Getting To Know T.J. Laramie – Windsor’s Fast-Rising MMA Star

Wednesday March 2nd, 2016

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Photo courtesy of Emilio Inafuku (fight2live.net)

“The sky’s the limit, and that’s the only place I’m going; right to the top.”

At 18 years old, T.J. Laramie is determined to be the best. After overcoming loss and hardships from an early age, the up-and-coming fighter is feeding off of the negatives and fueling the positives. And there’s nothing that will stop him.

BORN AND RAISED

T.J. grew up in Windsor’s east end with his parents and siblings. He’s been in the area for as long as he can remember. Sadly, in 2005, he lost his older brother and his mother. Not long after they had passed away, he moved in with his aunt for close to five years. Near the end of grade eight, he moved back in with his dad.

And so began his passion for Mixed Martial Arts.

THE GLOVES COME ON

In his first year at St. Joseph’s Catholic High School, T.J.’s dad introduced him and his younger brother to UFC. The bond between the Laramie men then grew stronger. At first, he was simply a fan, but quickly realized that he wanted to challenge himself in the sport he liked to watch so much. He started training at Maximum Training Centre (MTC) under Rino Belcastro, and things took off.

“He wakes up really early before work to train with me, so we’re at the gym at 7:00AM. We kill it in the gym, go to work, and then we’re back at it at night.”

There was no shortage of words about Belcastro. With all the work that the coach has put in with T.J., the young fighter is more than grateful.

“He’s someone who really believes in what I do, and my career as a whole.”

On a managing standpoint, Belcastro ensures that T.J. has all the proper training he needs. He suggested that the fighter try Tecumseh Jiu-Jitsu. Led and coached by Eric Marentette, a black belt in the art, he developed his ground game and improved his skillset. For at least three days a week, alongside other leaders and hard workers, the Tecumseh gym became his training grounds. While at TJJ, he was able to meet and work with Mike Coyle, who runs The Jungle Gym. Coyle helped him with strength and conditioning, as well as the necessary diets. From here on, T.J. had himself three strong supports to help take him to the next level.

“With this kind of sport, you build relationships with people. Every single person on that list, they see what I’m capable of and see that I can bring it to the next level in the sport. I value the training partners, the people who invested time in me, people who believe in me, people who have been there through thick and thin.”

Photo courtesy of Instagram (@tjlaramie)

Once he had some experience under his belt, as well as an impressive resume of titles, it was time to enter the cage professionally. Aged 17, T.J. flew out to Japan in March 2015 for his first fight. He fought an experienced veteran of the sport, and won via TKO in two and a half minutes. And that was just the beginning. Though he had to wait until the age of 18 to fight professionally in North America, he continued to train and push himself. Eight months later, in November, he made his Canadian debut for Hard Knocks Fighting. Again, he was victorious.

“The more I kept doing it, the more I kept seeing success, and the more I kept thinking this is achievable, this is real, this can happen.”

Similar to his favourite fighter, Frankie Edgar, T.J. is beating people bigger than him. “No matter how much people doubt him (Edgar) or how much people count him out, he always comes out on top, he always comes out successful. I feel like I’ve had that in my life too, and I end up proving them wrong.”

His next fight came a couple of months later, in January 2016. In just 25 seconds, T.J. was able to knock out his opponent. After throwing a pair of left-handed punches, he connected with a right that instantly dropped Yvon Agenord.

Photo courtesy of Facebook (HardKnocksFighting)

A month later, in Novi, Michigan, with a solid record of 3-0, he went toe-to-toe with Vince Murdoch for TXC. The fight lasted the full three rounds, and the split-decision went to Murdoch, to the dismay of nearly everyone in the arena.

“After the fight, he (Murdoch) came over and apologized. At the end of the day, he’s not the judge; he can’t make the decision.”

The controversial decision is currently being appealed by T.J. and his team, in hopes of having it reversed.

“I’m not taking this as a loss in my head, because I feel like I did everything correct in the fight.”

Whatever the outcome, he will continue to work and improve. There’s plenty of depth and experience under his gloves, as he’s worked with famous Canadian names such as Sam Stout, Chris Horodecki, and Mark Hominick, among others in past years. He was even fortunate enough to spar with Hominick for three rounds in what he called ‘old school versus new school.’ With support from his coaches, he will continue to train while awaiting his next fight, which he hopes to be in April or June.

He’s also training with his younger brother, who is the top amateur athlete in the world, just as he was. With only a year difference between the two, the younger Laramie is following in big footsteps, in a big way.

OUT OF THE CAGE AND INTO THE SHOP

Aside from his fighting career, T.J. got a job in his teens before discovering his second true passion – cutting hair. There was something about a fresh haircut. He would spend time at the barber’s every week. With the help of YouTube videos, he practiced some cuts and styles at home. At the age of 16, he was cutting his friends’ hair regularly out of his house. Fast-forward a year and a half, an opportunity arose. He contacted Mike Lauzon, owner and head barber of The Chop Shop, located on the corner of Tecumseh Road and Tourangeau Road. Lauzon gave him a shot and soon, good became great; his cuts kept getting better with time.

Photo courtesy of Instagram (@tjlaramie)

He’s been at the barber shop for seven months now, and will soon be in Lauzon’s recently purchased second shop at the corner of Wyandotte Street and Moy Avenue.

A PERSONAL TOUCH OF INK

T.J. proudly displays both of his passions with tattoos. His first tattoo came at the age of 14: the word ‘Survivor’, inked on his right forearm.

“I feel like I’ve come out and strived off of what I’ve gone through, and took all these negatives and turned them into positives.”

On his 15th birthday, he got his second piece done: a pair of boxing gloves with a quote from Muhammad Ali, one of his most admired fighters. On his left-side ribcage, the quote reads, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now, and live the rest of your life as a champion.’

“Everything always seems so stressful. I just have to stick with it right now, and maybe ten years from now, I can have a sense of relief, and I can look back on everything and be like, everything worked out the way it should have. Maybe I’ll get the UFC Championship and I can live the rest of my life being happy. In my head, if I don’t accomplish my goals, I might never be happy in life.”

The explanation says a lot about his attitude in and out of the ring. He considers himself a really hard worker, and believes nothing comes without it.

“No matter what you do, you have to work hard for what you have. Whether that’s me barbering or me in the ring, or the cage, as long as I work hard, you can’t deny that. You can’t deny hard work. The proof is there.”

He got his third tattoo when he was 18: a classic barber with a scar over his brow to give him some character. In T.J.’s eyes, there are two things that he will always have in his life: barbering and fighting. Dawned with a straight-blade along the bottom, and a barber’s pole on the side, the classic barber stretches from above the wrist to his right hand.

Photo courtesy of Instagram (@tjlaramie)

Like his tattoos, barbering and fighting are lifetime commitments.

WHAT’S NEXT?

With no official date set for his next fight, T.J. is taking some time for himself. In early March, he will be flying out to Thailand to visit his girlfriend, who is there as part of the Rotary Youth Exchange Program. He will spend a week with her before moving down to the south of the country, where he will continue to train for another week. Upon his return home to Windsor, he will pick up where he left off. And he will continue to overcome.

“At the end of my career, I want people to think of MMA and I want them to talk about T.J. Laramie.”

Photo courtesy of Facebook (HardKnocksFighting)

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