Wayguk Fighter – Introducing Brent Fryia
You probably do not know me, so I guess I should start there. My name is Brent Fryia. I am a professional fighter from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario with a record of 4-1. I am currently living and training in Daegu, South Korea. I have been here since late August and will be moving back to Canada this coming August. Here is a little background on my life as a fighter and how I ended up in Korea, the Land of the Morning Calm.
I have always been attracted to contact sports. Any sport where putting a thumping on your opponent was the purpose of the sport, instead of being a penalty, appealed to me. Wrestling was the sport that really took hold of me though. I started wrestling in the 8th grade and that sport dominated a good chunk of my life. In highschool I was able to gather a good haul of medals at the provincial and national level. In University I ended up wrestling for the Lakehead University Thunderwolves, one of the top teams in the country. While at Lakehead I was a two time National medalist. I worked my ass off with the goal of becoming a National champion. It was a goal that I fell just short of, losing the gold medal match in my final year.
When I graduated University I got a job teaching at a high school in my home town of Sault Ste. Marie. This essentially put an end to my wrestling career as there was no high performance wrestling club in the area. I was not happy with this development. I felt like I was just starting to reach my athletic peak and I still had an intense desire to compete. I had always loved MMA. When we were 14 years old my friend and I used to rent all of the early UFC VHS tapes and watch them for hours. He was a Kuk Sool Won black belt and we always argued about whether wrestlers or karate practitioners would win in a real fight. We never fought each other, but I think deep down he always knew the dirty beating he would receive.
I always thought that MMA was something that I could do. I had done a little bit of Judo (blue belt) while in Thunder Bay and had dabbled in Jiu Jitsu for a few short months while living in Calgary. In Sault Ste. Marie, though, I had no idea where to start. I went to the local Judo club, but it was mostly for kids and did not satisfy my competitive streak. I went to a few martial arts clubs, but was turned off by the “our way is the only way” attitude that seemed to be the norm and was, as far as I was concerned, the opposite of what MMA was all about. I tried one of the local boxing clubs, but that was not a good fit either. Then one day I found Ho Shin Sool Martial Arts and things changed very quickly.
Jim Liguori, the owner of Ho Shin Sool, had posted a message on a news board inviting any wrestlers, judokas or jiu jitsu players to come to his grappling class. Jim is a 4th degree black belt in Dahn Moo Do, but had been slowly moving towards a more MMA based curriculum. He was very interested in incorporating wrestling, jiu jitsu and kickboxing into what he did and was actively training to further his own skills in this area. Jim had been training in Sambo and no-gi grappling for a while and was ready to offer a class to match. I coaxed my friend Ray, another former Lakehead wrestler and national medalist, to come with me for the first day. We knew right away that we had found a good fit. Jim was very good at some things, we were very good at other things. Even though what we were doing was far from MMA, I think that was the birth of Ho Shin Sool MMA. This was in 2005.
Things progressed smoothly for a while, with lots of learning going on. We learned a lot from Jim and he learned from us. We brought our intense wrestler’s mentality to training and he taught us to be patient. Eventually we started competing in No-gi Jiu Jitsu tournaments and found a lot of success in the intermediate divisions. We also started taking the twice a week kickboxing classes offered at Ho Shin Sool. I think everyone was thinking the same thing but nobody was saying it… If we are wrestling and grappling and kickboxing, why do we not have an MMA class to join them all together.
I remember the day when I decided that I wanted to fight. I was watching a Canadian MMA event on TV and thinking that the fighters I was watching were not very good. I thought I could beat them both. I decided it was time to stop talking and thinking that way and time to put my money where my mouth was. Originally, I told myself that I just wanted to fight once; just to say I had done it. I think even then I knew I was kidding myself and that “just once” would not be enough. I told Jim that I wanted to fight. Ray said he was in too, and we got to work looking for an event.
Fighting in front of 6000 people is a little intimidating for your first fight, but that is what happened. Ray and I fought on an amateur event at the Palace of Auburn Hills in Detroit. I lost my fight, and so did Ray, mostly due to first fight nervousness I think. Looking back now, the way we prepared and trained for those fights is funny. It’s fun to look back and see how far we have come. A poor MMA start did not keep me, or us down for long. I rattled off a few amateur wins and then went pro, winning my first few fights at that level as well. A few other teammates started competing and having success as well. A lucky break found several of our fighters competing for King of the Cage in Michigan, not far from our hometown. A dominating performance by all HSS fighters gave us great local press and secured us as regulars on KOTC cards in the U.S. The increased press we were getting locally and regionally led to a huge influx of fighters (and, as usual, wannabe fighters). Successful boxers and kickboxers were now at the club along with more and more wrestlers. The addition of a solid Jiu Jitsu instructor made us the only place around where you could get high level training in all aspects of MMA. Our club began to grow and we began to have more and more success. In the last year and a half, HSS MMA has gone 14-2 in King of the Cage. I have to fess up and say that I am personally responsible for half of those losses. What a loser.
Things were going well for me in every aspect of my life, so naturally I began to look for ways to change things. My day job was great; I was a highschool teacher with a boss who fully supported my MMA endeavors. My lovely girlfriend and I had just bought our first house. I had awesome training partners and coaches at my MMA club. I was well entrenched and sure to fight regularly in KOTC in the United States. But I was restless. I have always been a little like that. I like to move around to new places and try new things. I wanted a change. I think that when I do not have something new keeping me on my toes I get stagnant and am constantly looking for ways to avoid that. Stagnation is death as far as I am concerned. You know how sharks have to keep moving to stay alive? That’s kind of how I feel. Yes I realize that’s a terrible metaphor, but I am going to leave it in there because sharks are awesome.
Talking to my brother who had already moved to Korea was making me jealous. Knowing that I could probably get a one year leave of absence from my teaching position, I set out to find a place to live, work and train for a year. I considered Brazil, Japan and Korea and weighed the pros and cons in terms of culture, training, competition opportunities, cost of living and ease of finding work. In the end I ended up in Daegu, South Korea, the same city as my brother. My brother being there was a major selling point, as was the fact that he had already been training at Daegu MMA for a year. Daegu MMA is a great club with lots of good pro fighters and are the Korean Jiu Jitsu champions. I am sure a lot of you guys know how awkward it can be to try and break into a well established MMA club. Luckily for me, my brother’s reputation preceded me and I was welcomed with open arms and some solid beatdowns right off the bat.
That pretty much takes us to the present. I have been in Korea for four months. I have already been able to see and do some things that have blown my mind. Being a foreigner sure gives you a new perspective on things, especially in a country as interesting as Korea.
My Jiu Jitsu skills have improved immensely from training at Daegu MMA. My kickboxing skills have also been coming along since I started training at a local kickboxing gym that is the home of a few Korean and Asian champions. I have had a few bumps and bruises but nothing serious. I was scheduled to fight at a small MMA event just outside of Tokyo, Japan on January 9th but an ankle injury has kept me off the mats for a bit and put an end to that fight. My plan is to fight twice in the new year and then again immediately when I get back to Canada.
I will be writing a regular blog post for Top MMA News as well as updating my personal blog at http://mmatlas.blogspot.com/ if you have any questions or anything you’d like to read about in the blog just drop a message.
Brent “The Professor” Fryia