MIAMI – Hauley Tillman, also referred to by his students as “Sensei Champ,” is in danger of losing his martial arts academy due to financial troubles after helping countless kids in Miami.
Tillman is the head instructor at Mighty Warriorz, a martial arts academy operating out of a building across from Miami Edison Senior High School.
On Tuesday, Tillman shared his passion for his academy with Local 10 News, but most importantly, the safety of his students.
“I wanna make sure that the place is secured so everyone can train and it’s a safe environment like I say,” he said.
Tillman said his academy isn’t just about fighting and martial arts, but it also helps others learn core qualities such as leadership skills, self-confidence and life decision-making.
The work is a labor of love for Tillman who says he is a local product of Miami’s Liberty City neighborhood.
“I had a tough life in HRS custody and stuff like that, so I just thank God for Master (Steven) Tarrago, a retired police lieutenant here. He took me under his wing and taught me everything I know,” he said.
Tillman says martial arts changed his life and he even went on to fight professionally. Now, he says he is giving back to the community he came from through his academy.
“I wanted to be champion of the UFC and all of this, but God had other plans,” he said.
Tillman says he has no trouble paying it forward, but he is, however, having trouble paying the rent.
Tillman says the school’s main sponsor was deported, leaving the school months behind on the rent. If his academy doesn’t pay their debt immediately, he will teach his final class on Thursday.
Nick Pierre, father of 7-year-old Elijah, both take classes at Mighty Warriorz. Nick Pierre told Local 10 News the school has taught him many things about being a father and a leader. He also said it helped his son become more determined and focused.
Elijah Pierre and Nick Pierre are just some of the people who benefit from Mighty Warriorz.
“I didn’t know what I was supposed to do but people helped me sometimes,” said Elijah.
Tillman explains that, for some kids, access to this school is lifesaving.
“It’s just a lot I’m dealing with and a lot that I’m having faith on. I know that the kids deserve it,” said Tillman while in tears.
Tillman’s mentor, Steven Tarrago, has created a GoFundMe page to help keep Mighty Warriorz open. If you would like to donate, click here.