducated on what MMA actually is.
His "World Titles"? who knows and who cares…he's pure TKD. This is not a negative, it is just that TKD is the guy's background. The inability to find a pro-fight record is not surprising.
The bottom line is that neither he nor his "MMA Instructor" are able to teach MMA, Muay Thai (even at a basic or beginner level), or for the love of Helio, BJJ. From my experience I would not put the MMA Instructor's BJJ level no higher than a 6 month white belt.
The cost for membership is simply ridiculous. The monthly fee was more than what you would pay to go train at either Gracie Barra Orlando or ATT-Orlando.
- We entered the gym and the first thing I noticed was it was HOT (that, and there were kids running around rampant)…but yeah; ridiculously hot. Granted, we're in FL…but it's also the middle of February and was actually pretty cool outside. At ATT/Mejiro…we um oh, I dunno…take advantage of it being cool outside and oh, I dunno…open the doors/windows to let air in and save on energy. There weren't enough people around to heat up the place considerably…so I'm going to go out on a limb and say he had the heat on. Which leads me to my next observation…
- NO OUTSIDE WATER BOTTLES ALLOWED…but O, lo and behold…he DOES have $3.00 "protein water…all you can drink!" offered out of some coolers…and if protein water doesn't suit my needs (I personally like Jonas' method of drinking out of the sink), I could have chosen to instead purchase from one of the two gimongous energy drink machines…sweet deal, too…only $2.25…
- The gym is indeed ghetto…You can have a 20x20 area of puzzlemats all you want, 3 heavy bags, and a couple universal plate-load machines…but it still doesn't constitute an "MMA gym"; at least by my standards. Beyonce blasting in the background doesn't help either, but I digress. His pro-shop cluttered with various nutritional supplements and training gear ranging from Pro-Force boxing gloves (oh, how I love some black ink bleeding all over my hands and shirt) to even some of the lower-line Title boxing equipment (which is fine…I'm just kinda a gear-whore/snob). I notice plenty of TKD hogus and kick shields splattered throughout the gym, like 6-10 Wavemasters, a bunch of Korean propaganda all over the place…it's very apparent…this is a TKD school. I trained TKD for 11 years prior to my BJJ and Muay Thai training…so I can smell kimchee and b.s. within 100 yards…even if it's a black guy peddling it.
- Jimmy steps away from his cardio kickboxing class to introduce himself and introduce us to his "MMA instructor" (who's in the middle of working focus mitts)…his credentials are immediately apparent…Tapout shirt, No-fear grappling shorts, and BTT rashguard underneath; and at least 2-3 years my junior (I'm 25); We all shake hands and Jonas and I go to change as he finishes up with the boxer fella hitting mitts.
- He doesn't have a clue how to hold mitts. Apparently, in Jimmy Lyon's MMA school they train to fight midgets with 2 heads because the instructor was holding the mitts easily wider than shoulder width apart, not slapping the mitts back for resistance, and held them at about nipple level. Poor footwork, no correction of technique (the boxer fella had his hands well below his chin at least half the time), terrible pad holding, worked senseless combos (a 1-2 nipple punch followed by a liver punch can only get you so far in Muay Thai) none of this bode well from a training perspective.
"So what are we gonna do today?"
"Well I wanna see what your level is at…see, you guys have been training a while and you've got your own style and you're both blue belts, so you know what you're doing on the ground…" Whatever.
- He wants to evaluate our standup by holding mitts for us. I go first. I'm literally taken aback for a second and have to adjust b/c I'm so not accustomed to having to train to fight midgets. I flick out the 1-2's at roughly my own head level, but he insists on holding them at nipple level. I guess I'll never really know when I'll piss off a two-headed boxer-midget; it doesn't hurt to train for it. We work the 1-2 for a minute or so, the 1-2 liver punch (is this all he knows?!), and a 1-2 right middle kick. Once again, poor footwork/movement on behalf of the pad holder, only circled in one direction, was thrown off-guard when I cut off the ring because I was tired of only circling. Jonas' turn with the master. I notice some things that could use some correction because Jonas is a relatively inexperienced striker…no correction was given. According to the instructor, both of us have fantastic kicks (now, I'm not gonna make fun of Jonas because I don't want him to crank on my arm again, but I will say that he is indeed a grappler, not a striker), but our hands need some work. At this point, my ADHD kicked in and I started jiving out to some Flo-Rida blasting in the background.
- Onto the heavybags so we can work our middle kicks (well…it wasn't much by choice because for a gym that teaches kickboxing/Muay Thai, the didn't have any banana bags…only 3 Everlast heavy bags hung a bit high). 30 seconds or so of kicking; no real instruction; followed by a minute or so of "the 4 basic Thai combos". I know what they are, but I played dumb and asked what he meant. "You know, the Bas Rutten Combos…1 means jab, 2 means jab cross, etc." "Ohhhhhh, yeah, I know that". I didn't know what he wanted us to do with those exactly, whether he was going to call the combos out or whatever, so I just kinda hit the bag for the minute and mixed them up.
- Then he gave us a real doozy to "really kill our arms"…1 minute of jabs, 1 minute of a cross, 1 minute of left hooks, and one minute of right hooks. Oh, I got tired all right…but I think it was more from the aforementioned 105 degree heat than the bag work. Not to mention, it was on a tile floor, which is rather inconvenient for those who are barefoot and sweat a lot. So we go for the outrageous *sarcasm* 4 minute round…and he offers each of us some advice. Jonas needs to relax a little (which is valid, he does have the tendency to move a bit more than he needs to)…but I'd have been a little more concerned with his hands dropping and things like that; to each his own, I guess. I'm apparently going to fight guys a little taller than me because I'm 190 lbs 5'10" so I should just really work on driving my hips into liver punches (AGAIN with the liver punches). So, we set to work for another minute or so of Jonas relaxing and me working liver punches.
- Time for some Thai pad work. 5 reps of a 1-2 middle kick (Great combo, BTW…you can never get enough of that or 1-2 liver punches) followed by 20 knees. 2 rounds of that, then we end our 3 rounds with 10 middle kicks and 10 knees. Jonas held first. Some things I noticed: 1) Jonas doesn't know how to hold pads…or he's doing it intentionally to test the kid to see if he corrects him. He has the Thai pads strapped on backwards on the outside of his forearms…no correction; Jonas actually corrected himself right before I started punching (thank god, I didn't wanna hit the pads with him holding incorrectly). Interestingly enough…when working the combos, I ended up correcting Jonas on how to properly hold for middle kicks…but I think we're beginning to see a pattern, aren't we? I then hold for Jonas…he works the same…we both have fun slipping all over the puzzlemats and that's that…off come the Thai pads and onto the mats we go..
- As we're stretching on our own, I kinda let my eyes wander around the walls some more. He's got 7 black belts…all of varying degrees from 2nd dan to 4th dan; all in TKD. He's got directions for poomse plastered all over the walls…Tae Geuk forms; that means he's a WTF guy. Then my eyes come across something I literally could not believe. "$500 for 2 months or $600 for 3 months" It was written on a white-board in dry-erase. Maybe (I hope to god, maybe) it was for a family plan or something because paying that much for (so far) sub-par instruction is ridiculous. Either way, it's time to get some grappling instruction; or lack thereof. Jonas and I end up grappling each other, and by "grapple" I actually mean "Jonas kicks the shit out of me while we slip and slide all over each other like oil wrestlers at a night-club" for 3 minutes…it was fun, but once again, no instruction/advice offered.
- Jonas leans over to me and whispers "$100 says he won't grapple either of us". A bet I wasn't willing to take because I had the same feeling. The instructor did display his greatness against some noob kid (who honestly, had the craziest eyes I'd ever seen on a human being…Jonas can attest to that) and did fairly well against the noob. He swept him once or twice in a scramble and even locked in an armbar towards the end of their round. I could have sworn it was locked in tight because the noob's arm was bent to full-extension and then some, so I called out "tap" for him, thinking he just didn't know to tap or something. Anyways, I guess the kid was actually just holding it in position and not extending it (I was genuinely concerned for the noob's arm) so he can work the escape.
- Jonas covered the armbar escape and "kimura" escape pretty well. But I'd like to add that when I got in mount to set up the "kimura"…he actually had his arm in the key-lock/Americana position and was confused when I took his arm and repositioned it into the proper kimura/hammerlock position. His response "kimura/americana/oma plata…they're the same anyway". Ummmm, huh? Either way, yeah, very bad escape/upa instruction.
- We kinda sit for a minute and Jonas steps up and takes the mighty risk of doing a slow-roll with Mr. Tapout. So I offer to roll with Mr. Lazy Eyes, which was quite an experience. First, he didn't know what I meant when I said, "All right…let's do a slow-roll"…he thought I literally meant "roll" as in…ukemi. Second, he didn't know how to grapple, so I offered to coach him along the way. I started by pulling him into my guard and explaining postures and the concept of passing the guard. I let him pass to my half-guard and he posted up on his arms. I explain to him that he's gotta control me, otherwise, with space, I can sweep him, submit him, take his back, etc. He counters with "well I'm not much of a grappler…If you're on your back, then I'm just going to stand up and bang like Chuck Liddell." I haven't grappled in about 2 years, and I consider myself a "stand-up guy", but I still understand and appreciate the value of ground work and at the very least, positioning/control. So I just kinda nod "ok" and proceed to sweep him from half-guard. We went back to me on bottom-half-guard and I let him pass to side-mount to see if he can "just stand up"…but Dr. Tapout calls time…
- Jonas and I sit and bullshit for a couple minutes. We verify that Markus is indeed Jimmy. The MMA instructor doesn't know why he goes by Jimmy; and furthermore he couldn't list off any of Jimmy's 5 "MMA world Titles"…only that Jimmy used to box/kickbox but switched to WTF TKD and gave up on that when his knee gave out or something.
- I ask about their "curriculum" if they have one and what their MMA schedule is and who they have training. Apparently they sometimes have a Judo guy who comes in and does "both gi and no-gi Judo" and that he's super-badass and tosses guys around left and right. When asked about who usually attends the MMA classes…apparently it consists of 2 overweight guys who really can't do much…but they DO have a bunch of guys who come in and want to box. Tapout-man says the Puerto Rican ones are especially fast and are hard to catch…isn't that just like them, those damn fast and feisty Puerto Ricans. Before anyone freaks out and yells "RACE WAR!!!", Tapout-man is Puerto Rican himself and he stated that he was just not one of those quick guys.
- As stated above, his boxing instruction was sub-par at best, so I have to wonder how it's working out with those super-fast Puerto Ricans…and I described it to Jonas as "MMA Larping". I have quite a bit of reason to believe this kid's a TKD guy based upon his inability to properly hold pads, his love of the middle kicks, and his poor hand combos. He also mentioned that he's trying to get some of his ATA (yes, THAT ATA) guys down here because they are badass and are the best standup guys he's ever fought. While he previously described him self as fairly well rounded (stand-up -vs- ground), after his roll with Jonas he described himself as mostly a standup guy that "just knows how to get out of shit" and throw hands (in reference to submissions); and we all just read about the stellar stand-up.
We thanked him for "training" us and go change. On our way out, we thank Jimmy again for having us and he said he welcomes us to come by any time we want to train; of course we thank him for the invitation. Jonas and I leave and open the doors to enter a world where cool air and oxygen are readily available!
The Last Word
Overall observation: Jimmy Lyons/Master Markus is a guy who is capitalizing on the MMA craze. He is taking what he knows and twisting it to fit the commonly misperceived MMA mold. Although, even the common perception of the MMA mold requires some knowledge of grappling, of which this school has none. Specifically, Jimmy said he isn't into ground fighting and the MMA Instructor would barely be able to survive in the beginner division at NAGA; this lack of understanding is exemplified by one of their "students" rattling off the same "ground no important, Chuck Liddell grrrr!!!" nonsense. I firmly believe Jimmy just does not know grappling, so he comes up with an excuse not to teach it. Mr. MMA Instructor has a rudimentary understanding of grappling; which understanding may withstand the scrutiny of Joe Public BUT will do ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to prepare anyone to compete in grappling tournaments let alone step into the cage or ring. The striking instruction was not so much from a knowledgeable coach or instructor as it was from someone who watched a knowledgeable instructor on television and now wants to act like one. Whether or not Jimmy actually has useful striking knowledge to impart was not specifically seen, however, if the MMA "instructor" is any indication of what Mr. Lyons considers to be "quality" striking, you have to wonder.
Further, a follow up inquiry as to the name of the MMA Instructor that Chink and I trained with resulted in the following conversation:
GoldenJonas: "I came across your website that listed that your school provides MMA instruction and I was wondering who the instructor is?"
Jimmy Lyons: "They are not from around here, you wouldn't know them."
GoldenJonas: "Oh, cool, what are their names?"
Jimmy Lyons: "Austin and Ashley"
GoldenJonas: "Wow, it is not often you here of a woman teaching an MMA class, that's pretty cool."
Jimmy Lyons: "Umm, no, Ashley is a man."
GoldenJonas: "Oh, OK, thanks…"
A search on Sherdog for fighters named "Austin" gave 20 results…none of them had 7 fights. The vast majority had 1 or 2 and none fought in the Southeast.
A search for "Ashley" gave 9 names…none had 7 fights.
What was interesting was that there was/is a fighter named "Ashley Austin"… Assuming that this is the guy's name, his record on Sherdog is 0-0. The FCF Database, which also has some amateur record listings, has his record at 1-0 (amateur fight in Louisiana) with his last recorded fight being in May 2001.
Although, I don't think this is the guy. In May 2001 the guy I rolled with might have been 16-17 years old AT MOST.
Mr. Lyon's school appears to cater to those of a certain demographic (read: "Flo-Rida" and "Beyonce") with a certain socio-economic background. Oh!!! Hey, and look, Mr. Lyon's promotions, i.e., schemes, keep rolling!!
Ultimately though, he's preying on the ignorant who don't know anything about MMA gyms or training. He'll squeeze every penny out of the uneducated consumer that he can through whatever spin he can concoct to feint legitimacy. $200-250/month rates; everybody's decked out in crap from his "pro shop"; no outside water bottles allowed; no proper ventilation; over-priced drinks; sub-par mats for grappling; and a horrific misunderstanding of what is needed to teach MMA, Muay Thai, BJJ, or Grappling, etc…it all adds up to one thing and one thing only…
- "If you can't dazzle them with brilliance, you baffle them with bullshit."
- Bobby Rober, Mejiro Gym / American Top Team-Orlando