TJ Laramie

Photo credit to: Prospect Fighting Championships Facebook page

TJ Laramie on Contender Series “Extremely grateful for where I’m at”

TJ Laramie will be taking on Daniel Swain as part of Dana White’s Contender Series. The featherweight fight takes place on Tuesday, August 11th and will broadcast on UFC Fight Pass. The bout emanates from the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada. For Laramie, the path to UFC has been compelling to follow for the Windsor, Ontario native. Collecting featherweight belts in TKO as well as PFC have lead him to this moment. Several excerpts from my conversation with one of Canadian MMA’s top prospects can be found below.

The training tour

“I’m at Scorpion MMA with Dan Golkar. That’s where I just finished right now. I’ve been training everywhere here in Vancouver pretty much. I’ve been trying to hit every gym pretty much. Just to get in all the looks I can. I went up to The Sound and trained with Cole Smith there. He’s the UFC bantamweight. I also trained with Bibiano Fernandes and Jay Jauncey over at WKX and then I got some sparring rounds in at Checkmat as well.”

Finally reaching this moment of preparing for a debut on a UFC stage

“Doesn’t really change how I train. I feel like always trained very hard for my fights but it does give me a little bit more of a motivation. Just based on the level I’m fighting at and the money involved and stuff too. It’s a little bit of a pay increase for me. As much as people don’t want to say they fight for money, I don’t get punched in the face for free. Everything about it is pretty motivating for me. Every factor of the fight and just the level of opponent is probably most what’s motivating me. A higher level of opponent than what I’m used to, you know?”

TJ Laramie

Tape study

“I always do a lot of the watching and stuff myself. People here have been helping me out a lot as well with that. I just feel like my fight IQ has always been kind of a little bit better than most. Just because I’m passionate about the sport as much as I am. I’ve had the opportunity to focus early on in my career, each individual aspect of the sport. I was able to understand each sport in its entirety before moving and trying to turn it into MMA. If you just start MMA, it’s a little bit harder to kind of understand certain positions and stuff. Having experience everywhere, I feel like that’s really helped my game. With Daniel Swain too, with specifically him, he hasn’t changed much in between fights. So kind of studying someone like that is pretty easy.”

Las Vegas and Windsor training landscapes

“I definitely feel like I’ve improved my training and stuff. I spent a lot more time in Vegas. So I’m getting a lot more work in with like higher-level bodies as far as training partners and stuff on a daily basis. You go in Vegas and you’re guaranteed to have like at least like one or two good people to train with every practice. Versus like a smaller city like where I’m from. You’re not really guaranteed to get amazing work every time. Depending on who shows up or whos got a fight coming up. Stuff like that, right? It’s like always having someone to compete with in the gym is whats made me a lot better. I feel like since I’ve lost last, I’ve become a lot more humble. I’ve become a better student of the game again versus thinking that I kind of knew everything.”

Contender Series

“My weight and stuff was pretty much good like two weeks ago. I could have made weight in a week. The only thing I was lacking as far as training during corona and all that was training partners. As far as sparring and stuff. I was getting good grappling in with my Jiu-Jitsu team but didn’t really get good sparring or anything. Nobody was really available for that. I was ready to fight pretty much.”

TJ Laramie continued, “I felt like most people have been off and stuff like that but I was ready to make weight already. That just makes everything a lot easier going into this fight camp. That’s usually one of my biggest focuses on fight camp is losing weight. So I’ll be spending three weeks in Vegas in July and then we have the fight. So I feel like this is going to probably be the best training camp that I’ve ever had.”

Training amid a global pandemic

“I can’t just sit on the couch and do nothing all day. There was never going to be a point in time where I just sat around and wait for something to work. I was putting in the work every day or trying to do something every day. At the end of the day, this is my job. I’ve still got to go to work every day just like everybody else. I’ve got to find a way. I can’t just stop progress just because there’s corona out there or whatever.”

The tight-knit bond between everyone at MTC and in Windsor, ON in general

“I feel like whenever you’re close to somebody it makes training a lot easier. People can be more honest with you. They’re not really afraid to hurt your feelings. Which is exactly what I want. My Boxing coach Kara Ro has never been shy to tell me when I’m screwing up. If she feels I need to work on something. I’m pretty much working with her every day. She makes time for me whenever I can. Kara Ro especially has been super helpful during all this time.”

TJ Laramie continued, “She’s really improved my striking a lot compared to where I was a year ago. Luckily I’ve got a good support system of people that want to see me succeed. I don’t believe there’s ever such thing as being self-made. Everybody’s had some sort of help along the way. It’s pretty sad when you see people out there who say they’re self-made. They’re this, they’re that. At the end of the day, it is us getting in the cage and everything. The opportunities, the training, all that. You need people for that always.”

Laramie vs Swain

On cornering brother Tony as the younger Laramie won the PFC flyweight title

“At the end of the day for me, I feel like it’s all about him. That’s his night. He’s his own person. So I’m just there to give the advice I can and hopefully see him succeed. I wouldn’t want anything more than that. To see him do well and to see him accomplish his goals and dreams. At the end of the day, this is a selfish sport. That was the first time I’ve cornered Tony as him being a pro because we fought on every card other than that. So it was good.”

TJ Laramie continued, “I felt like he enjoyed having me in the corner. So we’ll probably get that going again in the future. For me at the end of the day, I can’t focus on his fights when I’m fighting. To me, as bad as it sounds, he’s just another person on the card. I’ve got to tune in to what I’ve got to do. Win or lose on his end, whatever happens. I’ll watch the fight but at the end of the day, it is what it is.”

The turn around in his overall mindset from early June

“I have nothing bad to say about what’s going on right now for me. I have a fight, I have a date, I have a contract signed, I have an opponent. So for me, life is back to normal. Maybe for some people there’s corona, there’s this, there’s that. But for me, back to normal. That’s it.”

TJ Laramie’s parting thought

“I’m just really happy that the MMA world especially deserves props right now through and through. Just based on everything we’ve been able to do. Viewing numbers are at an all-time high because it’s really the only sport going right now. It’s amazing I get to fight under such a great banner. The UFC banner with Contender Series there. There’s not too many people that can book fights right now. These regional shows, these regional fighters, these promoters can’t make any money without an audience. Who knows when we’re going to be able to have that again, right? I’m just extremely grateful for where I’m at and what’s to come.”

TJ’s career as a barber (the confluence of barber shops and barbarism)

“Oh yeah, a hundred percent. I know people are dying for haircuts. Windsor just opened up barbershops. So I’m sure when I get back from Vancouver and in between Vegas, I’ll be busy busy busy.”

To check out my conversation with TJ Laramie, peep the video provided

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