Jordan Cabrejos goes for the armbar as he grapples with William “Billiam” Cohen in training at Vernon’s Unity MMA Monday, Dec. 10. (Parker Crook/Morning Star)

Jordan Cabrejos goes for the armbar as he grapples with William “Billiam” Cohen in training at Vernon’s Unity MMA Monday, Dec. 10. (Parker Crook/Morning Star)

Vernon’s Unity MMA fighters show heart

Young Unity MMA competitors bring home W’s

Whether it’s in the way a hook is thrown or a grapple is executed, there’s beauty in the brutality.

That’s the perspective of Unity MMA phenom Rylie “Coyote” Marchand who, at only 17-years-old, took her first adult amateur bout by technical knock out in the first round against 27-year-old Taylor Pinchak in Rumble in the Cage 60 MMA fight night action in Lethbridge, Alta. No. 24.

“It’s more than just exercise; it’s more than just fighting and violence. I think all of the aspects of MMA are beautiful,” Marchand said. “You know, the striking, the jiu-jitsu especially is super fluent and just being able to put it all together is really fun for me.”

In her amateur debut, Marchand took Pinchak to the ground after confrontation on the cage. She ended the bout via ground and pound to earn a TKO with only 12 seconds left in the first round.

“Once I got the takedown and established a good position, I was just looking to stay on top,” Marchand said. “Over the last nine years, I’ve learned that you can be winning one moment and losing the next, so getting full mount was not a guaranteed victory in my mind. When the referee called the fight there were only 12 seconds left in the first so it very well could have gone another round or two.”

Related: Opponent no match for MMA phenom Marchand

Marchand said she feels her wrestling game is where she thrives.

“I feel that my wrestling has benefited me the most, especially in my last fight where I got tagged a couple times on the feet, I was able to go for the takedown and eliminate myself from that situation, reset, and take advantage of being on top,” she said. “On the other hand, I’ve had matches where I was winning on the striking side and used defensive wrestling to keep the fight standing.”

That wrestling prowess is thanks in part to her coach and MMA owner, Raja Kler.

“She did a great job of sticking to the game plan and dealing with her much bigger opponent. As for her training over the last year or so, to be honest, it was a little tough with her knees bothering her, which slowed her progress. But, since the summer, she has come back into full swing and seems more determined than ever to showcase her skills,” Kler said of Marchand. “We hope to have her fighting again early in the new year and collecting more Ws. I should add she is a pretty terrific little woman who I think is an inspiration to many of our students here and people in her community as well.”

Related: Marchand shows MMA moxy

After competing in wrestling and boxing, Kler got in the octagon and fell in love with the sport. In 2008, just before Marchand got her start, Kler officially opened Unity MMA and Kickboxing.

“I tried out an MMA class, got my but kicked, kind of cried on the way home, and then figured I should probably learn what they did to kick my butt, so I came back a month later,” Kler laughed.

Now, with about 60 students in everything from kids’ classes to intermediate students, Kler’s pupils are leaving their mark in the octagon.

Marchand’s primary training partner, Damon “Omen” Marlow, 19, is also fresh off his first W after his MMA debut in Chilliwack Nov. 30.

“I don’t know, I just love training. It’s lots of fun, good people here. I’ve always just loved watching it and I respect the fighters — they put in lots of hard work. I just figured I’d try it and loved it ever since,” said Marlow, who competed in other sports prior to starting MMA about two years ago.

“I have plans to keep going for some more amateur wins and keep getting more experience and eventually go pro.”

Kler said Marlow is one to watch in mixed martial arts.

“I’m very confident you will be hearing lots from him too. I know that at featherweight (145 pounds) he will be making some waves and collecting some W’s en route to getting the belt next year from one of the local MMA organizations,” Kler said of Marlow. “In his debut fight, he fought a more experienced fighter who has been training for six years and was able to pull out a unanimous decision against him and a real chess match.”

Unity’s competitive core is built around six fighters, including Marchand, Marlow, Jordan Cabrejos, William “Billiam” Cohen and Kenny Pope.

Related: Kler doubles MMA

“Basically, it’s just practice, it’s effort, it’s time put in. In the future here you’ll be seeing some more fights coming out of Rylie and Damon and we have some other guys that are coming up,” Kler said.

“I think all fighting sports, all combat sports relate to somebody in some way. It’s the spirit, it’s the drive to get better. It is very hard to be good at these sports. They are sports they’re also not sports — it’s in the middle. I think it’s just the personalities that do it and the hard work. I think people respect that. It’s to see who gets the bone. At the end of the day, who gets the bone.”

Marchand got her start in the sport at eight-years-old when her brother, then six-years-old, won a free month at the club.

“He didn’t want to go by himself so I decided to join him and then I fell in love with it. He quit a few years later and I didn’t,” Marchand shrugged.

“I’d really like to get back in there soon and keep building my record up — hopefully, make a career out of it someday.”

Despite Marchand and Marlow’s aspirations to octagon fame, Kler said Unity MMA isn’t reserved solely for top competitors. Both kids and beginner classes are available through the club.

“For us — especially when it comes to kickboxing, grappling, MMA — it’s all about just coming out, doing something that keeps you going. Nobody has to become professional, it’s not like that. I always think that for an exercise, I like to do something that doesn’t make me realize I’m doing an exercise. I have fun and then I’m like, ‘Oh, I’m sweaty.’ I think that’s what we can offer people too,” Kler said.

“Sky is the limit, right? You can always get a few more people, you can always have more competitors. To be honest, I really just enjoy teaching people and seeing them learn. And, from there, that’s basically my best enjoyment. I don’t need to have the biggest club. I want to have the closest club. That’s more important to me.”


@VernonNews
parker.crook@vernonmorningstar.com

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