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Defensive Strategies and Wealth Management: MMA Techniques for Investing

by wrich

By: Tony Sablan, AIF, MBA is the Founder of Ultimate Wealth Strategies, LLC.

Mixed martial arts (MMA) is probably not the first place that people look to learn about investment strategy. The sport is comprised of fighters that many consider the top pound-for-pound athletes in the world. They are masters of numerous fighting disciplines and the ultimate competitors. Having spent much of my life training alongside and being part of the team for world champion fighters, has provided unique insights on what it takes to build a successful strategy for the sport. That experience, combined with a dual career as a wealth advisor, led me to discover that there are three big lessons that can be gained from fight strategy and applied to building wealth.

The Dynamic Nature of Markets

Every fighter is uniquely built. Their fighting styles, body composition, and techniques can vary greatly. They often have habits in the ring that skew towards an aggressive or defensive approach. Understanding the dynamic nature of each individual opponent is a critical step in building the strategy for each fight. If a fighter has not prepared effectively for the nuances of each matchup, they will often have a tragic flaw exposed that leads to a loss. Building a wealth management strategy is no different. Investors must take the dynamic nature of markets into account. Building wealth in this way takes a great deal of planning as well. Understanding the defensive strategies that complement offensive techniques prepares investors for natural cycles of the market. Having the right balance of investments, asset protection, defensive strategies, and insulation from catastrophic events, helps position investors to build lasting and generational wealth.

A Fighter’s Mindset

Even the best fighters face moments in the ring when they are not sure whether emerging victorious is still a possibility. It takes a lot to get punched in the gut or kicked in the face and still find a way to persevere. A fighter’s mindset is based around the belief that getting knocked down can be devastating, but it does not have to be the end. The best fighters learn from those experiences, then train and prepare harder than ever to prevent it from happening again. Building wealth requires that same mindset. I graduated from college at the age of 18 to pursue my dual career as a professional MMA fighter while managing my own wealth. Most would say that it was the life dreams are made of, traveling the world, pursuing passions, living my best life. That all changed in what felt like an instant during the financial crash of 2008 when 40 percent of my wealth was wiped out.

Starting over again was painful. The fighter’s mentality provided the determination that it would take to keep going. That mindset gave me a new passion to discover defensive strategies that could be combined with an offensive approach to insulate my portfolio from events outside of my control. As a wealth advisor I see that same necessity for my clients. They should never have to do a restart because of unforeseen events. Having a fighter’s mindset of their own helps to provide the determination, commitment, and discipline that it takes to build wealth that also provides peace of mind.

Focus on Generational Wealth

My father passed away when I was still at a young age.  The financial hardships that our family faced in the aftermath of that event shaped my curiosity for investing. Even as a teenager I could see the importance of becoming someone that focused on building first generation wealth. This could be the greatest area where experiences as an MMA trainer have expanded my thinking. When looking back at the greatest influences on my MMA career, there are a few people that stand out as making major lasting impressions. They are the elite coaches that invited me into train. World-class coaches that provided mentorship and taught me that a team approach provides the balance of consistent growth. Most importantly, they showed me the importance of building a legacy through the next generation of fighters that we train. Building first generation wealth is important, but lessons learned from the MMA greats has also provided the insights on what it takes to building multi-generational wealth.

The old days of passing down family heirlooms, vehicles, and the family house have become exceedingly rare, and the impact of those assets is no longer enough to build long-term wealth around. The new era of investing requires families with a focus on generational wealth to consider a larger set of opportunities. Comprehensive financial planning utilizing trusts, real estate, business interests, life insurance, annuities, and estate tax planning in combination can be the blueprint for creating generational wealth that can grow from heir to heir. Lastly, wealth management education must be passed down through the generations in the same way championship MMA coaches raise up the next generations through their practice. Just like any sport, being open minded to new ways of planning is critical to staying relevant in different market dynamics of the present and future.

The Next Chapter

Building wealth for some investors can be even more scary than the thought of climbing in the ring with a professional MMA fighter. Both prospects can bring a great deal of pain, but that does not need to be the case. Building the right team, having a dynamic approach to investing, having a fighter’s mindset, and understanding how to build a legacy can be a winning strategy to create lasting wealth. The next chapter for markets has yet to be written and with unknown economic cycles ahead there is a lot of wisdom in seeking out the right team to fight this battle with together.


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