At just 22 and 20 years old respectively, Nicolas and Raphael Ouellet are becoming popular names in Powell River’s MMA community.
The waves really began to grow when the Ouellet brothers took over ownership and head coaching duties at Powell River Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (Powell River BJJ).
Despite only being in their early 20’s, Nicolas said it wasn’t a hard decision when the offer to take over Powell River BJJ was presented.
“It was a no-brainer. There was no way I was passing on the opportunity to teach jiu-jitsu in Powell River,” said Nicolas in an interview.
“It’s been great; we’re teaching classes every day and we get to train every day, so that’s living the dream, if you ask me.”
They were offered Powell River BJJ when their previous head coach there, Andrew Thistle, made the move to Pacific Top Team in Penticton.
With the love for the game and having been at the club every day before taking over, Raphael said it was an easy decision and a smooth transition for he and his brother.
“It was just the passion. We were there every day anyway, so Andrew just saw us as the next guys up to lend the club to and keep it running,” said Raphael in an interview.
“We’ve embraced it with open arms and we’re super lucky.”
Nicolas is fresh off winning the BFL amateur lightweight title at BFL 61 in June, utilizing the skills he teaches at Powell River BJJ to lock in an inverted triangle choke in the first round to seal the deal.
Since claiming the belt, Ouellet said they’ve noticed a significant spike in interest for their gym from people considering a start in MMA.
“I feel like there’s definitely been some people whose eyes have turned onto the sport because there’s not much of an MMA scene in Powell River,” said Nicolas.
“As soon as the news got around that I won the belt, there definitely have been a few people coming in saying they want to train, so I feel it has helped a lot for business.”
While the popularity and class sizes have grown immensely since taking over, the hard work is far from over for the Ouellet brothers.
Nicolas said they don’t view their gym as just a way to earn a living. He said they’re really looking to grow their business to its full potential, and make an even bigger name for themselves in the process.
“The end goal for us is to be able to do this for a living and be able to showcase our skills and grow our business,” said Nicolas.
“I’ll be happy, one day, being a professional fighter, helping grow my business and by brand, and having fun doing it.”
While jiu-jitsu is their main area of expertise nowadays, Nicolas and Raphael come from a karate background, having started training the discipline at a young age and eventually evolving into boxing and kickboxing.
With both brothers sharing the same passion for martial arts, there was never any shortage of competitive rounds to be had between the pair, whether it was karate, kickboxing or jiu-jitsu.
Having only started training fully for MMA just six years ago, Raphael said one of the main reasons he was able to pick the sport up so fast is the competitive brotherly spirit.
“My brother never took it easy on me getting into jiu-jitsu. Even growing up we were always rough and tumble, wrestling, and throwing on the MMA gloves in the backyard,” said Raphael.
“Before even joining jiu-jitsu, we were always sparring in the back, taking it to the ground and doing jiu-jitsu without even knowing. My brother’s a big part of my success, and I’m sure vice versa.”
Growing up with siblings, little fights and arguments are inevitable. Whether it’s who gets control of the remote, who left the light on in the bathroom, or one of the countless other argument-starters.
And while they may have had their share of arguments away from the gym growing up, it’s nothing but support and motivation when the gloves go on.
“We’re always trying to help each other get better. We’ve been competing for awhile now, and it’s more supportive than anything,” said Nicolas.
“I would say that we definitely inspire each other. Him having a fight, then me fighting afterwards is kind of like we’re climbing that ladder together. It’s not really a competition between us.”
Smart Minds Think Alike
Although continuing to build and grow Powell River BJJ is an immediate goal, Nicolas and Raphael, like all fighters, also hold the dream of fighting on the sport’s biggest stage.
And while all fighters do share that same dream, very few fighters have the luxury of having an immediate family member with the exact same dream.
“I’d make a run at it either way, but having my brother there doing the same thing is extra motivation,” said Raphael.
“It’s amazing; I’m super happy with it. I’m pretty grateful we’re both into this because if I was by myself, there wouldn’t be that many other people to spar with. When there’s nobody else around, my brother’s always there,” said Nicolas.
While the Ouellet brothers do share countless hard, competitive sparring rounds in the gym, that will always be the extent of their competition between one another.
No matter how big the opportunity or what may be on the line, Raphael said they will never truly fight each other in the cage.
“My brother, man, that’s blood,” said Raphael.
“I can’t just get in the cage and get that mentality that I’m going to go in and hurt him.”