Champion Gym, out of Grande Prairie, has been one of the top MMA gyms in Alberta for quite some time.
The rise in top-level talent coming out of the small Northern Alberta town has been something to keep an eye on over the last few years. They have produced top-level professional fighters signing to major organizations, as well as highly-touted amateurs who are hungry to rise to the top.
Isaiah Metituk (5-3) is a homegrown featherweight talent from Grande Prairie. The jiu-jitsu blue belt is riding a one-fight win streak heading into his final foray as an amateur mixed martial artist, and he said he plans on putting a stamp on his career as an amateur fighter.
“I see myself going in there and showing I’m number one,” Metituk said.
“I came close in the summer time to capturing gold and this time there’s going to be no ifs, ands, or buts. I’m going to put a stamp on it.”
After his last fight in December, Metituk said he shifted gears towards Nationals. He said his sole focus for 2019 is first and foremost Nationals, then towards the IMMAF World Championships later in the year.
Metituk explained how well Champion Gym has been doing as of late, and how the gym is firing on all cylinders these days.
“Grande Prairie is a small town, but we’re a fight town. We’re definitely getting the word out that we’re going to take over.”
Typically, he is a featherweight, but for the upcoming Nationals Metituk will be competing at lightweight.
Justin Knoepfli (5-3) is no stranger to Nationals, having competed in the event the two previous years. He sees 2019 as his time to take home the gold.
“I fell short two years in a row and I’m not leaving without my hand raised this year. I’m going all the way,” Knoepfli said.
Although Knoepfli hasn’t competed since the 2018 Nationals tournament, he’s been at the gym on a regular basis, sharpening his skills.
“I’m basically in the gym every day. My skills have improved quite a bit.”
Knoepfli said he’s been offered a few fights over the course of the past year, but one way or another, they fell through.
But, the layoff hasn’t affected the featherweight’s mindset. He sees himself as a more mature fighter heading into this year’s event.
“With everyone I’ve been training with at Champion Gym, I’ve been getting quite a bit more push. I’ve taken a step back a little bit, not going as hard all the time, and learning more rather than just grinding through all the time.”
Knoepfli credits the team he has at Champion Gym for his evolvement as a fighter and believes they’re underrated when it comes to top-level gyms in Alberta.
“I feel like we’re a hidden gem in Alberta. We got great guys coming up through the gym,” Knoepfli said.
“I think we’re one of the top five gyms in Alberta. And our record shows that we can compete with the best of them.”
The natural bantamweight will be competing at featherweight during the three-day tournament in Lethbridge.
Amanda Rogers (0-0-1) is heading into her first Canadian MMA National Amateur Championship and she sees it as an ample opportunity to get some experience under her belt.
“I’m super excited about it. I like the idea of it being a three-day event and we get lots of time in the cage,” Rogers said.
Rogers is coming off a draw in her amateur MMA debut in December and is looking to change things up during Nationals.
“The last fight didn’t go 100 per cent the way I wanted. It will be nice to get more time in the cage and get more experience [during Nationals].”
Rogers said she has been frequently in the gym over the last couple months preparing for the tournament.
“It’s been a long camp; I’ve been going hard.”
Rogers said she’s excited to represent Champion Gym during the event and show there’s a lot of great fighters coming out of her camp.
“We have a great team and great coaches. I’m excited to go there and just show that our little town of Grande Prairie; we are here, and we train hard.”
Similar to the majority of fighters competing in the tournament, Rogers will be stepping up a weight class to featherweight.
The three fighters competing in the Canadian MMA National Amateur Championship from Champion Gym all credit their teammates and coaches for pushing them and getting them prepared for the event in Lethbridge. Coaching staff; Bill Mahood, John Hachey, Adam Link, and Luis Martinez.