OBSESSED WITH WINNING
T.J. Laramie has fought more than 150 times in his life. And he’s just 18.
T.J.’s dad casually put him into martial arts classes when he was 13, at Maximum Training Centre in Ontario. Six months later, T.J. won his first match at a grappling tournament and he was hooked. He begged his dad to take him to every grappling tournament he could find. He wanted to fight someone in kickboxing but there weren’t many opponents available for a 13 year old at the time. There were opportunities in boxing, however, so he got into the boxing ring as an amateur and fought ten times.
“It was always me wanting to challenge myself and be the best I could at whatever I do,” Laramie said. “And after that first win, it’s a feeling you can’t describe. I was like, ‘when is my next match?’”
A few years later, when he could find someone to fight him, he racked up an impressive amateur kickboxing record of 11-0-1.
Laramie has always been competitive and always looking for a challenge, even as a child. In grade school he played every team sport and was constantly excited to play.
“You would see kids dragging their feet to soccer practice,” Laramie said. “I was always excited to be there, there was never a bad day for me.”
His obsession with winning and training like a maniac put him into constant grappling tournaments, kickboxing fights, boxing matches over the course of five years. His experience has put him on another level, he says. T.J. is able to dominate in the cage because no one can beat his amount of experience. After years of obsessive competing, his opponents may have more matches on their pro MMA record, but T.J. has the edge over them.
“All those competitions got me to the level I’m at. Because at 17 years old I walked into the cage like someone who’s been there for the past ten years,” Laramie said.
Laramie walked into the cage at 17 years old as a professional, in Japan. He went to Japan because he couldn’t get licensed as a professional in north America until he was 18, and he couldn’t wait to start. His obsession with winning and burning desire for competition led him to accept a fight against a professional MMA veteran with a record of 11-13, at a weight class ten pounds heavier than he was supposed to be.
T.J. won the fight with a TKO in the first round.
Laramie went on to fight two more times at a heavier weight class and he defeated both opponents. In his next bout at HK50 on June 17 he will face Brad Katona and finally compete in his desired weight class at 135 pounds. Katona, T.J. says, is not ready.
“He declined to fight me twice already,” Laramie said. “The only reason he took this fight is because there’s a loss on my record now. But no one knows the story behind that loss.”
Laramie accepted a bout on short notice. He got in the cage less than a month after Hard Knocks 48 and for the first time left without his hand being raised. “I dominated every second of every round.” Laramie said. He didn’t understand how the scoring could have gone against him. “It sucks because a lot of people didn’t see it and can’t know that I should have won, they just see the loss on my record.”
But TJ Laramie knows a thing or two about dealing with loss. As a child, he was forced to say good-bye to his grandfather, older brother, and then his mother when they passed all within a few months of each other. The gravity of that loss is hard to grasp for most, let alone a young child. “I feel like everybody has their purpose.” Laramie said, “That brought me the strength and independence I have today. Gave me the confidence that I can make it through loss.”
“All I can do is move forward,” Laramie said about the decision that didn’t go his way. Although it can be discouraging to know that no matter how hard you work or how much you care about something, things aren’t guaranteed to go your way, Laramie is determined to use the loss as a learning experience. He feels re fueled and re motivated for his upcoming match up with Brad Katona. “I haven’t shown weakness in any of my fights. I’m the best ever. Everybody should get ready, they have no idea what’s coming.”
And he has a message for Katona.
“Taking this fight was the wrong idea.”
Laramie does not like to be called a prospect. He has decided that he is going to create a legacy to the point where his name will be mentioned whenever someone talks about MMA, when they bring up the “greats” of the sport. He is all in, one hundred percent, to becoming a mixed martial arts legend. He has no backup plan and doesn’t need one.
“I’m not going to school; creating a backup plan is setting myself up to fail,” Laramie said. “If I go to school I’m accepting the fact that failure is possible. Failure is not possible. I know my skills and I know what I’m capable of.”
Currently Laramie trains two to three times per day plus a cardio session. His days consist of a 7:00 a.m. training session, an afternoon training session, a cardio workout and often a late night Jiu Jitsu roll. He has fought four times as a pro in the past two years but to him it is a slow pace.
“Since I turned pro, this is the most inactive I’ve been because I’m just focusing on MMA,” Laramie said. “I’d love to get back to it, get my black belt in Jiu Jitsu, become a world champ and turn pro in kickboxing.”
To T.J., fighting is the ultimate test of one person against another, the ultimate test of athleticism, technique and strength. There is nothing like competing, there is no other rush like it, nothing that can give him the same feeling.
Other than cutting hair.
In his spare time, Laramie is a barber. It’s a stress reliever for him, almost therapeutic, and the schedule is flexible enough that he can train as much as he needs.
“It’s a passion for me,” Laramie said. “I get motivated to do it, like I’ll wake up one day and be like ‘oh I wanna cut hair today.’”
Laramie enjoys being a barber, of course because he gets a challenge out of it. He even wants to open up his own barber shop one day, not his own MMA gym.
“I don’t enjoy teaching martial arts,” T.J. said. “Cutting hair is something I enjoy doing.”
“But I’m still having fun in MMA. I would do it for free.”
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