In 2009, a friend and I walked into TKO gym in the West-Island of Montreal. This gym was supposed to be the next up and coming MMA gym in Montreal. Otis Grant’s box academy was there along with Muay Thai classes offered by Kru Ash (coached GSP and many other UFC fighters) and Brazilian Jiujitsu taught by Lee Villeneuve (UFC fighter Pat Cote’s training partner and Brown Belt world Champion). I had been following the UFC since 2001 and was a huge fan.
In 2005, Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonner saved the UFC after a 5 round slobber knocker. Safe to say, I was hooked. I had done some boxing growing up and wanted to get back into it and maybe learn some ground work too. My friend and I jumped into the grappling class. This is where I met Lee Villeneuve. I was so impressed with his buid and his skills. He was in shape, and was able to rag doll me for 5 minutes straight. At that time, i weighed about 220lbs, Lee was about 175lbs. I was hooked from the moment he out his knee on my stomach, lifted my leg and head simultaneously and I tapped. I started watching videos online for hours, learning new techniques from Rener Gracie, Xande Ribeiro and Andre Galvao, to name a few. I subscribed to Jiujitsu magazine. I was in it for the long haul.
I remember Lee’s warmups, they would make me puke. He was a machine. I would attend his noon classes. A few months later, the gym closed and I didnt want to quit. Lee told me to try his school. Braziliam Top Team Canada was operating out of GAMA gym in downtown Montreal. I took the beginning class and wasn’t impressed. I looked online and found Gracie Barra Montreal. I joined a noon class taught by this small red headed kid. His name was Mitch Macdonald, at the time he was a blue belt, he slept in the gym, he spoke fluent Portuguese frm when he lived and trained in Brazil. IN that class, him and I rolled and he wiped the floor with me. Again, it didn’t discourage me, i signed up for a year and was on the path.
Gracie Barra Montreal is run by Bruno Fernandes, the man that gave GSP his blackbelt. Bruno is a multi time brown belt world champion and a very accomplished competitor. He moved to Montreal to pursue his education as
Clinical and Basic Researcher for the Departments of Ophthalmology and Pathology. Everyone wanted to learn from Bruno. At 150lbs, he was able to throw me around like a pillow.
Mitch was an avid competitor and always encouraged us to compete. I entered my first tournament in in 2011 and the IBJJF Montreal Open. I weighed in at 214lbs to compete against 6’4 monsters but i wasnt too worried. My first competition experience ended pretty quickly. I shot for a lazy single leg, my opponet took my back and choked me out. I competed a few more times at white belt but never won any tournaments. My first win was a 2-0 win points and it felt amazing to get my hand raised.
I competed another handful of times at Blue and Purple belt but never took it serious enough. I loved training with the guys but because of work and Quebec banning BJJ tournaments, it wasnt easy to compete.
I now have the pleasure of training with Glenn Mckenzie of Gracie Barra |West-Island. Every week i get destroyed by guys in their mid 20s and i wouldnt have it any other way. Nine years later, i’m still training and started teaching. Sticking to BJJ was the best decision of my life and I recommend it to anyone that is looking to better themselves and get in shape.