Unsung Hero: Matt Walker

Unsung Hero Matt Walker

Matt Walker’s Moto X Compound has become a staple training facility for young up and coming amateur racers in a very short period of time. Since he bought the land back in 2012, he’s been behind some very good success stories including Aaron Plessinger and Mitchell Harrison.

Through hard work and dedication, Walker has been able to grow his business at an incredible rate. He’s added members to the team to help him train his 20 riders and maintain the facilities six tracks. As we enter 2017, Walker is looking to make even more changes to his rapidly developing facility.

We thought that it would be cool to call up “The Stalker” to check in on how things are at the Moto X Compound. He quickly pointed out that this interview was almost 10 years to the month that he decided to call it a career, so you know we had to bench race a little bit as well.

Racer X: How are things at Moto X Compound?
Matt Walker: The facility here at Moto X Compound has grown so much. We just got done with September and it is usually our slowest month of the year. It was on point with our average numbers. We usually average 20-25 bikes a month and most of those are our yearly riders. We have two groups, a little bike and a big bike group with two trainers, Tim Badour and myself. We have a great dynamic of riders and they all mesh very well. That’s the biggest thing, they have got mesh well to respond well to the training. We are fortunate to have that.

What are some of the things you are working on as you gear up for the 2017 season?
Right now we are getting ready for the Mini Olympics. It’s an event where I’ve had great success in the past as a rider and trainer. We have a lot of good tracks here to simulate what we will have at Mini Os. Plus I have that entire facility rented out for October 17.

The biggest thing is that we are mimicking their new supercross track that is being built. We are waiting to get 402MX involved to build the track here to simulate the track they will be racing on. That’s what we are working on right now.

Who are some of your riders that we should keep an eye on for next year?
One of the guys who is going to be in A class is Cameron Cannon. He had a bad injury last year and had to sit out almost a year. He got second in the B class at Loretta’s this year and he’s a great rider that rides for Monster and Kawasaki. He’ll also be at Monster Cup. He’s been with me for a couple of years now and I’m looking for big things from him. Also, Raymller Alves is another guy and he’s from Brazil. He raced the Motocross of Nations and he’s another A class rider. He just started training with us about a month before Loretta’s, which didn’t give him enough time for it to work. I think he got ninth there. I think with a full year of training that I’m really looking for big things from him. We have several riders that I expect big things from, but those two will be the ones that will do damage next year.

Walker talking with him campers and their families at Loretta's.
Walker talking with him campers and their families at Loretta's. Ken Hill

Is your facility open to anyone that wants to come in and train, or do you hand pick who you want?
In the past we’ve been open to anybody. We need business like anybody else does, but since after Loretta Lynn’s this season, we are more selective of who we are letting in. We’re at a point to where my business has grown so much that we have to be selective in whom we choose. Anytime you’re a facility and you let people in from all over the world—some we know and some we don’t know—you have bad apples that can ruin a situation. Now we have a good understanding of who wants to be here to put in the work. I feel like the best thing you can do is have the mentality to where everyone who is here, is here to get better and they are here for the right reason.

How were you able to keep up with everything by yourself for so long?
Up until four months ago I did all of the training and everything by myself. The hard work that I learned as a professional rider I’ve taken over to the business side of things. If you train two groups of 15-20 riders and do the track work that’s a long day. I’ve done that for years, but now my business has grown so much that I can hire employees. We have a good staff here and that’s one of the best assets that you can have.

I’ve definitely seen some of your changes on social media. You’re building on the property and it’s been cool to watch from afar.
I’m glad you mentioned that Troy, as far as building new things. Here is one thing you have to realize, Moto X Compound is owned by Matt Walker and I don’t have investors or banks. I’m the only motocross facility that owns and runs it like that. I take a lot of pride in knowing that. With that being said, we can’t go and just buy a new piece of machinery or build a new building. We can’t throw out a check like that. I’m a small business owner and like a lot of people we save up.

We do have this new building here that is 4,000 square feet. We have a new gym and a new race shop, so we have these things, but I had to save up to buy it. My wife and I saved up to buy it and we take a lot of pride in that. When riders come here I expect them to have even more respect for my property because of the sacrifices I took in order to get it. I sacrificed a lot at my discretion to race at a high level and in return I bought land for this facility.

How many tracks do you have on the property?
I have six tracks here and that isn’t counting Echeconnee MX, which is the oldest track in Georgia. It’s a lot of responsibility and a lot of overhead.

"I have a goal and that is to be the best. The only reason other training facilities are bigger than us is because they have been in it longer. I want to be bigger and better."

You’ve been sacrificing everything your entire life to get to where you are today. How are the rolls reversed from when you were racing to business owner?
Absolutely and that’s a part of the American dream! You work hard, buy, and build. I quit racing at 24 years old because I had an injury that forced me not to race anymore. Five years prior to that I was a factory rider on a factory team. It took me two years after I finished racing to find myself. I had to figure out what I wanted. There are a lot of things that happen when you walk away from a sport. When I walked away I walked away, I don’t ride.

I’ve said this in interviews before that I knew that I wanted to have a facility and to help people. It wasn’t something that I was going to dive into without knowing. I did my homework and I figured out what it would take to do it right. You need a lot of land and tracks. The success we have didn’t happen overnight. It is starting to come on now and we are growing faster than anybody else. Today we have riders from all over the world including Germany, Ecuador, and Guatemala. In return when they pull through these gates they know that we are going to give them 110 percent. They aren’t just a number on a bike. It was methodically planned out and we stuck to it from all those years ago.

So Moto X Compound is internationally known now?
I like to travel. We’ve been to Hawaii and I like to do classes all over. It does make you feel great when they come over. It makes you feel even better when they come over more than once. They bring friends too. It takes a while to build up a name that people know. In a lot of countries when they think of America, they only think of one training facility. For me it’s important to reach out to those guys and say there is another facility. Slowly, but surely, with the due diligence that I’ve put into play, it works and I’m very proud of it.

Everything I’ve done up to today has scared the shit out of me. When I bought this land, my wife, my parents, everybody told me not to do it. They were scared like I was, but I believed in myself. It was a huge gamble that paid off, but it could have gone either way. Recently nothing has scared me, so now it’s time to do something that is bigger and better. I have to plan what my next move is.

Good things happen when you’re scared, so that’s an interesting take on any situation.
Exactly, when I first bought Echeconnee I was very scared. I had never run a track before nor do I know anything about running races. I know how to race though, and I’ve been to enough races to where I feel like I can contribute. The reason why I bought Echeconnee is because it’s the granddaddy of them all. It’s the oldest track in Georgia, it has the best dirt, and it’s the best track. It’s right down the road from our facility. It’s another thing that worked out.

Explain how long you’ve had Echeconnee and what your plans are for the future with the track.
I’ve had Echeconnee for three years now. We have done races out there and even an ATV race. I didn’t race it this past year. Unfortunately, we were tied up in litigation that has since been settled. Any time that you are tied up with that you don’t get any AMA races. Now that that’s over with we can start having some big races. Right now we are just doing practices. I need to plan my next move out there. It’s a great facility and we’ve got over 40 hook-ups, hot water, showers, concessions, and 130 acres. I grew up racing that track and it honed my riding skills. It’s seen a lot of fast guys like Carmichael, Stewart, and Pastrana. They’ve all spun laps there and that makes it very special.

Let’s switch gears and talk about the 10-year anniversary of you deciding to hang up the boots. How hard was it to just walk away from the sport?
It’s right at 10 years. I believe the last race I did was on September 11, 2006, at Glen Helen. I just knew, you know? What made me special as a rider was my heart and determination. I had gotten hurt the year before at Glen Helen and I almost died there. That injury scared me and it changed who I was as a rider. I’m sure I could have milked it for a few more years, but I didn’t. As a rider you know. A lot of riders like to say that they race pro motocross and I never name-dropped anything like that. It was what I did and not who I was. I felt that when I lined up that I was a top guy. When I felt like I wasn’t a top guy anymore I knew that it was time to walk away. I’m 34 now and it worked out good for me and that’s all I can say.

I’ve heard through the grapevine that you are kind of a scout for factory teams. The teams will call you up and ask what riders to hire. Is that true?
Well, I’ve had guys like [Aaron] Plessinger and Mitchell Harrison in my program. Harrison came to me about five months before Loretta’s last year and because I have such a good connection with Bobby Reagan at Star the deal worked out. I told them that since we did so good with Plessinger I have another kid who I’m working with, let me fly him out to you and see how he does. He ended up doing well and he did Loretta’s. Those two made me a lot more credible with Star.

Every year I get calls from friends in the industry whether it is gear people or OEMs asking about certain riders. I feel honored to be asked, but they ask me because they know I’ve been around the sport. I’m 34, but my AMA card says 30 years. I’ve been in this game for that long and I’ve seen a lot of riders, I’ve trained with the best, and when I see them I know right away.

What do you look for in these riders?
The first thing I’m asked is how the parents are. The second thing they ask me is how the kid is and I give them my honest opinion. Also, 90 percent of the time it’s usually a kid that I’m not even training. I see all the kids at the races and I see how they interact with people, I see how their parents interact, and I give my honest answer. A lot of these teams aren’t at the amateur nationals or local races, but we are. We are scouting talent for ourselves and we are there to support our riders. It helps me with my riders, and it helps with the sport in general.

Your interview on Racer X Online where you unleashed the GOAT nickname for Ricky Carmichael is also around a decade old. Did you think the nickname would stick?
This past year is the 10-year anniversary of that story. When I did that story I never knew that it would change the sport like it did. It helped motocross and depending on whom you ask, it helped Ricky as well. I don’t really want to get into why I gave him the nickname in that interview because there is a story I want to tell at another time that the industry doesn’t know.  Around New Year’s Eve one year I was watching a video of Mohammed Ali and it just had “Greatest of All Time” on the DVD cover. Every first letter was capitalized and it said “The GOAT.” We went out for New Years and I was staying with Ricky and training with him. I call a lot of people on New Years and I called Ricky that year telling him how much I appreciated him letting me stay and train with him. I said you are the GOAT and that’s all that was said.

When we resumed training that week I told his mom and his wife about the nickname. It didn’t really take off because they aren’t the type of people that like that stuff. Ricky is just Ricky to them and just because he’s good at motocross racing Jeannie never put him on a pedestal. The story leading up to that is something completely different and it’s a story that nobody even knows. It almost never even happened and on a different platform I’ll tell it.

Walker uses the same work ethic he developed when racing in his new business ventures.
Walker uses the same work ethic he developed when racing in his new business ventures. Cudby

What's the next move for Moto X Compound?
Adding another location is definitely on the table at some point. I can't say where just yet, but we lose out on countless riders due to the logistics. I think the final step would be to start a reality based TV series at Moto X Compound. It would showcase the sacrifices these families and kids make day in and day out. That would be something that could get motocross in everybody’s homes and get it the attention it deserves. I just think there is such a good dialogue here with all that happens and I think it would be something really cool. Especially since we are only an hour south of Atlanta, which is now the "New Hollywood,",it would be easy to shoot a pilot and get it out to networks.

I have a goal and that is to be the best. The only reason other training facilities are bigger than us is because they have been in it longer. I want to be bigger and better. When somebody says training facility I want someone to mention Matt Walker’s Moto X Compound. It’s going to take a lot of hard work, dedication and sacrifice. We’re doubling every year.

What makes your facility great and different from the rest?
It’s our people and our families that are here living at Moto X. They are a huge part of what makes a facility great. Look we do our job, as a training facility, we do it damn good, but you have to have good folks here too. I tell people this almost daily. You have to have good training, good riders, and good tracks. If you're missing one you're not going to make it.

As an owner I'm constantly investing in better equipment to prep with, better dirt to train on, and a variety of different tracks. I see places with one track and I'm like "What the hell is one track at a facility going to do?" The rider will get bored as hell with that! At Moto X we have five different tracks. We have two corner tracks, arenacross, supercross, motocross, and a MX2 track. That's variety! Now add Echeconnee to the mix that's only 25 miles away and you have two sand tracks there! That's seven different tracks with all completely different soil types. That's the variety you need to be successful. That's what I have to offer. If a rider can't make it with all that plus great training, then I don't know what will. It's fool proof as long as you do the work.

You can follow Matt Walker on social media @mattwalker122.