Rylie Marchand, 16, is a dark-featured force to be reckoned with in the MMA world.
Starting when she was only eight, Marchand found a love for the dominant sport that allows her to never stop growing.
“It started as something me and my brother (Kobe Marchand) did. He was two years younger and when he stopped training, I didn’t,” said Marchand.
She trains six days a week for at least two hours, switching to four-hour sessions whenever a tournament is coming up like her fights next month in Texas.
Her coach and owner of Unity MMA, Raja Kler, has immense pride in her capabilities and drive to better herself as a fighter.
“I’m here every night; some way, somehow,” said Marchand.
Most fights, Marchand is prohibited from making a lot of moves and submissions because of her age, which is what makes the upcoming Kumite tournament in Houston special.
The Jiu Jitsu Kumite tournament allows its younger participants to fight without so many limitations, and Marchand was invited back after her victory the previous year, and is currently putting in hard work to defend her North American 140-pound title.
“I’ll train with whoever’s here,” said Marchand.
The boys who train at Unity help her out by challenging her in areas needing improvement, such as the Kimura move Marchand used to hate but grew to love after conquering it.
“We would spend the whole class just defending that (Kimura) with the bigger boys,” said Marchand.
Another favourite move of Marchand’s is the Flying Armbar and she pulls it out as often as she can.
“The Americans nicknamed her ‘Air Canada’,” laughed Kler.
It has become a ritual for Marchand to cry her nerves out before she fights, and her team at Unity is always there to pump her up and help her to trust in her abilities. After the pep talks, Marchand is ready to fight.
“I’m coming with everything I’ve got,” Marchand says before her fights.
On her off time, people can find her watching, studying, and nit-picking her previous fights or watching UFC fights with the Unity team if the card is good.
“Every fight can be better than the next,” she said.
As a back-up plan, she has interests in attending SFU in Burnaby to study kinesiology, which would keep her career-focus on sports and blossom her love for anatomy that she had even as a young child.
“I had pop-up books and colouring books. I loved it.”
She finished a quarter of her Grade 11 last year and now she’s working on finishing her current grade and getting a head-start on Grade 12.
“Academically she does very well,” said Kler.
Marchand’s mother, Wanda Duncan, finds it easy to watch her daughter fight because she’s shown nothing but dedication.
Duncan helps her daughter with joint pains by making sure she ices the problem-areas, but during the fights, Marchand’s muscle memory takes over and the adrenaline kicks in to sail her through submissions and moves.
“Mom makes sure my body is taken care of,” laughed Marchand.
Travelling and competing has its expenses, and Marchand works with her local reserve community to fundraise with artwork raffles people make and donate.
“Fundraising is wearing thin. It needs to support the community’s other activities too,” said Duncan.
Marchand has a GoFundMe page to help support her tournament travelling and her amateur career goals.
She started fighting eight years ago in October, and plans to celebrate this fall with her MMA amateur debut in Alberta, where it’s more lenient than B.C.’s 19-year-old age requirements.
“No matter how I do, it’ll always get better; it’s an ever-lasting growth.”