AMHERST – Downtown Amherst was treated to some UFC royalty Saturday, when lightweight fighter TJ Grant arrived to train local athletes.
Grant put on a seminar at the Cumberland County Mixed Martial Arts Academy [on Princess Street, off of Church Street] giving participants the inside track on some of the techniques used by world-class fighters in the leading mixed martial arts organization, including how to respond, escape and evade round-stopping submissions.
“TJ is always willing to come up and work with anybody,” CCMA head coach Justin Bourgeois said. “He’s not like some fighters, where you’d expect everyone who participates would have to be the best at what they do. He’s willing to work with beginners just to make them better. He’s a real, down to earth, regular guy. He even remembers the guys names form the last time he was here. Most gyms are closed because of the storm, and he still came up all the way from Cole Harbour.”
Grant’s seminar is an extension of the relationship CCMA has with Fit Plus in Cole Harbour, where Grant trains. When CCMA was located in Springhill, the gym became affiliated with Fit Plus, opening the door for club members to train with the same trainers and environment as the UFC lightweight when they are in the Cole Harbour area, which Bourgeois did as he prepared to win the then-vacant Elite 1 featherweight title in 2011.
It’s a partnership, Bourgeois said, that will keep the club learning and growing.
“Believe it or not, but I can only give some so much before they’re ready for more, so having that affiliation means we can bring in seminars like this, the members can train at Fit Plus when they are in the area – we’re always welcome down there – and I can learn more and bring it back to the club.”
Grant wrapped up the seminar talking shop with the participants: weighing-in on the next UFC cards, ways of promoting the sport locally and weighing the pros-and-cons of amateur fight cards. Amateur cards, promoting the sport, and getting to a UFC-level of skill, Grant said, go hand-in-hand.
“No one wants to fight for free, but at least as an amateur you can have losses and they don’t count [towards a professional record]. You don’t want guys fighting without any experience, but you don’t want your guys getting bored. Competition, you’d be surprised how it changes an environment,” Grant told the class.
The big question many had was when Grant’s next competition will be. Grant suffered a training accident last August and has been out of competing for the UFC for almost a year. It was a devastating delay for fans, who watched Grant mow over his competition after dropping down a weight category to lightweight, earning the respect of the league ( Grant is one of the featured fighters on the new EA Sports UFC videogame) and collecting knockout of the night and fight of the night bonuses along the way.
The question looms larger after the UFC called on Grant to announce the league will hold its first Atlantic Canada card in Halifax this coming October, the details of which, including the main event, have yet to be revealed.
So far, Grant’s keeping his cards close to his chest.
“I’m taking things slow. We’ll see what happens,” Grant said. “[The last year] all I’ve been able to do is focus on my mental game. I think I’ve brought a lot of things together and I’ll be a better fighter for it, for sure.”