It may be a surprise to some that an esteemed Airdrie coach that currently teaches Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) was a bit of a hellion growing up. 

But even the coach himself, Curtis DeMarce, admits he was a bit of a handful as a youngster. Though he was athletic and loved all sports, he also idolized Jean-Claude Van Damme, especially Van Damme's movie Bloodsport.  

"When I was 15 years old, I took a trip to visit my mother in London, Ontario where I tried kickboxing for the first time. I visited the well-known Team Tompkins and fell in love with the sport immediately. I trained for around two years and went pro at the young age of 17 when MMA was just getting somewhat popular and it was very different." 

When DeMarce began in the sport, he wrote that there was little structure or management.   

"There was no amateur at the time in Canada either. So, I was a fighter's fighter. At such a young age and [with such] passion, I just fought because I loved to compete in the sport and I loved to fight. There was no training of thought on political views, money, or the future. It was all in for the love of it," DeMarce wrote. 

DeMarce said that his experiences in the MMA arena gave him a chance to train at some of the most elite gyms in the world as well as winning both National and International titles. But it was a life-altering experience outside the rink that has been the most profound for him. 

"I think the one [experience that] hits home the most, would be when after running a nine-fight winning streak and losing two very close split decisions; I was scheduled to fight for a title and two weeks prior to [that] I got in a severe car accident." 

The 2012 car accident would hospitalize him for a month, during which time doctors were pondering whether they would have to amputate his arm. 

"[They] were saying I would never be able to write again with a pen or pencil. After declining and declining the doctor's recommendations and extensive rehab I was stubborn and hungry to get back to competing." 

Two years after the horrific car crash, DeMarce was in the rink once again and four years later, something else happened; that something was a testament to his grit and determination. 

"I earned a shot for the Unified Featherweight Title which I ended up winning by TKO [technical knockout]; I broke my nose and foot in the fight. To overcome that type of adversity, turn it into triumph and quiet the doubters: it was quite an amazing feeling." 

So how did this fighter's fighter end up coaching? It was ten years ago that DeMarce realized that he wanted to share his knowledge and expertise. 

"The great thing with mixed martial arts is the people and energy you meet along the way.  During the time of my injuries, I figured what better way to still be involved in the game still than to share my knowledge with future competitors and kids," DeMarce wrote. “I've had amazing times doing it such as running the San Diego Navy Seals hands-on combat to winning championships and bouts with students, to even seeing the kids grow huge confidence with smiles." 

While DeMarce is revered and loved by the youth he coaches at Alavanca YYC and Airdrie, he is still coming to terms with an injury he suffered in 2019. 

"I had suffered an injury to my neck that included what we call a "stinger"; [this is] when the neck separates away from the shoulder with force. Although I felt a lot of numbness, I brushed it off at the time and over the next two years pushed and trained 4 to 6 hours a day. I competed once in 2021 for a World Title. During training camp. I was pushing through a lot of pain, numbness, weakness and discomfort at not being able to train even at 50 per cent of my compacity." 

He would lose the title fight when he was knocked out by his opponent, which led him to more prolonged pain. 

"In 2022 I had got the proper scans and doctors to figure out what exactly is going on and why the neuropathy and moments of paralysis were happening. It turns out there was a lot more than just the PPL [posterior longitudinal] ligament." 

The severe injury led to Severe Cervical Foraminal Stenosis which means that bone spurs as well as discs that are compressing directly on the spinal cord cause neuropathy. Regardless of the unimaginable pain DeMarce endures, he continues to coach. 

"In the end, I think what drives me is I have always had a championship mentality as an athlete and whether I will get to ever compete again in the future or not, I know health is wealth and without it, your well-being & mental health also depreciates," he wrote. "I think everyone comes from a different form of upbringing and challenges in life. Everyone is stacked with a different deck of cards and the adversity that I personally have overcome has shaped me into who I am today." 

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