Eskasoni Grapplers Light up Las Vegas
July 27, 2011
In Las Vegas, Nevada, it was headlined as the “BEST GRAPPLERS IN AMERICA'S WEST COMPETE THIS SATURDAY IN VEGAS.” For three local boys from Eskasoni it was a chance of a lifetime to compete with the best in their category in the field of Mix Martial Arts (MMA).
On July 9 2011, Grapplers Quest hosted the 20th West Grappling and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Open Championships in Las Vegas. The event featured 300 amateur and professional Submission Grappling, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Judo and Wrestlers.
Competitors of all ages and skill levels participate in this event, which was open to all grappling styles, in order to determine the best grapplers in the Western United States region.
Preparation for Las Vegas was a total commitment that took 4 months in the making. Eskasoni’s MMA Amateur, Thomas Johnson Jr., took two youths, Merle Marshall, Gerard (G) Francis, under his mentorship and trained them aggressively in the skill of MMA.
The one thing the boys lacked when they began training was a place with heat. Gerard’s father, Sheldon was so proud of his son’s commitment in his training that he resolved that issue quickly when he used his own resources to convert his old MacMooney’s Store to now the MacMooney’s Gym.
Sheldon told his son Gerard, “I’ll do anything for you to pursue you dreams but promise me to stay drug and alcohol free.” Sheldon said, “I made this place not for kids to hang out but a place to train.” Johnson utilized MacMooney’s Gym to train 7 willing kids in the four month period.
All three of Eskasoni Grapplers are proud of living a healthy active life and are especially proud to be alcohol and drug free. At such a young age, Merle 17 and Gerard 17 look up to Tom as their role model and want to follow Tom’s passion of MMA and leading a healthy, active, drug and alcohol free lifestyle.
The intense 4 months of preparation, through 4 hours of training, proper diet and exercise prepared the Eskasoni grapplers for amazing results even they were not prepared for.
Tom Johnson lost out in the bronze medal match by placing a respectable fourth. While Merle Marshall blames a stupid mistake for losing out in the gold medal match and succumb to an arm bar but took home silver.
Despite the loss Merle is very proud of his accomplishment. Merle has seen the results of hard work and said, “Train every day, try hard and you’ll get there.”
Marshall has been training with Johnson for over a year and went to a Grapplers Quest Tournament in New Jersey in December 2010 where he also place second in his division.
Gerard Francis on the other hand had no expectations and came home with gold when he beat his opponent in the first round with a bare naked choke. Francis said, “It didn’t sink in when I won and I couldn’t believe it.”
Gerard’s journey to Vegas was more overwhelming because this was his first time at such an event and was very nervous. His father said “He was so nervous that he couldn’t even eat. He was sick to his stomach.” What made matters worse was both Merle and Gerard where in the same division and they didn’t want to fight each other.
So Gerard decided to enter another weight category at 210 but at 216 that meant Gerard had to lose over 6 pounds within a few hours before weigh in.
Before the official weigh in, Gerard did intense cardio, didn’t eat or drink and workout in a sauna room non- stop. When the time came for weigh-in three hours later, Gerard lost 7 pounds to make the weight and weigh-in at 209.
Both Merle and Gerard look up to Tom as their role model. Both fighters wanted to thank Tom for taken them under his wing. Tom wasn’t available for this story because he is currently training in at well known MMA fighter BJ Penn’s Gym in Hawaii for three months.
Merle and Gerard and acting coach Sheldon wanted to thank the community for their tremendous support both spiritually and financially. A big thank you also goes out to Eskasoni Chief and Council and all the sponsors.
Sheldon said, “MacMooney Gyms will always have its door open for those who want to lead an active, healthy, drug and alcohol free lifestyle.” He added, “With the success of our boys maybe someday we will have a permanent place to train future MMA’s.”
The MacMooney fighters are preparing for the next competition on October 7, 2011 in Austin, Texas. Train hard and fight easy boys. We are all proud of you.