Six local mixed martial arts athletes (MMA) have landed fights around the province this month, with all members of the team training hard in preparation.
All fighting out of Arashi-Do Red Deer, Ryan Machan kicks off the fight streak on April 10th, fighting in Medicine Hat. Rick Pfeifer follows up with a fight in Lethbridge on April 15th, and Chris Chapman, Mike Davis, Stephanie Essensa and Soloman Courtoreille all fight on April 22nd, with Chapman in Edmonton and the others in Calgary.
The various fighters all train together, based out of Arashi-Do Martial Arts. Gary Vig, coach to many at Arashi-Do, said the team has been working hard for months to prepare for their upcoming fights.
“As soon as somebody has a fight in front of them, you can see a difference in the way they act,” Vig began.
“It’s the first thing they think about in the morning and the last thing they think about at night. There’s a lot of stress. We’ve got a lot of experienced fighters in our gym and they all cope with that stress differently.
“There’s a lot of humour and a lot of trying to keep things loose and fun, but there is always the undercurrent of knowing there is a lot of hard work ahead in the gym.”
Each fighter has a different training regimen, but most are in the gym or on mats practicing six days a week. Vig works with the fighters by developing the many aspects of MMA – Brazilian jiu jitsu, kickboxing, wrestling, boxing and more.
In addition to the countless hours spent addressing the physical demand of fighting, Vig explained the mental composition of a fighter also takes a lot of work.
“They’re almost like warrior monks,” Vig laughed.
“They train, they eat, they sleep and maybe play video games if they can find the time. Most of the guys immediately start looking at their diets and their lifestyle and make some changes. You don’t see them out partying – they’re in the gym every single day putting in that work.”
Vig trains with the various fighters at Arashi-Do, but many seek supplemental training at Absolute Fitness as well. There, Will Quijada – an experienced Muay Thai athlete – works with fighters on their striking and general fitness.
“I ended up holding pads for a couple of the fighters from Arashi-Do and the next thing I knew I saw more and more fighters coming in. I ended up becoming a striking coach and the rest is history,” Quijada laughed.
He now works with many of the Arashi-Do team to work on strength conditioning, mobility and honing their striking skills. He said the athletes are always working to maintain their fitness, but said there is a visible change when they are approaching a fight, as is the case for many local athletes right now.
“We usually start with strength and conditioning and as it gets closer to fight time, we work more on bio-metrics and power. As it gets to be about three or four weeks out, we’re working with power endurance and then getting more specific to the fights. We do more pad rounds, and are using the bags and do a few more sparring rounds,” he explained.
“As far as the fighters’ mentality, you see them move from seeing the workouts as something fun to becoming a little more tired and worn out but they’re still working just as hard.
“I see the dedication. They come in a little bit tired or calorie deprived or hurt – but they’re still coming in. It’s my job to make sure they don’t get beat down any more. It’s my job to help fix them or help them recover as best as possible.”
Between the fitness training and martial arts training, these MMA, Muay Thai and Jui Jitsu athletes are constantly working towards improvement. Quijada explained that for many of the fighters, it’s now simply part of their fight training to seek a little extra in terms of strength, conditioning and mobility to compliment their other practice.
“We’re taking everything we’ve learned from coaches around Red Deer and around the world and we’re putting that into a system. The fighters are seeing a difference and I’m seeing a difference for them. Everything keeps looking better and better,” he said.
Both Vig and Quijada expressed their pride in the athletes and are looking forward to hearing the results of their fights later this month.