Pro mixed martial arts veteran Ivan Menjivar trains Labrador youth
Wrestling students from North West River and Sheshatshiu were treated to a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity this month.
© Derek Montague/The Labradorian
Ivan Menjivar said he enjoyed working with the youth of North West River and Sheshatshiu. He believes there are potential in them to, one day, be great MMA fighters, much like himself.
For one week, July 10-17, professional mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter Ivan Menjivar was in Labrador, sharing his wealth of experience with the youngsters, and even some adults. Most of the training took place in a room at Sheshatshiu’s hockey arena
Menjivar, a Canadian who was born in El Salvador, has been a professional MMA fighter since 2001. He has fought in World Extreme Cagefighting and, most notably, Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC), and has an impressive pro record of 25-12.
“They have talent … you never know, one day they could win a gold medal in the Olympics or travel the world,” said Menjivar about his first impressions of the Labrador students. “There’s so many options with the wrestling and the martial arts, so it’s good for the kids.”
Amateur MMA fighter Collin Baikie, who was born and raised in North West River, invited Menjivar to central Labrador. Baikie often travels to Montreal to train at the Tristar Gym, which is where he met Menjivar and came to admire the MMA veteran.
“I’ve seen Ivan in the gym ever since training at Tristar. Ever since I’ve seen him, he’s been a big inspiration to me. I always wanted to train with him and, eventually, it started happening and we started talking,” said Baikie.
“He started helping me out, I didn’t even have to ask … somebody who does that really means something to me.”
When he’s home, Baikie trains a group of kids and teenagers from Sheshatshiu and North West River. Right now, the group is focusing on wrestling skills, especially since seven of Baikie’s students from Sheshatshiu — Seth Hurley, Joachim Dyke, Zack Michel, Mishkushish Pone-Pinette, Angelina Rich, John Baptist Andrew, Jarvis Michel — are competing in the 2014 North American Indigenous Games, held in Regina from July 20-27.
The timing of Menjivar’s visit is not coincidental.
“(Baikie) made me a proposition and said ‘the kids have a competition, would you like to come before the competition, and … I thought it was a good idea,” said Menjivar.
“I really appreciate it. The kids, they need sport, they need motivation … they’re the future of the community. The future leaders.”
A big opportunity
Mishkushish Pinette is one of the lucky students who received a few training sessions from Menjivar. The Sheshatshiu youth is one of the seven wrestlers who will be going to Regina on July 20. The experienced fighter has helped Pinette in becoming a better wrestler.
“He taught me some new pins … some defensive techniques, which will be useful, and also some attacks,” said Pinette.
“It’s actually, like, amazing. You never get this kind of thing everyday, so it’s a really big opportunity for us.”
Baikie has noticed the positive impact Menjivar has had with his students. The experienced MMA pro knows what the kids are capable of learning.
“The main thing is, he knows how to coach kids at certain levels. At certain ages, everything changes, with these group of kids, he knows how to coach them really well because he knows what stage of development they are in,” said Baikie.
“It’s been amazing. With his experience and all his expertise, he’s helping our team come together as one. He’s a pro level fighter so he’s got a lot of experience to share with us.”
Passing it on
For Menjivar, teaching a group of young Labradorians has been a pleasurable experience. He believes it’s important for him to pass on his knowledge to a younger generation.
“Basically, (I’m showing them) a little advanced movement … I’m teaching a little bit on how to stay focused,” said Menjivar.
“It’s important, because I didn’t get that chance. I didn’t get the chance (where) a professional came to me and talk to me about the sport.”
When he wasn’t helping the students improve their wrestling technique, Menjivar was taking in everything Labrador has to offer. He was taken aback by the Big Land’s natural beauty.
“The kids, the people living here, they’re very lucky to have this,” said Menjivar. “The air is fresh and pure, you can see the nature, the water is clean. You have to protect this place, honestly, it’s your paradise.”