Stephen UpChurch began training and competing in martial arts as a student at the University of Georgia in Athens. He flirted with Boxing and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu but it was Muay Thai that really got him hooked.
“I started training Muay Thai and I had a fight and that was really the beginning of it. I totally fell in love with it, so much that I moved to Sarat Thani Thailand and lived there for a year. I taught school to pay the bills and just trained all the time with the local guys and had a couple of fights on the island out there in Ko Samuit and Ko Suwan. It was amazing; one of the most memorable years of my life. I got totally into the culture and was in awe of it.”
Upchurch’s experience in Thailand made him rethink his career path.
“My degrees from UGA are in Advertising and English so I used to coordinate print advertising for the Atlanta Journal Constitution, then I moved into television advertising, so that’s what was paying the bills. When I got back [from Thailand], I just really didn’t want to go back to the office. I knew I wanted to keep training so I went up to KnuckleUp Sandy Springs and we’re kind of hanging around essentially and I was like, you know, ‘I want to train, are you guys hiring?”
Today Stephen is a ubiquitous presence around the gym, teaching numerous classes and personal training clients, continuing his own training in Muay Thai, Boxing, Kickboxing, and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu as well as competing on the local MMA circuit and even cornering the other members of KnuckleUp’s fight team when they have matches. I asked him if he’s still glad he took the leap and pursued his dream after he came back from Thailand. “Absolutely,” he says with conviction. “If I wasn’t, then I’d be sitting in an office somewhere.”
Stephen is available for both group classes and individual private training sessions.