Although it had been four years since his last fight, local martial artist Will Quijada is feeling like a million bucks after stepping into the ring for the Canadian National Muay Thai Championship in Toronto this past weekend.
The annual tournament was Canada’s largest Muay Thai tournament ever with about 156 fighters on the card competing for the right to represent Canada at the IMFA World Championships
“It was tough but it felt so good to get back in there. I felt calm, cool, ready to go. I was ready,” recalled Quijada, 29, of his semi-final bout with Matt Mackillop of the Siam No. 1 House of Muay Thai in Toronto this past Saturday.
“I fought on Saturday for the semi-final against a pro Muay Thai fighter. I’m still an amateur so that was a big step up in competition,” said Quijada, who represented Canada on the world stage back in 2012.
Unfortunately, the Absolute Fitness co-owner had some things going against him right off the hop which hampered him from putting on the best fight that he could, the first being a lack of sleep due to the time difference.
“Not having the time to re-hydrate properly kind of sucked. But it was a really close fight. No way did I get my butt whooped. He probably pushed the pace a little bit more in the third and I think that’s what won him the fight. But it was very close, could have gone either way.”
Despite the loss in the semi-final matchup on Saturday, Quijada said being back in the ring was completely worth all of the hard work and training he has put in over the past year.
“I’m still buzzing off of the tournament.”
Over the past four years, Quijada has been focusing on training amateur and professional fighters at the local level, working as a personal trainer out of Absolute Fitness.
He said that time spent as a trainer helped him gain a better appreciation for how much fun it is to be in the ring and doing what he loves.
“It’s probably the most fun I’ve had in a long time. I loved every minute leading up to the fight, waiting for the fight and getting into the ring. Everything was so much fun.”
It wasn’t all fun and games, though. Competing in any kind of martial art at a high level requires a lot of hard work and dedication.
“Training is my life,” Quijada said, adding he trains all year round, regardless of whether he’s got a fight or and event coming up.
And when he does have a bout, the training only ramps up.
“About six to eight weeks out from the fight time, that’s when we start getting a little bit more intense. We do a lot more conditioning, we do a little bit more focused pad work. More sparring, more drilling. I’m training anywhere from three to six hours a day, five days a week for those six weeks.”
On top of that, fighters have to make sure that they can make their target weight by weigh-in time, meaning lots of dieting and no junk food.
“I go on a big clean eating diet. Absolutely no cheese, absolutely no alcohol. It’s a lot of vegetables and protein and a few carbs here and there to help get me down to weight and keep me fueled.”
It’s all worth it though, because when everything’s said and done, Quijada gets to represent his city on some of the biggest stages in the country.
“It was a big honour to do that. I had a lot of people help sponsor me to fly out to Toronto. That was a huge help, I had a GoFundMe where people were able to donate and I also raffled off some personal training through Absolute Fitness. It all helped tremendously.”
Quijada added that he’s going to take some time to rest and recuperate after last weekend’s fight before trying to get back in the ring himself.
He’ll be spending the next few weeks helping local fighters prepare for the Havoc MMA event in the City on Dec. 2nd.