We talked with the coach of our Gym Jones Combat Conditioning Team about what motivates him as an athlete and as a coach, dealing with fear, and the kind of athletes he doesn’t want to coach.


Cate Williams

Coach Buck Grant is a former professional mixed martial artist, a Master Instructor of Muay Thai, BJJ Black Belt and Combatives Instructor for The Department of Defense. He has nearly 3 decades of experience as both a fight coach and strength and conditioning coach for professional combat sports athletes at the UFC, WEC and Bellator level. He’s recently joined our team as coach of the Gym Jones Combat Conditioning Team.  We talked with him about the why and how behind his coaching philosophy.

Tell me a little bit about yourself and your coaching philosophy. 

I’m a combatives instructor and a former professional mixed martial artist, and my whole mission in the world is to help people be more brave through acts of courage. Through martial arts, through exercise, through fighting, through facing their deepest darkest fears… by choosing courage on a daily basis. 

That’s so specific! Was there something that really brought that into focus as your life’s mission, or was it a series of things? Tell me a little more about that. 

I was a very scared child. As a little kid, I was beat up in my own front yard. I was a light skinned African American in an all black neighborhood so I was always getting picked on, by everyone. I was skinny, scrawny, and scared; honestly fearful for my life. When I started doing martial arts, it kind of helped me face some of those fears and helped me become more brave by choosing hard things on a daily basis. I realized how beneficial that was for me, and knew I could help other people achieve that same bravery. So I started pursuing not only my own bravery but helping others find their courage as well. Every person I was able to teach was able to face their own fears, and as a result had a better understanding of themselves and thus had a better understanding of their own life.

“I think that  because I faced fear, and still face fear on a daily basis, my mission has always been a pursuit of bravery, and now I’m trying to help others do the same thing.”

Buck participates in a relay at a Gym Jones seminar while his teammate Jen cheers him on.

How has physical strength, your physical capability in the gym and as a fighter has helped you develop bravery? 

When I go to the gym and I am able to get under the bar, move a weight that I wasn’t able to move a week or a month ago, I know that what got me there was the fact that day in and day out, I made a decision to show up. Right? And for fighters, for example, the gym might be just a small part of their training. But for most people, getting up and getting out of their comfort zone and going somewhere like a gym can be very very scary. So it gives them the opportunity to celebrate themselves. Right? Like if I can just get up and walk through that door, just show up to the bar. Show up to the row machine. Show up a little bit. I start to gain confidence in what I’m capable of doing. And that’s where bravery starts. Because bravery is a quality, it’s not an action. So it really starts with believing in yourself and knowing what you are capable of.

“In order to become brave, you have to choose courage on a daily basis. And that doesn’t mean showing up for  a fist fight. That means just getting up and going to the gym and doing something that I wouldn’t do the day before. And if I do that enough times, I become a brave person, I become a person that when I look into the mirror, it’s someone I’m proud of.”

Buck doing some accessory movements during a Gym Jones Tactical Seminar

How do you motivate others to train with that mindset?

We’re all motivated and inspired by different things. We’re all either running away from something or running toward something. So I guarantee if I dig deep enough with anyone, I can find something that drives them. Hopefully it’s something positive, something that they are shooting for or trying to become. But when you have something positive, by definition there’s something negative on the other side of that–something you don’t want to become. I don’t want to encourage you to live in fear of what you don’t want,  but if you can understand both sides of the equation, you can understand both what pushes you and what pulls you in the right direction. 

Is there anyone you can’t motivate with that philosophy? Are there any athletes you don’t want to work with? 

That’s interesting. Months and months ago, some guy had seen an Instagram picture I posted after I had gone through a big physical transformation. The first thing he said was, “I want to have six pack abs and be super buff.” Nothing wrong with that at all. But when I started asking him some of the deeper questions, like “why do you want that six pack?”, and  “what is the driving force behind this?” and  “how are you going to feel when you get to that point?” he was immediately hesitant to even ask himself those deeper, kind of emotional questions. And immediately I knew that wasn’t the guy for me. 


Because change is hard! It’s extremely difficult for most people to change. And in order for people to actually change, to really make a true change, you’ve got to be willing to explore why you’re actually pursuing change in the first place. You don’t have to know exactly what your “why” is. But if you’re not willing to explore those questions; why you’re going to show up, why you want to change, why you need to evolve; then this is not going to be the place for you and I am not going to be the coach for you. On the flip side of that, if you’re willing to dig deep to figure out what really motivates you and drives you to change, then this is the place for you and I’m going to be there for you 100%.

Buck tests his deadlift with encouragement from Kenny Bigbee, Jr.

Speaking of being there for your athletes; when you think back about your experiences as a child, what do you wish you’d had in a coach or a mentor? 

What I wish I’d had when I was going through a really fearful time as a child was someone who could reframe it as an opportunity for me to become better. I believe that when you go through something scary, in the midst of it it’s easy to feel like a victim. And we’ve all felt like a victim at some point. If I’d had a coach that had said, “this is a great opportunity for you to rise to the next level of who you are.” If I’d known that, I would have discovered a lot of things earlier. I wish to be that for the people I coach. 

Talk to me a little bit about your experience with the Gym Jones community and why you’re excited about coaching a team of athletes. 

I think community is one of the biggest drivers for someone’s overall happiness. No matter what we’re experiencing, whether we’re in  great sorrow or really overwhelming joy, we’re always looking to see who is next to us. Like the spartans, who were strong because they knew the person to the left and right of them were going to keep their shield held up no matter what. When you can share your load with people, and shoulder someone else’s as well, it’s the biggest joy. Nobody dies and says, I wish I had made more money, or I had been more successful in the gym. They always think about who was next to them. Who were the people that they loved and cherished. And when you show up to environments like this, you’re surrounded by people that you love and cherish and you will always remember. And that’s, I think, the huge byproduct of being in a community like Gym Jones, where you’re surrounded by people who love and support you and always want to see the best of you, by trying to take you to that next level and trying to challenge you.

Buck tests his 2k Row at a Gym Jones Seminar.

What has surprised you in your journey to become the coach you are today, and what do you want others to anticipate about what they are about to undertake?

What continues to surprise me is that you’re never done becoming brave. I always thought that when I went to become a cage  fighter, I wouldn’t have  to worry about being afraid ever again! And yet,  on a daily basis I find myself scared of something. Like I come to Gym Jones Certification and I do a 2k row and I’m sitting on a row machine of all things…. what’s scary about that? But the last 300m of that 2k was scarier than the last round in a fight to me! And moments like that make you realize that the process is never done. And that’s the beauty of it, you’re always going to be discovering or rediscovering deeper aspects of yourself. You’re always a work in progress. And if you treat every day that way, you’re never going to be disappointed about finding new aspects of yourself through being afraid, or through choosing courage. 

Interested in training with Buck and the rest of the Gym Jones Combat Conditioning Team? You can try it for free for a week!

Try Gym Jones Combat Conditioning Today!