It had been a year and a half since Shawn Stewart took on another amateur fighter – ‘ammys’ they call them – in his first ever formal mixed martial arts (MMA) bout — he was understandably was shaking like a leaf last week in Merritt before his second.
The Rupert resident had made a new year’s resolution to get in the ring more, and only a month into 2015, he got his first chance.
UCL – the Unified Combat League – was holding UCL 21 in Merritt, B.C. at the end of January and they said they’d be happy to host the tall, stringy 155-pound fighter.
“He started messaging all these promoters and this one got back to us,” said his trainer and area coach Kelly McMahon.
“We had three weeks to get ready.”
So the amateur fighter, who boasted a short but undefeated 1-0 record, trained in every sense of the word.
“At first I wasn’t really into it because I wanted to do a full fight camp and make sure he was good to go and whatnot … we started with sprint training,” said the trainer.
Stewart developed a chest cold midway through the three weeks he had available to him for training and even hyperextended his arm before the fight.
But that didn’t deter him from gunning for his second win, determined to be against Bryan Janzen, an ammy neither McMahon nor Stewart knew anything about. But it’s not like Janzen, or the rest of the interior knew anything about Stewart either.
“There was a betting site for the fights … and they had 93 per cent of people picking the other guy to win because we were from Prince Rupert. Nobody knows who we are. They assume that we’re not any good,” said McMahon.
That 93 per cent and anyone else underestimating Stewart quickly realized their mistake. In 24 seconds to be exact.
That’s how long it took Stewart to take down Janzen in the nine minute-alloted bout via guillotine choke.
“[Janzen and I] came out and our plan was to circle him and get him to our corner so we could have our coaches talk in my ear instead of his coaches telling him what to do,” said Stewart.
“So we circled and he threw a couple punches and he shot for the takedown and I got an underhook … he got me in his corner and I could hear his coaches talking to him and he kept on trying to finish the takedown and I just slipped my arm under [his neck for] a guillotine choke.”
Stewart’s split-second decision to go for the choke won him the fight in 24 seconds as Janzen sputtered for air while trying to force Stewart to the ground.
“As [Janzen] was driving him back, he lifted his head and that was that. And Shawn’s guillotine is a very powerful guillotine because his arms are so long that we actually call it the ‘V-itine’ because for most people the arm just crosses the neck but Shawn’s arms are so long he can push that choke up so that it pinches the veins on both sides [of the neck],” said McMahon.
And just like that, Stewart was 2-0, with more fights on his horizon.
“He got offered to fight on [Feb.] 20 with Warpath MMA, but we said no to that [because it’s too soon]. He’s been offered to fight in the same league in Alberta for UCL next month and he’s also been offered to fight in a five-star league in April,” said McMahon.
Other than having pure natural talent at the sport, Stewart has McMahon’s against-the-grain training methods and fellow Rupertite sparring partner Dave Lundquist to help him train.
“[Dave] is really strong so it helps me out a lot. There aren’t a lot of guys that are as strong as him I find and he’s fought [in the cage] before so that helps me,” said Stewart.
McMahon’s training centre, called North Coast Mixed Martial Arts located in downtown Prince Rupert, has seen more than a few amateurs rise through its ranks, and McMahon himself comes from Toshido MMA in Kelowna, one of the top-ranked clubs in Canada and one that trained Rory MacDonald, a Canadian fighter signed with the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).
As such, McMahon’s seen the trends in fighting styles and hes teaching Stewart and the rest to combat the rising popularity of jiujitsu in MMA.
“We work a lot on boxing and a lot of other clubs don’t. They centre on jiujitsu first and I don’t really believe that’s as good a good strategy anymore. Back in the day when no one knew jiujitsu, a guy could force another guy down and force his will on him but nowadays, a lot of people are good at jiujitsu and they also are very good at stopping the takedown,” said McMahon.
The North Coast Mixed Martial Arts currently offers a free week for anybody who’d like to give the club a try as well as “Warrior Spirits”, a family class for kids and parents to participate together. Interested Rupertites can contact McMahon at email@example.com for more details.
A video of UCL 21’s Stewart vs. Janzen fight can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=974CrsI33NY.