Posted On:4/30/2010 3:47pm
Hard-luck fighter hits it big in B.C.
By MICHELE MANDEL, Toronto Sun
Last summer, Brad Robinson packed all his worldly belongings in two bags and with his last $40 in his pocket, the aspiring UFC fighter boarded a Greyhound bound for Vancouver.
There was no return ticket in his wallet.
The 29-year-old Newmarket man had always wanted to live in the warmest part of Canada and was fed up with the hard times he’d had in Toronto.
A construction worker who struggled to live from job to job, Robinson had been ripped off too many times and hungry for work too many more.
He’d only make enough money from home renovation work to stay in a rented room for a few months before he’d be back couch surfing with friends.
So it was time to move on — but not only from his life in construction. For if truth be told, Robinson’s real ambition was to go somewhere in Canada where he could finally pursue his love of mixed martial arts fighting.
“I’ve always been into sports — I played volleyball and basketball in high school and college and then I got into boxing when I was about 25,” explains the 6-foot-5, 205-pound fighter.
He learned MMA and its multi-discipline approach to fighting — a mix of Muay Thai, Greco-Roman wrestling and Brazilian jiu-jitsu — on his own.
Robinson taught himself how to kick box and learned submission moves from having worked as bouncer at Toronto nightclubs. Combined with other martial arts he picked up, he’d learned to be a “pretty good fighter” and thought he’d like to try competing. “But it’s illegal in Ontario so there’s nowhere to fight,” he says.
While MMA bouts are still outlawed in this province, there’s no such ban in British Columbia. And so the former construction worker sold his tools and crossed the country to follow his dream.
He had a rocky start. The aspiring pugilist spent the next two months literally on the mat — he was living in Vancouver homeless shelters and sleeping on the floor as he tried to find work.
“I was the first guy to leave in the morning and the last to come in,” Robinson recalls. “I was out all day, looking for jobs, handing out resumes, anything I could do to get work.”
When he wasn’t job hunting, he was volunteering at the Gathering Place community centre by helping out in the weight room. In return, he got free meals and a pass to work out whenever he wanted.
Joining a mixed martial arts gym was too expensive so he also got in fighting shape by running along Vancouver’s seawall in Stanley Park. “I’d eat cheap and train any way I could.”
He may have been homeless, but his was not the often-told story of fear and violence.
Instead, Robinson says he found kindness and assistance wherever he turned. The men he met in the shelters were friendly while the staff at the community centre went out of their way to help him. “I met a lot of great people,” he says. “Volunteering was the greatest experience; I’ll always be thankful for what they did for me.”
After social service agencies paid for him to get the training he needed to be licensed as a security guard in B.C., Robinson was able to find work and an affordable apartment. He’s now had a home of his own for seven months. “It’s the longest time I’ve ever lived anywhere,” Robinson says proudly.
And now he was stable enough to concentrate on fighting toward his goal.
On April 24, he turned up at the Red Robinson Theatre in Coquitlam to compete with fighters from across Canada in the Canadian Extreme MMA National Amateur Championships.
“Nobody knew who I was,” he laughs.
By the end of the night, they certainly did. After two knockouts, the former homeless man was crowned the new Canadian amateur light heavyweight champion.
“I got a fancy belt,” Robinson says of his prize. “Hopefully, my next fight will be a pro UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) fight here or in the U.S. and I’ll get paid.”
In less than a year, Robinson has gone from being down and out on the streets to a winner in the ring. So no doubt he has a fighting chance of achieving whatever else he sets his mind on.
I would refrain from concluding this is him 'hitting it big' but I commend him working hard to follow his dreams.
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Posted On:4/30/2010 4:56pm
Talk about a guy being willing to pay the price to chase his dreams. Seriously, I'm sure a lot of us know guys who constantly talk about how they want to be fighters and yet they are almost never on the mat/in the ring, or working out, or whatever. There is always some excuse about why they can't get a "break", usually followed by long explanations about how hard they are working. Here is a guy who made his own break. Regardless of what else he goes on to achieve in MMA, I give him all the credit in the world for being man enough to really go after what he wants and not just talk about it, regardless of hardship.
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