Getting a fighting chance

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 7:21 AM ET

Hey, how many guys get a free shot to give their better half the boot?

Tammy Bergin invited Brent Beauparlant to give her a kick a few years ago.

"I don't let him do it anymore," she said with a laugh. "He's got a pretty vicious kick now. A damn vicious kick."

Tammy and Brent met in Montreal at a marital arts academy where Beauparlant was taking up Jiu Jitsu.

A girl from small-town Kemptville predisposed to mixing it up ("I've got older brothers and I'm Irish," she said), she had taken up Muay Thai (also known as Thai boxing or "The Art of the Eight Limbs") for self defence in the big city.

After they had started a relationship, they were at the gym and there were no mats for wrestling or Jiu-Jitsu, so she invited him to try giving her a kick.

"There's nothing like letting out a good kick," she said, "and from that time, he was officially hooked."

Beauparlant, 35, is now a light heavyweight in the International Fight League with the Toronto Dragons. It's the world's first team-based, professional mixed martial arts league (which can be seen on Rogers Sportsnet).

While the Dragons didn't make it to the final Dec. 29 at Mohegan Sun in Connecticut, Beauparlant was selected, apart from the members of the two teams that made it to the final, to be on the 10-fight card.

In one of the intraleague "superfights," Beauparlant, who has a 4-2 record, will fight Argentinian Alex Schoenauer (10-5).

Beauparlant is coming off a loss at the hands of Mike Ciesnolevicz (who won with a Guillotine choke) Nov. 2 in Portland, Ore., at the IFL World Team semi-finals.

The team concept is interesting in what is a sport of ultimate individualism, man-to-man combat.

"People like to romanticize things a lot, that we are lone wolves who fight when we want. I wish I could tell you that I train on a mountaintop under a waterfall, but it's a business," said Beauparlant. "I've got a wife, I've got a family. This is a business for us like it is for hockey or baseball players."

The IFL, which became a publicly-traded company last Wednesday, announced an 11-date schedule for 2007 with 12 teams, 10 based in the U.S., one in Toronto and one in Tokyo.

Beauparlant was attracted to the IFL because of the stability it affords him.

He took a break at his Gatineau home from feeding his 11-month-old son, Krieger, to talk about his life as a man who fights for a living -- for himself and for his family (Tammy is three months pregnant with their second child.)

"The team concept is something nobody has done before. We get paid a salary and we know when we are going to fight, about every 40 days," said Beauparlant. "There's a base salary, a team bonus and bonuses for putting on a good show, like having the best submission or KO of the night.

"I think they've got a template for success. You know when a guy is going to fight and you can follow it."

Beauparlant's background is in wrestling.

With Ukrainian roots, where the sport is popular, most of his family members were wrestlers. He was a member of Canada's national team for about 10 years, he said, and the move into mixed martial arts was a logical next step.

He trained for a time in Montreal with the likes of Georges St-Pierre, who just won the UFC welterweight title, Ivan Menjivar, David Loiseau and Patrick Cote and other MMA practitioners, and joined in their MMA sessions.

Tammy is a travel agent with an interest in martial arts and that's helped them travel to Brazil and Thailand to immerse themselves in the MMA culture.

"It was awesome. It's like travelling to train in Russia 20 or 30 years ago for hockey. Now in hockey, it's all pretty even. Everybody knows how everybody else trains," he said. "(In Brazil) you can see the different styles and learn from them.

"Realistically speaking, I got a lot of good connections out of those trips."

They had been told there was a Jiu Jitsu school on every corner in Brazil and in Sao Paulo, he trained at the school of Jorge "Macaco" Patino, the veteran of PRIDE, Jungle Fighting and the UFC. While there he trained with the likes of big Gabriel Napao Gonzaga (6-foot-2, 242 lbs.) and Luiz Azeredo.

"I'd like to say it was all well-thought out, but it was just luck that we ended up meeting and training with two of the biggest names in Jiu-Jitsu," said Beauparlant. "It was just out of the blue."

SPARRED WITH CHAMP

Patino also got Beauparlant into the legendary Chute Boxe Academy in Curitiba, in the south of Brazil, where he sparred with Vanderlei Silva, PRIDE's middleweight champion.

The Beauparlants returned to Brazil on a separate trip for a few months for more training at Chute Boxe. Beauparlant's background in wrestling was valuable because he could school the Brazilians on the finer points of that discipline. It was also a huge boost for his game.

"I've hung with those guys and when you're getting the upper hand on them, it does give you confidence," he said.

While sitting in an Internet cafe in Curitiba near the end of their trip, Tammy was preparing to book their tickets home.

"Brent said, 'Take a look and see what it would cost to go to Thailand,' so we hopped over to Bangkok. We lived in a hut on the ocean on the Gulf of Siam. No traffic and no electricity after midnight most of the time," said Tammy.

They conceived Krieger there.

They moved to Gatineau from Montreal because they felt it was a better place to raise their family. Beauparlant trains at Ronin Mixed Martial Arts and Westgate Health and Fitness.

When he's not training, he often spends the day at home with Krieger while Tammy works from a home office.

How far does he think he can go in the sport?

"Very far, actually," he said, "or I wouldn't be in it."


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