'Putting a face to the North' in Singapore's world MMA championship
Two Timmins residents will be throwing punches and fighting for gold in Singapore this month.
Maggie Poulin and Terry Lemaire, both from Total Martial Arts Center (TMAC), will be joining Team Canada for the inaugural Global Association of Mixed Martial Arts (GAMMA) World Championships.
Poulin said the opportunity to compete with the national mixed martial arts (MMA) team “sort of came to us.” Both Lemaire and Poulin had to apply and build a resume of their experience.
“I really shot for the North and being a female from the North and I ended up getting selected,” Poulin said.
Lemaire, who is currently on a five-fight winning streak, said he was originally preparing for a different professional fight in Montreal, but the event was cancelled the week before.
“I was pretty down and out but then we got the opportunity to apply for Team Canada so we applied and a week later we were both accepted. It was a blessing in disguise. One door closed and another opened and we’re really excited. This is a huge opportunity to represent our country.”
Lemaire was on Team Canada in 2016 with another organization and he won third in a competition in Italy. He said he takes it a lot more seriously now that he is competing professionally.
“I got a few more years under my belt. I train two, three times a day, every day and I have a full-time job. Those 6 a.m. training sessions are not fun but you still got to do them at this level.”
Being selected for Team Canada “puts a face to the North,” said Poulin, adding she has inspired a lot of women.
“You got to believe in yourself and you just do it. It’s an opportunity in a lifetime; it’s not one of those you brush off.”
Lemaire said he got the news that he was selected for Team Canada when he was at work.
“I get the email and I can’t say anything, and I can’t yell and I’m walking around with a huge smile on my face.”
After she stopped playing hockey, Poulin said she started doing MMA when she was 14.
“I was getting into a lot of fights so my dad pulled me out. He wanted me to do something more disciplined and then as soon as I started to hit the pads, I found an open door of love and I was like what is this, where have you been all my life.”
Poulin has now had two children and she trained while she was pregnant. She practised the technical moves because no one wanted to practise with her while she “had a belly.” Her children also train in MMA.
Lemaire said he started MMA when he was 18 because a friend introduced him to the sport. He was nearing the end of his time playing hockey and he wanted another outlet to “organize his life.”
Injuries are common for this sport, said Poulin and Lemaire. Both athletes have broken their noses and other bones such as their jaw and their arm without feeling the pain until after the fight.
“(During) my first sparring session, I actually broke my nose. I took a kick to the nose and it was right under my eye and my sparring partner was ghost faced. I just kept going and then after class I went to the hospital,” Lemaire said, adding everything comes with breaks and aches but “you got to push through.”
“I’ve been doing (MMA) for 12 years and I’m not going to throw that down the drain just because of an injury. When you get (on the mat), you’re going in there to break some bones.”
Poulin said the reason people don’t feel the pain of the injury in the moment is because of the adrenaline that kicks in and the drive to win the match.
“You can’t just (stop).”
Looking forward, Lemaire said he wants to fight full-time as a career and not only as a passion.
Poulin said she also wants to fight full-time, as well as teach seminars all over Ontario and internationally.
Poulin’s advice for someone who is looking into trying MMA is to “just come try a class.”
“People come in and they see the advanced class and think they can’t do it but there are steps you have to take.”
Matt Poulin, head coach and owner of TMAC, said this will be the club’s third time being on Team Canada.
“That means we’re doing something right.”
The week-long tournament, hosted by Federation MMA of Russia, will take place at Singapore’s Indoor Stadium from Nov. 18 to 23. The actual tournament is on Nov. 20 and 21. Poulin and Lemaire will both fight in the 145-pound weight categories for women and men, respectively.
The winners from each division will receive a one-year training scholarship to Evolve MMA in Singapore. They will also win a $100,000 USD contract with ONE Championship.