It has come to my attention that my silence about the MMA Millionaires Association is being taken advantage of and that people are being led to believe that I still have "behind the scenes" business dealings with Lloyd Irvin Jr. Nothing could be further from the truth. My wife and I severed all ties, completely and absolutely, with Lloyd as of January 22, 2013. We regret that we did not do so much, much sooner.
I apologize for spreading a message to other school owners that is incongruent with the principles that we practice as martial artists - that success is measured through the accumulation of wealth and material things. If you participate in any MMA Millionaires event, you will quickly learn that money is all that matters and that your self-worth is determined by how much of it you can take from others.
I also want to apologize to anyone who attended an event because of my recommendation or influence. Many school owners have expressed, in confidence, their shock at the lack of integrity and respect demonstrated when it comes to the fulfillment of promises made in the advertising of these events. While I did spend countless hours preparing presentations on business topics that I was led to believe I would have the time and platform to speak about, more often than not I was left in the dark, without an agenda, and unable to deliver because of the lack of planning, time management and poor administration of these events.
As a result, attendees understandably felt as though they had been swindled. Instead of getting the information that they were promised, they were forced to sit through sales pitch after sales pitch in an attempt to sell, up-sell, and sell again with offers of one-size-fits-all business solutions. This is unforgivable considering the fact that a significant number of participants traveled across the country in hopes of a brighter future for themselves and for their schools and I deeply regret my participation in it.
How Did I Become Part of The MMA Millionaires Mastermind Group?
I joined this group because I thought that learning martial arts business strategies from people who were seemingly already achieving impressive levels of success was smart. I didn't join because I wanted to be a martial arts millionaire, nor did I think it was even a sensible goal to look for that kind of income from a single location. I joined because of the promises made and the claims of better, easier marketing and management that lured me in, like so many others.
Initially I declined Lloyd's invitations to join the Mastermind Group. However, he was persistent in his requests and I felt compelled to join because of my loyalty to him as my instructor. For those of you who do not know, I have trained under Lloyd Irvin, Jr. for nearly ten years. This does not, however, absolve me of responsibility for my own actions and poor judgment. I ultimately made the decision to join the group with the hope of growing my academy.
Why Did I Not Practice Better Judgment?
I was under the impression that by joining Lloyd Irvin's Mastermind Group, (which he later renamed "The MMA Cartel" unbeknownst to me) I would have become a part of an organization designed to take the martial arts industry to the next level of professionalism. In reality, I was just another cog in a money making machine engineered by a man who has no problem manipulating people's trust and adoration as a means of turning a profit. Unfortunately, I was not only naive and trusting but too focused on the goal of growing my school and the growth of martial arts in general, to see that I was being manipulated to earn more money for Lloyd, just like everyone else.
I am not an uneducated man. On the contrary, I have worked very hard to get where I am today. I have a Bachelors Degree in Accounting, a Masters Degree in Business Administration, and I have endured a number of exams to become a Certified Public Accountant. I even won the title of "Marketer/Implementer of the Year" at three different MMA Millionaire events. I am not pointing this out to boast but rather to illustrate what a perfect poster boy I was - and became - for this amoral organization.
For this "prestigious position" I agreed to pay Lloyd Irvin more than $35,000 a year for "business coaching advice" and, in exchange, I was granted the privilege of selling information products to his followers. What people don't realize is that under this arrangement, I lost more money than I actually made. This only begins to scratch the surface when it comes to uncovering the complex, pre-meditated web of manipulation that this cartel employs.
As a finance professional with over 10 years of experience, as a practicing accountant, and as a business owner that puts the utmost emphasis on performance metrics an reporting, the signs were obvious to me. When my own colossal MMA Millionaires Association expenses began to accumulate, I could have easily justified putting the breaks on my involvement. But the truth is I was too afraid to admit any of this to my peers in the Mastermind Group. In an environment where there are winners and losers, 3 Percenters vs. 97 Percenters. It is against the culture that Lloyd Irvin has created to raise any concerns that cast doubt on the association, its methods, or its leadership. After all, how can you speak up when you are led to believe that any failures or losses you experience are solely the result of your inability to properly implement the one-size-fits-all model? Going against Lloyd Irvin is not an easy thing, or for that matter an acceptable thing, for anyone who is involved with him.
When you take the time to think about it, this culture defeats the purpose of having a business network in the first place. How can you freely share ideas and opinions when humiliation tactics and fear are used to suppress any notion of discontent?
So, instead of making rational business decisions, I found myself waiting to take advantage of the next opportunity to sell a product to get myself out of a continually deepening financial hole.
Why Have I Been Silent Until Now?
During my time with the Mastermind Group, I came up with the idea to develop a software application to get people excited about enrolling in martial arts schools. The total cost to bring this project, SideKick, to completion was well over $150,000. I financed nearly all of the start-up costs with my own personal savings. Although Lloyd promised a partnership and half of the funds to finance the project, these promises were empty and the payments never materialized. It's hard to believe that after four months of constant requests, I was still unable to obtain simple information from Lloyd to create the business partnership. Throughout the entire time I thought to myself, "is this how someone who fashions himself to be one of 'America's Premiere MMA Business Experts' conducts his business affairs?" This experience helped me to see the situation for what it really was. I finally woke up and gained some perspective realizing that I was once again being used.
With nearly all my resources sunk into this project I was faced with a difficult decision: 1) lose my investment and potentially endanger the future of my school and my family's livelihood, or; 2) agree to do business with Lloyd Irvin, Jr. "behind the scenes."
After formally disassociation from the Team Lloyd Irvin Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Association on January 15 of 2013, I was scared and had a moment of weakness when I actually considered continuing our business relationship for the sake of saving my school, my livelihood, and the SideKick project. But at the end of this misguided chapter in my life, I found that our personal and professional values are largely incongruent and that my values are simply NOT FOR SALE. I had to leave this group and find, again, my center, my soul, and my conscience.
As a result of this painful experience, I learned a very important lesson: the community I am a part of and the people I call my friends are far more important than upholding a culture of materialism and supporting an organization built, in part, on cultivating hatred as a sign of their success. We therefore own an apology to our students and instructors for failing to be an example of martial arts values and integrity. In hindsight, I see what a horrible mistake I made and I pledge from here on out to embrace only the most healthy, smart, just and fair practices at my school.
This experience also reminded me of why I got into the martial arts in the first place. I was bullied throughout my childhood. And it was through the martial arts that I found my courage and self-confidence to finally stand up to them. Unfortunately, I later came across another bully amongst our community of martial artists.
Bullies attempt to intimidate those whom they perceive to be weak. Bullies make threats. Bullies exploit others to make themselves feel powerful. Lloyd has attempted to intimidate me, even going so far as to bring a gun to a business meeting to encourage my silence and continued cooperation. Lloyd has made what I, and many others, consider a veiled threat against my wife via Facebook. He uses petty intimidation tactics and threats that are unbecoming of a martial arts instructor. Lloyd Irvin Jr. is a bully. This realization has affirmed my decision to completely disassociate from him and his MMA Millionaires Cartel.
Looking Forward to a Positive Future
Since leaving this group, BETA Academy has realigned all of its business practices with the fundamental principles that true martial artists hold dear: respect for ALL, regardless of belt rank or socioeconomic status; discipline to always improve our programs, and; commitment to our community. We have instituted new principled business practices on a hunch that everyone can and should profit from a martial arts school, not just the owners. The students, instructors and the wider community should all reap real benefits from our academies. Guess what? We were right. This is NOT a zero sum game. For everyone involved, business is better than ever before and this is just the beginning of positive changes being implemented at BETA Academy.
When it all comes to an end, whether it is tomorrow or eighty years from now, what kind of legacy will we leave behind? I will leave this world with my dignity intact. I will make a positive contribution to the martial arts.
Call to Action
I write this letter because I feel that my silence on this matter up to now has been unacceptable. I do not believe in profits at the expense of principles. I do believe in the martial arts and I believe in its positivity. Yet I have been told by many people that they are afraid to speak up for fear of what may be done to them if they do.
The things that are publicly known about Lloyd Irvin Jr. at this point are only the tip of the iceberg of predatory behavior, manipulation and bullying that goes so deep it is staggering. Numerous people have come to me, in confidence, with horror stories of their own and feel that they have been intimidated into silence.
I stand here, along with my wife, the Callos family, Ryan Hall, Justin Garcia, Wil Horneff, and others to show them that they have nothing to fear; to show them that there are still people who will support them when they do their duty and come forward. We will not stand by and allow predatory behavior, bullying, amoral business practices, or anything of the sort to be the mark that is left on the community by our generation of martial artists. I plan to move forward and work to undo the problems I have contributed to by teaching ethical and professional business practices to martial arts school owners.
I am here to make a stand for what I believe in. I encourage all of you who have read this to do the same.
Nakapan Phungephorn, MBA, CPA