By Jake Smith
MMA continues to grow globally and IMMAF’s Development Department is working continuously with our National Federations to improve standards via a system of certified coaches to help produce the next generation of MMA athletes. While we have all witnessed the rise of Russian MMA dominance, and more recently Kazakhstan and Bahraini athletes coming to fruition on the global stage. But who is next? Could the Caribbean Islands be the next amateur athlete production line? In this article, we will take a closer look at the stories behind the new IMMAF certified coaches making waves in the Caribbean:
Dr Kent Bazard – Bahamas
Sport physician and senior house officer in Radiology, Dr Ken Bazard is the 4th Caribbean IMMAF certified coach and current BMMAF president.
After competing in Chinese Sanda for a number of years, amassing a professional record of 11-1, the sports physician was introduced to full contact fighting. In 2003, his skill set developed furthermore when he was introduced to world renowned wrestling Coach Kenny Johnson, who taught Bazard jiu jitsu fundamentals.
The Bahamas Mixed Martial Arts Federation held the inaugural Pan-American championship and Dr Bazard explained why it was so important for the region to do this: “I was very honored and proud to have hosted the first Pan-American IMMAF championships in Nassau. It was a very good event to have, something to have in the region, for regional countries because it is so hard for us usually to travel to Europe and around the world where the IMMAF have their events so it was my passion to have an IMMAF event hosted nearby, in the region, so that we can compete.”
Although things were tough during the pandemic, it has not wavered Dr Bazard’s ambition. He has his sights set firmly on continuing his progression through the IMMAF coaching levels while simultaneously continuing the growth of MMA in the region.
“I am very committed to the growth locally here in the Bahamas and around the region we have lots of support for mma in the region. Talented fighters, lots of talented coaches so I am a proud member of the IMMAF and it is a significant achievement for me to become a certified Level one coach and I will continue my studies and advance my levels in MMA and become a certified IMMAF coach in MMA.
“IMMAF has made amateur MMA very professional and has presented it in a very professional, very safe manner,” said Dr Bazard.
Renaldo Stuart and Rollins Ayene – Barbados
One of Barbados’ most decorated combat sports athletes, Renaldo Stuart, is the current Ambassador for the Barbados Mixed Martial Arts Federation while his head coach Rollins Ayene is now the first certified coach on the island. IMMAF Director of Development, Andrew Moshanov believes Stuart is an excellent fit for the ambassadorial role: “There has been a lot said about ‘a journey in martial arts’. I think today, many athletes overgrown the boundaries of their first core sport and wish to extend their journey to the whole family of combat sports and martial arts. Renaldo is a brilliant example of accomplishment and continuous personal growth. Isn’t it what the sport in general should be about?”
As has been the case with so many countries across the globe, the COVID pandemic has severely impacted the development of young athletes. Some sections of the world are starting to return to normality but this is not the case for Barbados.
With COVID restrictions still in place across the island, the BMMAF have found new ways for their athletes to train, all while sticking to COVID protocols. President of the Barbados Mixed Martial Arts Federation, Dr. Paul Forte, divulged:
“To this date, the Barbados Mixed Martial Arts Federation (BMMAF) has continued its efforts to condition the minds and bodies of its members through various unorthodox mechanisms…
“Our development is now strongly focused on individual training through the programmes offered virtually, whether through the IMMAF brand or home grown. We meet on various days at the beach, to engage in non-contact face to face training with strict Covid19 protocols in place. So far, these regular get-togethers have been important developmentally. Our athletes and coaches are mentally and emotionally motivated to further grow the sport of MMA.
“Taking full advantage of non-contact beach training and conditioning, and with strict correlated protocols in place, the BMMAF has increased these activities and started non-contact training & conditioning competitions to further provide deeper mental stimulation to athletes and coaches during this distressing time.”
Keron Bourne and Kerry Grant – Trinidad and Tobago
Keron Bourne was the first certified MMA coach in Trinidad and Tobago but brings a wealth of competitive experience with him. He has been a stand out athlete in an array of combat sports, such as Wrestling, Kickboxing, Mua-Thai and Sambo – twice placing 5th in the World Championships of the latter discipline.
Bourne’s reasoning behind getting involved in MMA came from a desire to complete himself as an all round Mixed Martial Artist. He said: “One of the main reasons I started MMA was because I believe that a fighter must be able to fight in any position, on the ground or standing.
“MMA was the ultimate platform for me to showcase my ability to fight standing and on the ground and also open my eyes to the importance of learning different combat styles.”
The athlete turned coach runs his club, Untamed Combat Training Club, in Port-Of-Spain. Reflecting on his entry into the world of combat sport, Bourne For me, growing up it made a way out from getting involved with the wrong company. It’s also provided a platform in which it opened doors for me to travel the world, giving me the opportunity to make new life-long friends.
“It (MMA) gave me discipline, the ability to work hard and to be consistent and to play fair. These attributes groom me in becoming the man I am today.”
Musician, composer, pilot, mixed martial artist. Four words that you wouldn’t usually associate with each other… unless you’re discussing newly certified IMMAF Coach Kerry Grant, also from Trinidad and Tobago.
The multi talented athlete’s upbringing instilled his work hard attitude from an early age, with his parents driving the idea of that if he was going to do something, he should do it to the best of his ability and that once his skill level was at a place to share with others- he should do so. He explained: “My parents always told me when I’m doing something, always do it properly and to the best of my ability or do not do it at all. This stuck with me through life as I grew.
“I believe we were all placed on this earth to share our skills, no matter what they are. If you have talents, do not bury them. My attitude to life is simply this.
“Life is to live and not to exist!”
Grant and his team gym, Southern Warriors from the mantra of ‘We Are Not Ordinary People’. He told us about the origin of the mantra and why he felt it was important to implement it across his team. He said: “I first opened my dojo in 2004. I was young, only 24 years of age and I had teenagers as students. Most of which were not easily motivated. I had to find a solution to bring out the fire within them.
“Then one morning as I myself was working out, I found it hard to train that particular morning. I also needed motivating, but there was no one around. I had to dig deep. Motivate me and it just occurred to me that in my ordinary state of mind I would not complete my task of training that day.
“In an ordinary state of mind, I would have quit. And so this is where the ‘We are not ordinary people’ mantra was born! I began saying over and over in my head, ” I am not ordinary” until I shouted it out to myself. It worked! A new wave of powerful motivation flowed through me and I never looked back since.
“That mantra empowers my students and me daily, not just in the sport of Mixed Martial Arts, but also in every aspect of our lives.”
With such amazing influencers on the islands, be ready for Caribbean fighters to start making their mark at future IMMAF Events!