A pair of Airdrie martial artists got their first national experience Nov. 10 to 12 at the 2017 Muay Thai Canada National Championship.
Manuel Cofre and Austin Rodrigue, both 18, travelled to Toronto, aiming to not only emerge on the Canadian scene but also solidify themselves as top contenders for a national title. Although the first-time competitors didn’t yield the results they hoped for, the event will benefit the pair moving forward.
“This was a really good experience, it was nice to have the entire country show up, and this was just the second time they hosted a nationals tournament like this,” said Airdrie Martial Arts Centre co-owner and head trainer Luis Cofre.
“It was a great experience for the boys to be seen and recognized by the other teams competing in the country.”
Although Cofre and Rodrigue came in with high expectations, the pair was dealt some adversity when they had to fight up a weight class because the event was three days instead of a one and done fight.
Cofre said he isn’t fond of having his fighters continue to drop weight and put it back on repeatedly over the course of a short tournament, such as nationals.
“These guys were cutting a little bit more and we weren’t cutting as much (weight), mainly because we didn’t want to do a hard water cut two days straight,” Cofre said. “You had to weigh-in the day before the fights and every time before you fought, so you had to be changing weight over three days.
“We wanted to be safe and make sure they felt good when they fought.”
Because both Cofre and Rodrigue were fighting up a weight class, participating in in the Male Elite 18-40 B Class 81 kilogram division, they had to fight much bigger fighters who cut more weight to get to the division.
Although it was an uphill battle for the pair, they took the experience in stride and did their club proud in Toronto.
Cofre was matched up with Steven Hudey of Winnipeg, while Rodrigue took on Calgary’s Riley Pequin in the semi-finals.
Cofre was hurt early on in his fight with Hudey, but stayed strong and finished out the contest, losing by decision.
“(Cofre) got tossed around a bit in the clinch,” Cofre said. “He had to come back from a deficit.
“The point was to come back, fight hard, and he did that. He landed more strikes (but) just kept getting caught in the clinch.”
Rodrigue dictated his semi-final match with Pequin, pushing the pace and looking primed to win before getting caught by a spinning back kick in the final round and losing some crucial points, costing him the win.
Although Rodrigue was disappointed in his finish, Cofre said his young athlete was definitely motivated by the result.
“(Rodrigue) has a really good clinch and dominated his guy,” Cofre said. “(He) was winning his fight until the last five to 10 seconds. One good shot just changed the whole course of the fight.
“He’s watched that fight six or seven times and is learning from it. Next time, he wants gold.”
Because both Cofre and Rodrigue lost in the semi-finals, the two were to face off in the bronze medal match, but elected not to and were both awarded a bronze medal.
With the success of the team in Toronto, Cofre said he aims to have even more fighters travel to nationals in a year’s time to help put southern Alberta Muay Thai on the map and help grow the sport across Canada.