During his eight-year vacation from professional fighting, Winnipeg's Curtis Brigham opened up his own mixed martial arts gym, became a mentor for dozens of athletes and started a family.
With all that on his plate, it makes perfect sense to get back to work on the MMA mat. At least it does in his mind, anyway.
"I never really retired, I kind of just stopped fighting," Brigham said on the eve of making his fight return at AFC 11: Takeover, the Aggression Fighting Championship card at the Winnipeg Convention Centre Saturday night.
"I left it to start coaching and I always told myself when I found enough training partners and I got myself a good gym, I'd get back into fighting. That's kinda what's happened.
"Really, I have no excuses left not to do it."
Brigham, a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, left the competitive side of the sport in 2004. At the time, 20 or so fights (amateur and professional) into his career, he was ranked fifth in Canada (145-pound class) but started to find there weren't enough quality opponents locally to keep evolving as a fighter. He decided to start up his own gym (Winnipeg Academy of Mixed Martial Arts) and get into coaching.
Now, the 31-year-old works with 20 competitive amateurs and 10 competitive pros at his gym. One of them is Roland Delorme, a local product currently fighting in the UFC.
On top of that, WAMMA has six athletes -- Jarod Milko, Dominick Blais, Dwight Sutherland, Corey Houston, Louis Fisette, and Mariusz Ksiazkiewicz -- competing at AFC 11.
Brigham (10-5) is scheduled to take on Matt Trudeau (2-0) of Richmond, B.C., in an 140-pound undercard bout. What does he know about his opponent? Not much.
"It's a bit of a guessing game," said Brigham, who's been training for the fight for six weeks. "As you hit higher fights, you start to know more about your opponent. (Trudeau) is an up and comer. He might be really good. I have no idea. I'll be finding out one way or another."
Saturday's main event pits local veteran Joe 'El Dirte' Doerksen (48-16) against Kalib Starnes (12-7) of Surrey, B.C.
AFC promoter Jason Heit says the two men come from completely different backgrounds.
"It should be an interesting matchup," said Heit. "Everyone knows Joe Doerksen is incredibly tough and he just keeps coming. Kalib is more a tactical fighter, he's quite skilled, so there are some contrasting styles there."
Tracing its roots back to 2007, Heit says the AFC is the largest MMA organization in the country and serves as a Canadian feeder league for the UFC. Saturday's 13-fight card is the franchise's first in Manitoba. Doors open at 6 p.m. and the fighting starts at 7 p.m.
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