February 12, 2011
Other sports grappling with pull of MMA
By CHRIS DOUCETTE, QMI Agency
The record-breaking ticket sales for UFC 129 in Toronto should finally silence any remaining naysayers who doubt the validity of mixed martial arts.
Even before the ban on MMA was lifted in Ontario last summer, the sport’s explosion was undeniable as new gyms popped up all over the GTA, all selling an endless stream of clothing lines for fighters and fans.
More importantly, but less noticeable, is how the MMA’s rise in popularity has forced other individual martial arts and combat disciplines to evolve in order to keep up.
Ryan “RG” Grant, a retired boxer who now coaches, recognized there was a growing demand for “one-stop-shop” gyms where fighters could train in multiple disciplines.
So a little over a year ago, he opened a new Grant Brothers Boxing & MMA Gym location at 4884 Dufferin St. in North York.
“People want it, they’re hungry for it, let’s give it to them,” Grant recalls telling his brothers, Otis and Howard.
His siblings have run the gym’s original location in Montreal for a decade.
Otis had a successful boxing career and once fought legendary Roy Jones Jr.
Howard has trained some big names in the Canadian boxing scene and now also works with MMA fighters, including one of the UFC’s top dogs, Georges St. Pierre.
Grant said all combat disciplines and martial arts have had to adapt alongside the constantly changing MMA in order to stay relevant.
And boxing is no exception.
Helping MMA fighters add knockout power to their tool belt has become a big part of Grant’s business.
So much so that he’s constantly thinking of new, creative ways to combine boxing with other disciplines such as jiujitsu and wrestling.
“If I can help a couple of these guys get where they need to go, it’s a no-brainer,” Grant said. “The fight starts standing up.”
A nice knockout is also a great way to get noticed by the UFC.
But Grant said he never loses sight of the differences between MMA and his first love.
“There’s so much more to remember,” he said of the skills MMA fighters must possess.
Unlike boxers, he said mixed martial artists have the added dimension of watching for knees and elbows, both of which can end a fight in an instant.
Grant has worked with some of the top fighters in the Toronto area, including Sean Pierson, Claude Patrick and Mark Bocek, all of whom are now in the UFC and slated to step into the octagon at the Rogers Centre on April 30.
“There’s a real team atmosphere in here,” he said of his gym. “(Members) get to see these guys prepare for a fight, they rally around them and wish them good luck.”
“Everyone is in here helping each other, so it’s cool,” he added.