By Andy Cotterill
You might read what I’m about to write and think that it’s a silly thing for me to say.
Fighters are people.
Well duh, you think, of course they are.
But what I’m more precisely tying to get at, is that just like people have numerous types of mindsets that they use to travel through life, the exact same thing applies to fighters as well.
Some are optimistic. Some are pessimistic. Some put in hard work, and some just coast along for the ride. Some exist unnoticed, and some do great things.
Some people are exceptional, and so are some fighters.
Quebec mixed martial artist Yohan “White Lion” Lainesse told me that he knew he was a special fighter sometime after his first ever amateur fight, a loss. He said he was achieving success with his striking in the first round, until he experienced what almost every other mixed martial artist experiences at some point in their career, a fading gas tank an an opponent who knew how to exploit it. In Lainesse’s case his opponent took him to the ground and submitted him.
“I lost by submission and I never had done Jiu jitsu before,” he told MM-eh from his hotel room in Las Vegas, where he was winding down his training camp in preparation for his Tuesday night battle against Justin Burlinson on UFC President Dana White’s Contender Series.
That first sentence is still a common one to hear from so many fighters who enter MMA only knowing how to punch and/or kick, and often times that career is over right then and there.
But for some, like Lainesse, they use that eye-opening revelation to guide them on a new path to success.
“After that I waited like 8 months before fighting and I worked on my jiu jitsu… worked on my jiu jitsu a lot.” He said.
It was also around that time that Lainesse made the fateful decision to make his MMA career his full time focus, and if you ask him, all of his dedication is now paying off.
“The last year I had four fights in 11 months with three knockouts. Knockout of the year with my flying knee (a 14-second affair over Lirim Rufati in CFFC), and I did three, 5-minute rounds, so a lot of experience, a lot of confidence, and a lot of maturity.”
Entering Tuesday night’s fight Lainesse finds himself with an unblemished 7-0 professional record, and he’ll be squaring off with England’s Justin Burlinson, who is also bringing his undefeated 6-0 professional record to the table, however he also has an impressive 17-1 amateur record and is on a 21 fight winning streak.
You might think that these numbers worry Lainesse, but he says that’s not the case.
“Every win I did, I did with a game plan, and I did exactly what I said to all the people in my team. I know he’s a dangerous guy on his feet and on the ground, but to beat me you need to be more than dangerous, you need to be perfect.”
Like Canadian fighters Jasmine Jasudavicius and Aaron Jeffery before him, Lainesse and his head coach Levis Labrie went to Vegas a few weeks before his fight to acclimatize and to do all of the UFC’s pre-event administrative rigmarole like taking profile photos and shooting video roll, and also like the other two he joined the welcoming team at Syndicate MMA to finish up his training camp.
Las Vegas is also home to the UFC Performance Institute, which Lainesse describes as amazing.
“The UFC takes care of us, seriously, I’m living the dream right now.”
For most fighters that’s all the UFC will ever be for them, a dream, but for Lainesse there is no question in his mind that he will do absolutely everything he can to transform his dream into his reality.
“If I don’t win November 2nd all this beautiful story means nothing for me. So I’ll keep focused, keep my feet on the ground, and we’ll live the dream after the win.”
Whenever I finish an interview I like to ask my subject if I missed anything that they would like to share.
When Lainesse answered, I got the feeling that he was sharing some insider information that perhaps the general public shouldn’t know…yet.
“I have a good mindset and a good team around me, Patrick Cote now is going to take care of my career a little bit more. I want to do some big things in this sport. I’m not just here to be flashy. I’m not here to just go in the UFC to tell that I’m in the UFC. It’s a hard sport mentally and physically and I’m going in there to be undefeated and to stay undefeated for a long time. I’m not just here for a couple of months or a couple of years, I’m going into the UFC for sure, and one day I’ll be fighting for the belt and I’m going to win this belt.”
You heard it here first, folks.