Beginning at an early age, Evan Piercey learned the hard way that life is not easy.
Growing up in New Harbour and Hearts Delight, NL, Piercey wasn’t afforded the same luxuries as many of the other kids his age.
Living with his mother, who raised him as a single parent, in a small town where jobs were scarce, Piercey said times were tough for them.
“I always felt guilty taking stuff from my mom just because she worked as hard as she could, but it was tough for us. I started working when I was 12 or 13 years old so I could buy my own clothes and shoes. It was rough times; I was going to school without lunches and not having any money,” said Piercey in an interview with MMA Empire.
“Going to school like that, obviously, other kids notice. Dealing with those older kids and bullies kind of led me to fight a lot, so I was kind of a troubled kid with a lot of anger issues.”
Piercey continued to find himself in trouble at school, largely due to getting involved in fights with the kids who bullied him.
He said there didn’t appear to be an end in sight, and he even turned to drinking at 14 years old, which only led to more problems, including trouble with the law.
“I finally realized school, at that time, wasn’t going to work for me. I was basically fighting every week, so I had a lot of suspensions and wasn’t even allowed at school,” explained Piercey.
“It got to the point where I didn’t want to be taking stuff from my mom anymore, and my dad was out in Alberta working. He told me since things aren’t really working for me where I am right now, maybe it’s best if I come to Alberta.”
Piercey made the move to Bonnyville, Alta. at 16 years old and began working in the oilfield with his father.
During that time, Piercey started to find himself in a better place. He had toned down the drinking, and had become closer than he’d ever been with his father.
After a couple of years in Alberta, Piercey and his father started making trips back to Newfoundland to visit family and friends. On one of those trips, Piercey was having a couple drinks at home while his father was at a friend’s place. During this time, his father called him and let him know he was going to come by to see him.
On the drive over, Piercey’s father died in a car accident. Throughout the majority of his life, his father struggled with alcohol abuse and, incidentally, was under the influence when the accident occurred.
Piercey said accepting his father’s death, in the manner it happened, was something he really struggled with, and also blamed himself for the longest time.
“Honestly, I never really coped. He was my best friend and it kind of hung over my shoulders for a long time. I had a younger brother and sister who were also left without a dad, and for years I held myself accountable for what happened to him.
“He was coming to see me. I should’ve heard it in his voice; usually, when he drinks, I can hear it in his voice, but it just never really registered.”
Following the funeral, Piercey wasn’t able to face his family, due to still feeling like his father’s death was his fault.
He made the cross-country trip back to Alberta alone where his life quickly began a downward spiral as he turned to alcohol and drugs as a way of coping with losing his father.
“My life just went downhill. I ended up being a full-on drug addict and ended up on the streets. I didn’t have anywhere to go, I didn’t have money, and I was just into drugs constantly.
“I was so far into the drugs I didn’t think I’d ever get out of it. I couldn’t even look myself in the mirror, so I thought if I can’t even look myself in the mirror, how can I look my family in the face? How can I look at my younger brother and sister and tell them they shouldn’t do stuff like this when I’m in this position? It went on for years where I was just hard on drugs and alcohol, and I just couldn’t get off it.”
Despite distancing himself from his family back in Newfoundland since his father’s passing, his mother maintained contact with Piercey.
Throughout these trying times, his mother was his biggest supporter, and continued to do everything in her power to help him.
“I would get high and call her at like 3 a.m., and she would talk to me for hours because she was terrified I was going to overdose or that I wouldn’t wake up.
“She would tell me ‘Evan, this is not you. You’re a better person than this. This is not the little boy I raised.’ It kind of dug deep.”
It reached the point where he decided enough was enough, and made the decision to start getting clean. He was back working again and slowly starting to return to normalcy when he received a phone call from his sister that their mother needed to be taken to the hospital. His mother had been sick for over two weeks prior to that day.
Once at the hospital, it was discovered her initial diagnosis was incorrect, and she actually had a hole in her bowels that was leaking toxins through her body. After discovering his mother would need surgery immediately to remedy her situation, Piercey called her and let her know “everything is going to be okay, I love you, and I’ll be here when surgery is over.”
No more than five minutes after hanging up the phone with his mother, his sister called Piercey to let him know their mother died on the operating table.
“My biggest supporter, the only person that ever had faith in me that I would actually do anything was gone.
“I flew home and it was the first time seeing my family in years, since my dad died. I had to fly back to Newfoundland and face the family I ran from years ago, the last time I lost a parent.”
Three days after attending his mother’s funeral, Piercey followed the same path he walked after this father’s death.
“I went right back into that vicious cycle again, back into the drugs and stuff.
“It got to the point where I was just sitting in a room by myself for months, just wouldn’t talk to anybody, and completely isolated myself. I couldn’t look myself in the mirror again.”
The road back
Once again, it reached a point where Piercey said enough is enough, and decided it was time to get clean once and for all.
He said many of the words his mother spoke to him during their late night conversations on the phone continued to resonate with him, and he realized it was something he needed to do.
One day in 2015, he was scrolling through YouTube and happened to come across a video of an MMA event, which was Rumble in the Cage, an MMA promotion in Lethbridge, Alta. He had always had a slight fascination with the UFC for years, so this particular video peaked his interest.
After watching the video, his MMA journey and road to recovery began.
“Immediately, I was like I need to go do this. Not because I thought it was cool or I think I can do it, but at that time it was to take my mind off where I am right now, the need to be able to cope, and the need to be able to get rid of the anger I have built up.
“I was holding so much anger from the drugs, the drinking, losing both my parents, and that whole vicious cycle. I just needed a coping mechanism.”
After making the decision that MMA was going to be his outlet, Piercey reached out to Lee Mein, the owner and head coach of Canadian Martial Arts Centre (CMC) in Lethbridge. Following a brief conversation with Mein, Piercey packed up all his belongings and made the move to Lethbridge from Bonnyville two days later.
Upon arrival, Piercey wasted no time getting involved at CMC, and quickly let himself be consumed by training and the lifestyle that goes hand-in-hand with it.
“I walked into Lee’s gym looking for the outlet of change. I just wanted to change who I was, become someone I can be happy with when I look in the mirror.
“MMA just kind of took off from that moment. I went from being addicted to drugs to being addicted to MMA, addicted to fighting, addicted to the whole lifestyle of this.”
In his first few months at CMC, Piercey was still very much in the early stages of recovery. There were days and nights where the withdrawal effects would hit him harder than others, but he never gave in.
Whenever he did have those moments of yearning, no matter what time of day or night, Mein made the gym available to him in order to continue fighting off those urges.
“Without Lee Mein and CMC, I wouldn’t be here. I would be dead for sure.
“I owe everything to Lee Mein, CMC, and that family. I left one family in Newfoundland, and I gained another family in Lethbridge with CMC.”
After less than one year of training and starting to show real potential, Piercey expressed interest to Mein in signing for his first amateur fight.
Mein obliged, and Piercey soared, securing a 17-second knockout victory at Rumble in the Cage 53 in Nov. 2016.
It was at that moment he realized he had found his true calling in life, and finally felt a sense of direction and purpose.
“Immediately, I was addicted after that night. The whole process, dealing with the emotions, the highs and lows, being nervous and scared, and just dealing with all that.
“I enjoyed it, I loved it. It gave me a feeling I didn’t have when I was doing drugs. When I was doing drugs, I had no feeling, no emotion. Being clean and sober and having to deal with the emotions of the fight game, I fell in love with that feeling.”
A couple short months after his first win, Piercey began pushing hard to secure another fight.
It didn’t matter to him who the opponent was, no matter how experienced or how skilled, he just wanted to fight.
“Winning is amazing, it’s awesome. One of the biggest highs you’ll ever feel is winning in front of your friends, family and people that support you.
“But for me, I want people to be able to remember my fights. I don’t want people to remember me for who I was when I was doing drugs. I want people to remember me from my fights. That’s why I want to fight the toughest guys, the hardest guys, the guys that no one else wants to fight. Those are the guys I want to fight. Win or lose, I want people to remember my fights.”
Everything was starting to come together for Piercey, at this point. He had been off drugs for over one year with no setbacks and he found his purpose in life with MMA. He was on cloud nine.
But, yet again, his life took a turn for the worst.
As he was in training camp for his second fight, Piercey began feeling sick. It began as only minor symptoms, but he knew something was definitely wrong. But he didn’t want to know what it was.
As the situation continued to get worse, Piercey visited a doctor who informed him he had a brain abscess.
Despite the diagnosis, the effects of his condition continued to get worse due to the several different doctors he saw not being able to propose a solution or treatment.
Eventually, he reached a point where he was at death’s door.
“I went from 175 pounds to 85 pounds. I was dying. I was literally dying.
“Luckily, we just happened to come across a doctor who knew what he was doing, and he knew right away what was wrong. He looked at me and said ‘we need to get you into surgery immediately.’ There was so much pressure on the brain and swelling that they told us another day or two and it would’ve killed me.”
After five months of recovery time, Piercey was back in the swing of things working towards his next fight. That next fight came in Nov. 2017 at Rumble in the Cage 56, where he improved on his 17-second knockout in his amateur debut with a nine-second knockout.
Now 30 years old, holding an amateur record of 4-2, and looking to make his professional debut in 2021, Piercey will be hard-pressed to find an opponent mentally stronger than him in the cage.
Through everything he’s endured, overcome, and battled through in his life, Piercey said he’s more than prepared to embark on his professional MMA journey.
“People always say to me ‘when you get in the cage, you act like you have no fear. You go forward and you look like you have a kill-or-be-killed attitude.’ And I do. When I get in there and fight, I go in there knowing that there’s nothing this person’s going to do to me that I already haven’t been through. And that makes me dangerous. That makes me super dangerous in there.
“That’s why, when people face me in there, they look at me and know there’s no fear here. I’m willing to go in there and get knocked out. That doesn’t scare me. Getting knocked out, getting beat up, that stuff doesn’t scare me at all. I thrive off of that feeling of just being in there and letting emotions go.”
Piercey is now six years clean with no setbacks, 100 per cent healthy, reconnected with his family back in Newfoundland, and in the best place he’s ever been in life.
He said he knows there’s many people around the world going through exactly what he went through, and they all need to know there’s always a way out.
“They need to know there is an outlet, there is a way out. You don’t have to accept that lifestyle. There is options out there, and ways you can change and become a better person you’re happy with, and that’s through martial arts.”