Sixteen-year-old Indroop Virk doesn’t hold back punches in or out of the cage.
“I was a bad kid,” he explains, in a surprisingly open and self-aware manner. “I got expelled from Don Ross Secondary School.”
That happened two years ago, but it seems like a decade, Virk admits. Now, Sea to Sky Alternative School youth worker Marnee Watson describes the teenager as one of her most dedicated students. Besides holding an impeccable attendance record, a part-time job and training in mixed martial arts (MMA) up to six nights a week, Virk has a clear vision of his future. This month, he came one step closer to his ultimate goals.
“I always get nervous before the fight,” Virk says as he stretches out his legs, neatly crossing his feet clad in squeaky clean, red Jordans. “But I like the adrenaline.”
Virk and his family for two days drove down to the North American Grappling Association’s NorCal Grappling Championship in San Jose, Calif. There, he competed in the 140-150 lb. weight division and won first place.
“It just comes very naturally to me,” Virk says of his ground game. “It’s fun but it is very technical.”
Grappling is one of the many disciplines in which Virk is immersing himself on his desired journey to the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). Grappling is similar to wrestling – the only difference is they allow submissions in grappling, Virk explains.
Virk also trains in jiu jitsu and MMA at the Squamish Martial Arts Fitness and Yoga Centre on Cleveland Avenue. Until Virk is 19 years old, he must use protective gear in his MMA tournaments. There are different rules to prevent full contact until one reaches that age mark. The regulations fall under provincial guidelines.
The Grade 12 student hopes to go to university to study criminology while training in MMA. On his 19th birthday he plans to get in the octagon and stay amateur for a couple of years while building on his foundation skills.
“I want to have my first pro fight at 21 or 22,” he says. “Right now I am trying to get as much experience as I can.”
Virk has completely changed the direction of his life, his MMA coach Kasey Smith says.
“We got him at the right time in his life. He was sort of at a crossroad,” he says. “MMA turned him into a man.”
Virk’s Brazilian jiu jitsu coach Scot Strachan agrees. Virk first walked through the gym’s doors as a scrappy, cocky kid. Now he’s humble and focused, Strachan says. For those serious about MMA, the sport demands discipline, routine and a healthy lifestyle, Strachan noted.
“He’ll hike the Chief instead of partying all night,” he said of Virk.
Next year Virk hopes to train at Ryan’s MMA in Richmond while living with family in Surrey to attend university. With his own family and newfound MMA circle supporting him, Virk says he does realize how lucky he is.
“They are just happy I am staying out of trouble,” Virk half-heartedly jokes.