Wisconsin Man Pivots From MMA Fighting Career to Become Bird Dog Trainer

When Wisconsin-based mixed martial artist Mike Vaughn decided to pivot to training bird dogs, he did so with his dog, Winnie, in mind.

The idea of walking away from a dream job can sound like the most difficult decision a person can make, but for Mike Vaughn, it was a no-brainer. Because when the Wisconsin-based mixed martial artist decided to pivot to training bird dogs, he did so with his dog, Winnie, in mind. "She kind of drove me to wanting to be better for her," he told WSAW’s Dale Ryman.

Winnie has been by Vaughn's side for 11 years. She was there as he excelled in mixed martial arts and became a national and world champion. She was also there during hard times. "My divorce, she was with through me with personal relationships, business," he said. 

Vaughn owned and operated The BLAST Muay Thai Kickboxing Club in Madison for 10 years. He got his own start in mixed martial arts when he was 6. He's a third-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do, and with his father, was certified in Bruce Lee's Jeet Kune Do. "So, we're actually third-generation Bruce Lee students," he said.

That MMA background helped him become a world-class bird dog trainer

"Building a martial arts student and building a dog were kind of the same idea for me, of like, progressions of where you're taking them. It just kind of came natural to me," he said. 

He began training Winnie when she was 8 weeks old, and at first didn't realize that he could make a living with dog-training business, but he's found it to be his second dream career. 

"My reward is that, I like to see people have a bond with their dogs like I have. A dog can be kind of a saving grace at times," he said. 

Now Vaughn spends his days doing what he loves while proving that a dog is indeed man’s best friend.

"Times where you're, where you're kind of like, unsure of yourself. Or uncertain of the future where you get that wall in front of you and are just kind of like, hey-- I don't know where I'm going. And then you look down, and you've got her looking at you," he said. 

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