At the Team Quest gym in Tualatin, Scott McQuary is preparing Chael Sonnen for a UFC middleweight title fight and what will be the biggest sporting event of the year anywhere in the world outside of the Olympic Games. The fight will be broadcast into half a billion homes, in 150 countries and 22 languages. Often misunderstood, mixed martial arts (MMA) is highly technical and would be better compared to a physical form of chess rather than another contact sport.
It is a rare known fact that 70 percent of current UFC (the largest mixed martial arts promoter in the world today) fighters are college graduates. Strategy and intelligence are a huge part of what allows a competitor to become elite in the sport. Hélio Gracie’s work was a crucial part of MMA and the genesis of what ultimately became the UFC. Developed by Hélio Gracie in the late 1920s, Brazilian jiu-jitsu (the gentle art) was created because Hélio was a small, frail and sickly child. He was the youngest five, having four much larger brothers. Many times too sick to attend school, young Hélio desperately wanted to compete with his bigger, stronger siblings. Derived from judo (the gentle way), Hélio’s techniques focused more on leverage than brute strength so that a smaller person could use physics to effectively grapple with and “submit” a much larger person. Scott McQuary was born with a congenital heart defect, and in 1969, became one of the first people in the United States to undergo an experimental cardiovascular surgery to correct a stenosis that was stunting his growth and limiting the blood flow to his body. He was eight years old. The surgery was successful, and today, Scott stands 6ft tall and weighs 185 lbs. As a child Scott was told never to elevate his heart rate. Or from a young boy’s perspective—don’t play sports or get into conflicts with other boys. It turned out that the bullies in school were perpetually aware of the mandate imposed on Scott because of his health and they picked on him incessantly.
After his surgery he was cleared to play sports, which in Scott’s mind meant a clearance to “fight back.” This launched a lifelong passion and love for martial arts. Although holding a black belt in judo and a brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Scott exhibits the demeanor of a college professor. Soft spoken and calm, his current profession is only betrayed by his solid and sinewy frame. As the owner and head coach of Team Quest Tualatin, Scott controls his gym with the grace and certainty of a classical music conductor. He works seemingly without effort, orchestrating his coaching of the number one middleweight contender in the world, while the rest of his students concurrently follow his directions in what appears to be complete unison and harmony.
Scott began his career in the Air Force Special Operations Command, where he was forced to train as a medic due to the defect in his heart. Eventually the Air Force trained him as an X-ray technician, which led him to a 23-year career as a radiographic film interpreter with the aerospace company, Precision Castparts. His job was to review X-rays of parts coming off the line for the close-to-zero defect quality standard necessary for the aircraft industry. In other words, Scott practiced high-tech mechanical flaw finding. His job was to find imperfections and identify them. He was tapped by Precision Castparts to run effectiveness trainings, which he did throughout his career, to improve the productivity of his coworkers. He just had a knack for helping others develop and do their best. Whether it is someone who wants to improve their life, a young child looking to be more confident or the top middleweight contender in the world, Scott has a way of making people a far better version of themselves. He effects people. Five years ago Scott decided to pursue his passion full time and was granted the right to open a franchise of Team Quest, now one of the most famous mixed martial arts gyms in the world. With no sense of irony, Scott says his job at Team Quest is now to watch people and “find the good and draw that out of them.” In other words, it seems he is now using his skills to be a professional strength, or “good finder,” rather than a flaw finder. He says with a fatherly certainty, “The essence of learning judo is learning to be thrown, and then getting back up and doing it again, which is similar to life.”Scott states that 85 percent of the people that walk in to his gym will never compete as fighters and are just trying to improve their lives. When asked what he is trying to accomplish or why he left a long-running career to open a gym dedicated to combat sports, he replies, “I want to bring better, more effective people into the world.”
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