Amateur or professional, win or lose, every fighter has had that one fight in their career that stands out above all others.
Whether it be the skill level of their opponent, the sheer toughness and grit of the fight itself, or what’s going on in life outside of the cage, every fighter has dealt with the adversity of a tough fight.
In the fourth edition of Rigorous Rounds, Indroop Virk, Randy Mahon, Lee Gaudet, Alex Beaule, and Pat Pytlik reveal the toughest fight they’ve had so far in their careers.
Randy Mahon – Toughest Fight: Tom O’Connor
“The guy is so talented and crazy tough, and I had the pleasure of fighting him twice. Tom was the one guy I fought that stressed me out. After our first fight, I knew to beat him I’d have to be near-perfect or catch him, which so far only one guy lucked out and did. Unfortunately, I made a mistake early in the second fight and slipped. His fight IQ showed and he capitalized. Next thing I knew it was over.”
Lee Gaudet – Toughest Fight: Johnny Ouellette
“I’ve been in a few three-round wars, but I remember my fight with Ouellette at Prestige FC 1 in 2015 as my most exhausting, and a tough one for sure. There was even a mental thing for me before the fight because he was out of the infamous Tristar gym. There was so much hype behind them and at weigh-ins he seemed so much bigger than me, and I thought I was a big 155er anyways. It was back and forth and I got cut pretty bad, so I had to fight through that too. I ended up losing a decision, but I always have fun and definitely grew as a fighter after that one.”
Alex Beaule – Toughest Fight: Aaron Jeffery
“That guy came in the cage with a good game-plan to counter my game. He studied exactly where I am dangerous and didn’t stay in that aspect of the fight. He was really mobile and agile. As a physically strong athlete, I can also say that he is a strong fighter as well. He’s good guy, and we met and trained together once after that fight.”
Pat Pytlik – Toughest Fight: Eric Tevely
“Coming into MMA was an accident for me when I moved out west to the land of milk and honey at the age of 23. At this point in my life, I’d had a decent number of muay thai fights, made Team Canada, and had fought and trained a couple of times in Thailand. I had that arrogant and typical attitude, I sadly admit, that if someone tried to take me down, I’d just knee him in the face. I never tested it, nor had any inclination to do so, and basically thought less of anything other than muay Thai and boxing. Fast forward six months, I was making the most money I had ever made working for JV Driver and feeling like a hotshot. I made the typical dumb ass young man move and bought a $34,000 Jeep, only to get laid off one week after buying it. I figured I’d eventually go back to work and I had enough money to get by for at least a year, so my life had zero stress. I suddenly found myself with time and money on my hands and an itch to get back in shape.
I walked into Frank Lee’s gym with all my gear during an advanced class and, despite the experience I told him I had, he kicked me out. He said “YOU DO BEGINNER CLASS,” which almost made me never come back. Biting down on my pride and knowing I wasn’t in good shape, but still wanting to show the old man I wasn’t lying to him, I came back and did the beginner class. Within 15 minutes, Mr. Frank Lee told me I was good and could come to sparring the next day. This was my first taste of working with guys that competed in MMA, including Nick Penner. After getting shark-tanked by all of Frank’s guys, including Nick, I met my future coach, and the only one that wasn’t trying to get me killed that night, in Keijiro Noda. That very night my competitive nature took over again. I was hooked, but also intrigued at how good Nick was, telling me he fought MMA (little did I know he fought in the UFC). I had a friend from Ontario who was in Edmonton, named Matt Spisak. I knew he was a talented MMA fighter and he invited me out to Hayabusa to help him get ready for Tim Smith. I met my first MMA coaches, Luke Harris and Jeff Montemurro, who happened to be running a sparring class. They asked if I had equipment and, sure enough, they let me spar. I got to trade blows with Mike Scarcello, Tanner Boser, Jeff Porter, Mitch Clark, Stephen Beaumont, Roger Alves, KB and Kenny Bhullar, Allan Hope, Chas Maxwell, and Degenhardt, as well as the coaches. When Luke added takedowns, I immediately knew I was fu**ed in every which way and position. At the striking level, I could see a lot of holes that I could exploit, so the payback that was coming at me was rightfully vicious. When class was done, Luke asked if I wanted a job, and since I wasn’t working, I accepted.
Within three months, I took my first professional MMA fight, still the toughest to date, against Eric Tevely. I really just wanted to compete and I knew a few guys in the muay thai scene that had made the switch. The fight was to take place exactly four months from the day I walked in the door of Hayabusa. More likely than not, without the team I had, the result would have been catastrophic. It went without saying, ‘keep the fight standing or you’re going to lose.’ Jeff and Roger drilled all the basics on wall work, and Luke drilled all the get-ups. Basically, my hope was that he wasn’t going to shoot. Going into the dressing room, I had never worn MMA gloves and punched with them, and I already knew I’d made a mistake. My friend Chuck Pelc, a fellow Pole and stud of a human, held up a pad and my range was off. My hooks felt the same, but without that extra few inches of padding, I began to panic. At this point in my life, I’d had a lot of fight experience, and I knew the way I took this could have a disastrous effect on the outcome of the fight. I needed to control my emotions. I kicked Chuck in the body, watching him wince, and the guys in the dressing room chuckled when he got mad. Seems like a d**kish thing to do, but it brought my emotions level up again.
Walking out to the fight in Fort McMurray against Eric and his town, I realized how much pressure he must have been feeling. No one in the MMA community knew me well, but I had nothing to lose and everything to gain. The first round was back and forth, but Eric kept my back on the cage for most of the fight. Landing a big right hand that hurt him, I knew my only chances would come when I could break off. We hit each other with everything but the kitchen sink, and somewhere in the second round I thought this guy won’t stop coming. My shots to the head seemed ineffective, even a solid shin landed to the side of his head. The courage I saw in him was rocking my confidence. I never went to his body at this time because the dude was built like a brick s**t house, and I was young enough to think that meant something. It was around the end of the second round that something strange happened. He threw a knee at my body that was below what I was used to at the gym, which stung my pride, so I threw one back and I saw it. Right then, I knew that I would win the fight. I landed a weaker knee to his body and knew he hadn’t experienced this part of striking like I had up until that point. Going into the final round, I dominated, pushing him back and eventually finishing him. The feeling was incredible, but it also wasn’t the feeling like I normally had winning a fight. It was something else, something like survival, and that was the part I loved. We shook hands, hugged it out, and had a drink together later that night. I’ll always be grateful for the courage and heart he showed that night, and also what he did for me going forward in my career. To some, it was foolish, and maybe I got lucky considering how much I actually knew, but at the time I still wasn’t sure if I wanted to do this. That moment solidified a lot of decisions I’d made in my life. To me, even though I lost my last fight, this remains the hardest fight of my life.
Indroop Virk – Toughest Fight: Mitch Strazzella
“He’s one tough mother f**ker and super hard to hold down. He’s got great cardio, great striking and is just super well-rounded. He’s also the only person that’s taken me to a split decision.”