Ben Stark: Fighter, Coach, Traveler
Ben Stark is only 34 years old and has already accomplished what takes many martial artists half of their lives.
He has competed in MMA, Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai, traveled the world, and is currently associated with one of the most recognizable teams in combat sports.
Stark, a native of Connecticut, moved to Florida in 1994 and began his amateur career in MMA nearly a decade later.
By 2006, following three amateur fights, he looked to turn pro but was delayed because of a car accident.
“It really put a stop to everything that was progressing at the time,” Stark said.
Despite the setback, Stark began his pro career with four straight wins, all submission finishes. That run wouldn’t end until 2007 when he suffered his first career loss.
After a three year layoff, Stark would fight once again, this time on TUF season 11. This would be the last time he competed professionally in MMA.
However, this by no means meant his connection with martial arts was over.
Around the time Stark fought to get into the TUF house, he began coaching for American Top Team (ATT) at their Ft. Lauderdale and Sunrise locations.
When asked what it was like to fight for and then coach at an ATT gym, Stark explained that it was hard to describe because it was one of the only teams he had ever known.
He had been with them from the start.
As if the honor to coach for ATT wasn’t enough, Stark would soon run his own gym.
Stark also serves as the head instructor at ATT Palm Beach Gardens alongside Dave Zitnick.
“I’ve been with the team so long that I guess I was grandfathered into it,” Stark said.
He said that he tries to dedicate himself to the students and feels that it would be selfish to train for a fight while also teaching them.
He also tries to keep the lessons strictly MMA related.
“There are a lot of coaches out there that will say ‘oh I’m a life coach, I’m teaching these people about the world’ and this in that, but in reality I came to the conclusion a long time ago that I chose to make a career out of someone else’s hobby,” Stark said.
Like any coach, Stark still is in the process of learning himself.
And while some of those lessons could come from his students, he learned a lot while spending time abroad in Germany and Thailand.
Along with some small tricks he picked up in Thailand, Stark said he learned a lot about the lifestyle Muay Thai fighters live there.
Fighters fight so often that they do not dwell on wins or losses he explained. They could be fighting two or three days later unlike in the United States or just MMA in general.
Stark said that this takes a lot of pressure out of fighting. Pressure that he otherwise may have felt being the only American most people in the region had ever seen fight.
“I would never claim to represent America as a whole but a lot of the time I was the only American that people (in Thailand) knew,” Stark said.
He continued by talking about the warm reception he received at Muay Thai events.
“Going into the fight I got the same excitement from the crowd as I did coming out of the fight.”
For Stark, the entire experience made him, “more of an adult.”
“Going there changed who I was as a person,” Stark said.
He has been making plans to go back and even hinted at a possible return. Whether that would be in MMA or Muay Thai is yet to be seen.
Either way, Stark said it is always tempting to get back in there.