Photo courtesy of MAG LLC
The cage door may have closed for the last time behind Aaron Simpson as a mixed martial artist, but the next chapter of his career is already under way.
Since announcing his retirement in late March on the heels of his loss to Josh Burkman at WSOF 2, the Power MMA co-owner has been hard at work on his next endeavor.
As a lifelong competitor in the world of wrestling—both as an athlete and a coach—walking away from the realm of live competition was undoubtedly a difficult decision to make. And to this Simpson was no exception.
Having spent the better part of his 38 years grinding out the work to prepare in order to step onto the mat or inside the cage to see if the sacrifices paid off, competition is what Simpson knows best.
When you factor in the glory and recognition that comes from not only competing, but winning at the highest levels of the sport in which you choose to compete, it becomes easy to see why letting go and starting anew can be a difficult process.
Luckily for Simpson, the work he's now dedicated to will still serve to pay dividends inside the cage.
The former UFC veteran has been selected by Sanford Health in South Dakota, the nation's largest rural health care system, to head their Profile Performance program.
An off-shoot of the Profile program which is aimed at weight loss, Profile Performance was created to focus on helping athletes to achieve peak conditioning through a personalized nutritional regimen and a structured workout program.
When Vice President of Marketing for Sanford Profile Mark Elliot was putting the future of Profile Performance into scope; with the wealth of knowledge Simpson has accrued throughout his competitive career, he was the first option to head the new endeavor.
"We are very happy to bring Aaron Simpson on board for this program," Elliot told Bleacher Report. "At Sanford Health—especially with Profile Performance—we are dedicated to the pursuit of helping our athletes reach optimal performance.
"With Aaron's commitment to nutrition and his track record of being such a well-conditioned athlete throughout his career, we saw him as the perfect fit for what we want this program to accomplish."
The program mixes athlete-specific nutrition plans with an interactive facing which allows doctors and coaches to monitor the daily activity of their athletes. Simpson believes the system is truly cutting edge and provides the high-level attention professional athletes require.
"The big thing with Profile Performance is we are tying technology in with high-level nutrition," Simpson told Bleacher Report. "Not only are we providing them with what to eat and the reason they are eating it, but we also give them a scale that reads their metabolic rate and their weight and sends that information to an application on their phone and a website as well.
"This allows their coach to monitor the information as their athlete is going through the program. A coach can't always be there every day to see how things are going and this allows them to log in and monitor the situation as it's happening. They can see the losses and gain and make the necessary adjustments.
"It's very interactive and hands-on. Coming from a wrestling background, I think people really have a mixed message when it comes to nutrition. They think they need to "carb up" and eat a bunch of pasta and they are not necessarily getting the correct foods to fuel their bodies.
"They may be lacking on the greens or fruits, nuts and different types of protein. They also need to know what to take and when. This information is very important and our program is going to take this process to the next level."
Where most new positions come with a feeling out period of sorts, Simpson jumped immediately into the deep end of the pool so to speak. As head of the Profile Performance program he began work with title contenders Gray Maynard and Chris Weidman for their respective upcoming bouts.
"The Bully" will step in against T.J. Grant this weekend at UFC 160 to determine the next contender for the lightweight crown, while Weidman has the task of dethroning the most prolific champion in the history of the organization, Anderson Silva, on July 6 in Las Vegas.
Playing such a crucial role in his client's preparation is a task Simpson does not take lightly.
"I've always monitored my nutrition and my lifestyle on top of that," Simpson said. "As a wrestler, I've been cutting weight all my life, but the focus really intensified when I made the drop from middleweight to welterweight. That was over a year and a half ago now. That is when I really honed in my focus on my personal nutrition.
"But I've taken nutrition seriously; it has just come in different phases. When I got out of college and was attempting to make the Olympic wrestling team, my focus changed again. Basically, throughout my career as an athlete, I've constantly tried to evolve my nutrition and preparation to ensure I get the very best out of myself."
"Chris [Weidman] and Gray [Maynard] are huge for us. Chris is on track to become a world champion and Gray has the opportunity to earn a title shot in his next fight. Having those guys on board and committed to the program that will enhance their performances is a great thing.
"Knowing nutrition is such a big part of the daily regimen of training and recovery from training and with the program they have made solid strides. It has already made a significant difference for Chris. He's eight weeks out and he's looking better than he ever has."
Simpson's sentiment on Weidman's early progression is certainly something the surging contender echoed. The Long Island native is preparing the biggest fight of his young career and wants to ensure every possible angle of his preparation is covered in the lead up. Where most fighters who were sidelined for eight months with injury typically have a sluggish start to their training camps, Weidman has hit the ground running in that aspect.
"I'm lighter than I've ever been starting camp," Weidman told Bleacher Report. "I'm in better shape than I've ever been and my body is primed perfectly for the challenges ahead. This is an opportunity I've wanted for a long time. I finally got it and I'm going to do everything in my power to make the most of it and become champion. I'm doing my very best to make sure the odds are in my favor and to make sure I don't have any regrets by the time the fight comes.
"I think the No. 1 thing I thought was really cool and different is you step on the scale every single morning and I have doctors, nutritionists, and Aaron as my coach, monitoring my weight every single day. They monitor my heart rate and blood pressure. They know if I'm under-training or over-training. That's the biggest thing for me.
"Next comes my diet. I called up when they were working on my diet and they had seven nutritionists in one room working on my specific diet. Anytime you get that type of attention from professionals who know what they are doing, it is an awesome thing to have as a professional athlete.
"Everything is set up exactly for me and my body type," he added. "They have the Profile shakes and bars and they worked my diet in conjunction to the Monster Milk products I am using. Everything is specified for me. I'm blessed to have Monster Milk and Profile working together to put me in the best shape to win this fight and become a healthier athlete."
Duane Finley is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. All quotes are obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise.