Bob MacMillan is an all too familiar face for visitors to Campbell River’s Heart and Soul Muay Thai gym.
With his bushy beard and wild hair, he can’t be missed, but it’s MacMillan’s work ethic which is even more noteworthy.
The 43-year-old is currently training to step into the ring for the second time, and is all but living at the gym.
Class goers will often spot him in the ring before or after class doing gruelling pad work with one of the club’s two head trainers – Kru Sandra Bastian, or Kru Chris Fair.
The father of five, who operates a farm in Black Creek trains twice a day, six days a week, and throws in running stairs, hills, and a weekly long jog on top of that.
At the highest level, the sport requires incredible perseverance, and the two coaches like to think they train all their students to the highest level possible.
“Anybody who’s ever fought or competed under me, I don’t care if you win or lose,” said Bastian. “I want you to showcase your skills, showcase what you know, and showcase what this sport is about.
“I want you to show the dedication, the respect, the discipline.”
MacMillan started training in the sport a little longer than four years ago. Since playing professional hockey in the southern United States he had ballooned up to 240-pounds.
He got into Muay Thai for the exercise, but became obsessed with it.
“I enjoyed the intensity and how hard they push you.
“You’re always being pushed to your limits, and I get a kick out of that for some strange reason.”
With all the practicing he was doing, MacMillan got the urge to test his skills against another athlete, so fought a kickboxing-rules – meaning no knee or elbow strikes – match in Victoria, which he won by unanimous decision.
“He actually looked pretty good,” Bastian said. “He looked composed; a little ‘brawly,’ but with most people, their first time in the ring is always a bit of a brawl.
“It’s nerves. you don’t know what to expect.”
This time around expectations are higher from both coach and MacMillan.
He knows he can come out victorious in a scrap.
“I’ve been in well over 100 fights in hockey, so the actual fighting doesn’t intimidate me,” he explained.
This time around he wants to show the skills he has worked so hard to develop.
Instead of just relying on his ability to throw and take punches, MacMillan has been developing his fight IQ.
“We want him to be smarter than the guy in front of him,” Bastian said. “Make his opponent miss, and answer back, make them miss and sit back and wait. Wait for them to come charging in and then do something.”
MacMillan will face Chris Keating in a 185-pound match at a Muay Thai World Cup event on Nov. 20 in Calgary.
Local fans who want to cheer him on can order the card on pay-per-view.