Wednesday afternoon, I was down in Barrie on business when I got a text message from Jenn. "I'm fighting at Wreck MMA, crazy eh?"
That was the start of a whirlwind week for Sudbury BJJ's only female blue belt. I soon pulled over to reply and get some more information. Due to scheduling, I had planned to skip the event in lieu of next weekend's Ontario Open BJJ tournement but this news made quick changes to those plans. Jenn was fighting...so I was going.
After a few more text messages it was determined that Andre Pelletier, Anouck Filion and Thomas Lum would be joining me for the roadtrip...John Burton also claimed a seat in the van. Tom Cooney, Angie Wheeler-Blouin, Chantal Proulx and Kevin Kroft would head down in a seperate car. With that, Jenn's cheering section grew larger by ten. (She also had a thousand fans, friends and teamates from the Ottawa Academy of Martial Arts in her corner).
We got to Ottawa around 7pm last night, checked into the hotel and then headed to the Robert Guertin Arena in Gatineau, Quebec. The venue is an older arena, a shade smaller than the Sudbury Arena, but pretty close in size and atmosphere. It seats approximately 4,500 people for an MMA event and most seats were full (aside from the two ends which were relatively sparse. I'm not sure what the total attendance was, but my guess would be a little over 3,000 people would be there to see Jenn's first pro fight.
We walked in and were given our vip bracelets that said "Sudbury BJJ". The ushers in dark suits welcomed us and soon we were walking through the crowd on the floor around the ring. There were 11 fights on the card and I must say I was really impressed with the talent of these warriors. The first Wreck MMA card in December was entertaining, but nowhere near as action packed as last night's event.
Jenn's fight was fourth on the card. After the third fight, the butterflies in my stomach started to float...I could see it in Cooney's face as well, we were nervous, excited and proud. Jenn was soon introduced and made her way through the curtain to the sounds of "Hey Mama" by the Black Eye'd Peas. Kru Chris lead the entourage waving the flag of Team Renzo Gracie, followed by Mark "Boots" Holst, Steve (Joncas), Pat Cooligan, Matt "Hammer" Hache and the OAMA Mascot...the Elite from OAMA/Sudbury BJJ. The crowd went nuts and Jenn made her way into the ring.
Her opponent, Anna Barone, then followed with her team from FIT MMA. I don't remember her entrance song...our focus was on Jenn. I got up from our table and headed closer to the ring (about 25 or so feet behind Jenn's corner). I was then followed by the rest of our group and a few more from the Ottawa club. We wanted to be up close and be sure Jenn knew we were in her corner. (litteraly) Soon enough, she turned around and saw us there...we had your back Jenn. I hope we helped get you pumped!
Round 1, both fighters came out and met in the center of the ring. There wasn't much feeling out process here tonight, both came out guns blazing! The exchanged shots, both connected and blocked some. Jenn threw the first real leg kick and landed with a thud. Jenn dropped her left hand and Barone connected with a looping right hook. Jenn then closed the distance and began to control the shorter Barone with a solid Muay Thai clinch. Jenn then connected with knees, one after another. Barone was able to push Jenn into the ropes where she was then able to create some space. Near the end of the round, Jenn nearly locked up a guillotine choke and managed to pull her opponent into her guard. She was very close to ending the fight. Barone was eventually able to slip out and the fight got back to the feet. Round 1 ends with both fighters exchanging punches. It was a very close round. Jenn landed some good knees in the clinch, attempted a submission and landed some punches. Barone to her credit landed to harder power punches on the feet. I gave Jenn the first round but the flurry at the end of the round seemed to eat up the last bit of gas in the tank.
Round 2 starts much the same as the first, but Jenn's energy was visibly wavering. Let's not forget, she took the fight on 2 days notice and did not have a training camp to prepare for 3 rounds of professional mixed martial arts. The two exchanged hands, but fatigue reared it's ugly head and Jenn's hands began to drop after she would exchange. This lead to Barone connecting with the right hook. Jenn was a warrior and had no quit in her. We cheered her on as loudly as we could. She reminded me of the Terminator who just wouldn't quit after getting rocked. She'd take a punch, take one step back and within seconds, she was moving forward throwing hands of her own. Her gutsy performance and never quit attitude could only go so far. Barone's training camp and perperation for war was too much and Jenn was knocked down. The referee jumped in and stopped the fight.
Ok, I might have missed a few details here, but this is about as accurate as I can remember. I brought my camera to the event, but left it in the car after deciding that I didn't want to watch the event from behind a lense. Others did take pictures, so I'll post them here as soon as they're sent my way.
Jenn's fight was without a shadow of a doubt, the fight of the night. It's the only fight of the eleven on the card where the entire crowd was on it's feet and screaming. The atmosphere was electric...these two ladies tore the roof off the building.
I can't even begin to describe the emotions we were feeling as a team, let me rephrase...as a family. We were so proud of Jenn for the fight she brought and her courage to compete. Forget the lack of preperation, she faught with the heart of a lion and we couldn't have been more proud.
Jenn jumped into this pretty quickly, so I'm really not sure what her plans are for the future. If she chose for this to be her one and only professional fight, she could easily sit back and sleep well knowing she gave it her all and that she represented our club with honor. I speak on behalf of everyone in attendance and those wishing they could have been that we're all extremely proud of you Jenn! You were awesome!!
Other fighters from OAMA also did very well. Randy Turner won his fight over Mikeal Pellerin by RNC in round 1. Stephane Bernadel looked incredibly sharp in a win over Justin Smethurst by TKO in round 2. He put on a Muay Thai clinic!! In the night's main event, late replacement Xavier Desrochers stepped up and took on Team Quest's Ian Loveland, a fighter with 10 times more experience. Loveland ended the fight quickly to claim the Wreck MMA Bantamweight title, but Xavier represented himself well.
Congrats to Pat Cooligan and Nick Castiglia for putting on an incredible card in honor of Brian's fight. (an Ottawa area Police officer suffering from Lou Gherighs Disease) They raised a considerable amount of money for Brian's daughter's education trust fund. It was a great night.
After the fights, we headed back to the hotel (1230am) and the crew headed to the afterparty at the Drink nightclub. 6am soon crept up on us and we were back in the van headed home for Sudbury. A great night...but man am I tired. :)