Born & Bred | Lyman Good
It’s not often that someone can be called a hometown hero. But Lyman Good, instructor at Tiger Schulmann’s Chelsea, now has that opportunity. Born and raised in New York City, Lyman will be taking his martial arts skills into the octagon in the world’s most iconic venue: Madison Square Garden.
Before his highly-anticipated competition at UFC 230, we caught up with Lyman and learned more about his journey from Spanish Harlem to The Garden.
What was it like growing up in Spanish Harlem?
Growing up in Spanish Harlem was a not easy. We were in the projects off of 1st Avenue, which was primarily a gang area. As a kid I was a bit naive, but as I got older, I knew that guns and gangs was not the life I wanted to live. So, I often kept to myself, which led me into fights, which subsequently got me kicked out of school.
Looking back, one of the benefits of being raised in that environment was that it forced me to develop a strong sense of self. Being an “outsider” offered me more individuality and pushed me to find my own path away from the drugs and violence. Essentially, where I came from made me who I am, which I am very appreciative of.
What led you to to Tiger Schulmann’s?
Growing up, I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. Like I said, I had a tough upbringing and had a lot going on in my life from a personal standpoint. I grew up with my mom and two younger sisters. [My mom] single-handedly raised the 3 of us.
When I was a teenager, she pushed me into getting into something positive—an outlet of some sort—because I had been getting in trouble in school, was kicked out for fighting, and stuff. I was never the type to get into fights for the fun of it. I was always trying to stick up for someone else, to fight off bullies and be tough. My mom also saw that I was very much on my own. I liked playing music and writing, but I didn’t really socialize much.
We both decided that martial arts classes would be a good idea. One day we went down to [Tiger Schulmann’s] together, and from the second I walked in, I felt something great about the atmosphere and fell in love with it right away. Everyone was welcoming, they brought me in with open arms, and the rest is history.
When did you realize you enjoyed competing?
I started training I believe at the age of 16 or 17. I couldn’t tell you the exact moment, but my first bout solidified the love that I have for combat sports and MMA. With more and more ring experience, and a string of wins, that love only grew stronger. But at the same time, another love grew true to my heart: the love of being an martial arts instructor!
Where did that love come from?
From my earliest experience at Tiger Schulmann’s, I was always surrounded by other instructors and people who influenced me. I had a lot of mentors: Tiger and Ron Schulmann, my first instructor Sensei Lopez, and Sensei Levy. They’ve each played a huge role in my evolution from a student into a pro athlete and instructor.
How do you balance being an instructor with being a professional athlete?
It’s tough sometimes. When you’re a fighter you’re more selfish, as you should be to survive and win. As an instructor, you should be completely selfless, because it’s about giving to your students—it’s not about you anymore. There’s a very fine balance you have to find between the two.
Outside of Tiger Schulmann’s, are there any other pros who have inspired you?
No. Not at all. No athletes, no MMA fighters. just my mom. I saw how strong and powerful my mom always was when things weren’t easy. It wasn’t because everything she did came easy—everything that she did was really difficult—but through that struggle, she still managed to give me and my sisters eternal love. She worked 2-3 jobs just to feed us, and went to college to better herself and to find more opportunity. That type of persistence through hardship, and constant love, were the strongest influences in my life.
How supportive has your family been with your decision to become a combat sports professional?
My mother has been encouraging from the get go, and still does to this day. Whether its training, competing, or owning a school, my mom is my Number 1 supporter. She knows that whatever I decide to do in my life that I’m going to do it 100 percent. She sees that’s the type of person I am. I’m very driven with things, so she knows that I won’t do things halfway. I knew I was going all the way, whether I became a professional, or ran my own school.
Do you have any pre-bought superstitions?
The night of weigh-ins, I shut all the lights off and freeze out the room. Anyone who’s ever stayed in a hotel with me the night before can attest to how cold it gets in that room. I go into this hibernation mode. I make it very cold, very dark, and just shut out everything until the next day when I have to leave to head to the arena.
In the morning, I open the blinds wide to let in the sunlight in for the first time. I emerge out of the dark, and stand in front of the window letting the bright light hit me on my face, my eyes. That’s my awakening. I know it’s time and that I’m ready.
What separates you from your opponent?
I think it’s my dedication to training, and how I’m able to juggle being an instructor and a fighter. I have to find that on-off switch between the athlete “selfishness” of training for myself versus focusing on my students’ skills and their confidence. Most fighters just want it to be about them all the time, but that is not best for me and who I am. I’m humble, not a trash talker, which seems like the thing you’re expected to do, now. I’m old-school in that sense. I always want to keep the integrity of the sport and respect and honor it. I want to remain focused, and train hard to beat my opponent. That’s my goal.
What does it mean for you to be competing in NYC, and at Madison Square Garden?
It solidifies your career. It’s a dream most pros would want to accomplish: fighting on a big stage right in your hometown. It doesn’t get any bigger than Madison Square Garden! And at the end of the day, I feel like everybody wants to represent who and what they are, and where they’re from. New York City has made me who I am. So to fight here is one of my biggest accomplishments. I’m very happy, and feel that I’m extremely blessed.