Fighting Spirit

T.J. Laramie Signs with UFC

Story by Michael Seguin
Photography by Chris Unger

When you enter the ring, local fighter T.J. Laramie states, everything has a way of melting away. “You could never grasp exactly what it feels like unless you’re in the ring,” T.J. admits. “The best way I can explain it is this: you’ll never feel so high or so low in the same short period of time. You warm up in the back. You’re just waiting, waiting, waiting. And then they call your name. You walk out to the cage. The music goes on. And it’s the most terrifying, anxiety-filled moment of your life. There’s no turning back. You’re getting into a fight, whether you like it or not!”

T.J. was first introduced to the sport by his father.

“My Dad got me into it,” T.J. explains. “My brother and I were always into sports when we were younger. Then my Dad got us into watching mixed martial arts (MMA) as fans. From there, we went and tried out a class. And the rest is history!”

For the last 10 years, T.J. has demonstrated more dedication towards his passion than most people manifest throughout their entire lives.

“Anytime I ever commit to something, I need to be either all in or all out,” T.J. admits. “It’s how I find the joy in things. So, when I started fighting at 12, my goal was to be in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) someday. I wanted to be the best fighter I could. Since then, I quit every other sport or activity I was in. I just focused 100% on my goal.”

T.J. has competed countless times, sometimes stepping into the ring two or three times a month.

Windsor’s T.J. Laramie fighting Daniel Swain at the UFC APEX.

“My first amateur competition was actually a grappling tournament, when I was 13,” T.J. recalls. “I lost my first match ever! I think that was a big moment for me. It was so long ago—and it doesn’t mean much now—but I had to learn to bounce back right away. I had such high hopes. Losing your first match after so much anticipation was so anticlimactic. Being able to learn from that, still finish the tournament and even come home with some medals that day was a big turning point for me. It made me realize how much I loved the sport.”

At 17, when most people are still trying to figure out what to do after high school, T.J. was already a professional MMA fighter.

“I visited Japan a few times to compete there,” T.J. states. “It was for a TV show called Fight Exchange. It aired on a cable network. I was there for two weeks. They documented everything. They pitted me against a guy with 24 pro fights under his belt. I had zero! But, I still managed to walk away with the first round finish. That was what launched my pro career.”

On December 2015, two weeks after his 18th birthday, T.J. competed in his first professional fight in Canada.

“My first three pro fights—other than one leg-kick—I didn’t get hit one time,” T.J. states. “They were all quick finishes. It was crazy. It really helped skyrocket my career!”

While T.J. has had many astonishing wins throughout his career, he believes his fight against Charles Jourdain taught him the most.

“There’s so many fights that were moment-changing for me,” T.J. explains. “I feel like a big turning point in my pro career was when I won my first pro title in MMA. I was against Charles Jourdain. He was undefeated going in—and we were fighting in his hometown! But somehow, I shut him out. There wasn’t a moment in the fight he really claimed. I got a surge of confidence after that. It really showed me who I was. That I could overcome odds stacked against me.”

T.J. credits his early successes to his unwavering commitment to the sport.

“I’m unmatched in terms of time spent in the gym,” T.J. states. “That’s why I train so hard. It gives me confidence when I walk out there and step into the cage. And winning is the greatest feeling in the world. For me, it’s all about the satisfaction of the hard work paying off. Putting in three-four hours in the gym. Dieting. Cutting weight. Once you get that first taste of victory, there’s no going back.”

T.J. raises his arms in celebration of his victory.

And T.J.’s hard work continues to pay off. Last month, T.J. signed with the UFC after competing in Dana White’s Contender Series.

“It just happened so fast,” T.J. admits. “The situation was so weird. There was no crowd. They didn’t even announce our names. It was like just going into someone’s gym and trying out for a team. And then, when I won, it was crazy. I stepped out of the cage, and then Dana White was in my face, telling me how great the fight was. He said, ‘I love the way you fight. You’re a savage!’”

T.J. admits to being a little starstruck when meeting Dana White, the President of the UFC.

“I’ve been around Vegas so many times over the years for the UFC,” T.J. states. “But you never see him. He’s a myth. But I’ve seen him on TV and YouTube so many times. Then next thing I know he’s in the same room as me. He’s this larger than life personality!”

T.J. considers signing with the UFC to be the culmination of over a decade of blood, sweat and tears.

“Meeting Dana White, signing with the UFC,” T.J. muses. “There’s nothing more motivating than that. Again, it’s all about the hard work paying off. I’m accomplishing my dreams, one step at a time. I’m not exactly where I’d like to be, but I’m getting close. There’s nowhere to go but up.”

T.J.’s first official UFC fight is scheduled for this month. “It’s a quick turnaround,” T.J. states. “I’m excited!”

T.J. encourages everyone to fight for their dreams, regardless of the arena. “You put your mind to it, you work hard and it’s going to pay off,” T.J. stresses. “And when it does, it’s worth it!”

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