In Aug. 2021, Vernon, B.C.’s Rylie “Coyote” Marchand (4-1) suffered her first MMA loss to Shannon Clark at Unified MMA 40 after going 3-0 as an amateur. As if the unfamiliar, bitter taste of defeat wasn’t enough for the young fighter, the very next day Marchand’s village was evacuated in a wildfire scare, an event which had been foreshadowed by several weeks of encroaching smoke conditions.
“My family and I started driving back (from Edmonton, Alta.) on Sunday, and that night we got evacuated,” said Marchand in an interview with MMA Empire.
“We were only three hours away from home when we got the call that we needed to get out of the house, and that night the fire swept through my community and it was a pretty rough night for all of the Okanagan Indian Band out on the reserve. I believe we lost eleven homes and two businesses, and you know, especially for indigenous people our land is very much tied into who we are so it was pretty rough losing the forest up behind the houses, and even for the houses that weren’t lost, there was still property destroyed.”
Marchand, whose family lost their home to a fire when she was a child, said the incident forced her to relive old trauma while digesting her first defeat, but that going through this ordeal has given her clarity with regard to the future of her career.
“Losing has always been the worst thing that could ever happen to me,” she laughs.
“Yeah, I take it pretty hard in the beginning, but I always come back better. In my next tournament, my next fight, whatever that might be, I’ve always had my best performances coming off a loss. So I’m not really worried, you know, about it messing with my confidence too much. I knew what I needed to do, I knew what I needed to fix.”
Marchand, a natural flyweight, said the Clark fight was a wake up call in several respects, including where on the scale she belongs.
“One of the biggest lessons I learned is stay in your own weight class. I had no business fighting at 140 pounds, but I was pretty desperate to take a fight because it’s so hard to find fights at amateur as a female, and I took one of the first ones that I was offered. So, you know, really be picky about your fights, don’t take one in a weight class and a half above your own. Not a smart thing to do,” said Marchand.
“And then also, the fires and all of that stuff really put it into perspective. You know, how minuscule that N1 record is when it comes against so many people in my community losing their homes and like, how is that even comparable? I can’t throw myself a pity party when people’s whole lives are gone.”
Marchand said the fight, despite the official result, had positive takeaways nonetheless, such as giving her the invaluable experience of going the distance and seeing the judges’ scorecards for the first time, as well as showed her the importance of routine in its absence, as the fight was on short notice and its preparation chaotic.
Marchand would take the lessons from the Clark fight and rebound with a grappling-dominant unanimous decision win over debutante Robyn Dunne at BFL 71 on March 10 of last year, and says going forward she has a new mindset about both her career and life outside it. She said she will look to transition to the professional ranks earlier than originally planned where there will be more opportunities to compete.
“Prior to my last fight with Shannon Clark, I really thought five (amateur bouts) would be my number, but then having lost that fight with her, you know, it was really back to the drawing board because I was on a three-fight win streak before that, so it just felt like I needed a little bit of a reset. However, it’s just been so difficult to find opponents at amateur and it feels like the pool is much bigger in the professional scene.”
She said that becoming a champion in the sport used to be her central motivation but that her focus has shifted to simply improving herself as a martial artist fight by fight.
“I may only be 21 years old but I’m coming up on like twelve and a half years in the sport, so I don’t feel I’m lacking experience training. Obviously, fight experience is totally different, but hopefully after number five and six at amateur I’ll be facing the pro circuit next.
“The more time that has passed since the fire two summers ago, the more I realize how small of an impact a win or a loss or whatever has, so I’m just so ready to go put it all out there in the cage because it doesn’t even matter at the end of the day. My headspace and, as a result, my personal life has been so much calmer lately than going into that fight with Clark, and I think that’s going to benefit me a lot more.”