Here are some old school pics. I have more to come even older. These pics were all taken between 8 and 12 years ago. Tai Kai was doing MMA and BJJ while most local schools were still doing traditional martial arts. All local schools have jumped on the Bandwagon. Now everyone does BJJ and MMA. Tai Kai has a strong history and was the original BJJ/MMA school in Central New York.
Tai Kai’a Andy Curringa in his first MMA fight against Joe Lauzon back in 2001. No he did not win by choke but won a decision
Photoand Story by Dan Bernardi
Marc Stevens, right, trained under the direction of Ken Kronenberg, left, at Tai Kai Jiu Jitsu in Liverpool. Stevens is a current cast member on Ultimate Fighter 12, airing at 10 p.m. Wednesdays on Spike TV.
The third time was the charm for mixed martial artist Marc Stevens on his road to being featured on the television show Ultimate Fighter, airing on Spike TV.
On his third time trying out for the popular cable program, Stevens, who trained in Liverpool, was cast for a shot at UFC stardom.
The show pits two teams of aspiring Lightweight and Light Heavyweight mixed martial arts fighters against each other under the coaching of accomplished Ultimate Fighting Championship veterans.
Stevens has come a long way since getting his start in Mixed Martial Arts in 2005. Prior to then, he had only wrestled.
“I wrestled my whole life. After I left college I was watching the first season of the Ultimate Fighter and saw my old wrestling coach,” Stevens said. The coach was Josh Koscheck, who was an assistant coach at the University of Buffalo at the time Stevens wrestled there.
That spurred him to find out more about the sport of MMA.
Stevens began training with Ken Kronenberg at Tai Kai Jiu Jitsu (www. syracusebjj.com), 911 Old Liverpool Road, Liverpool.
At Tai Kai Jiu Jitsu, Stevens learned the art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, which is a style made famous by Royce Gracie, a UFC Hall of Famer. The style centers around grappling and ground fighting. Using this technique, a smaller defender can often defend against a larger opponent by using a combination of joint-locks and choke holds. This skill combined with a background in wrestling makes Stevens a versatile fighter.
Since 2005, Stevens had attended two Ultimate Fighter casting calls.
“This was actually the third time I had tried out,” Stevens said. “I got a call from my manager about a week before the tryout and he told me I had to be in North Carolina the next week for tryouts for the show.”
Stevens went to North Carolina, tried out, and returned home to wait.
“If they don’t call you just didn’t make it, if they call then you know your going to be on a plane in two days. You’re going to Vegas for casting,” he said.
He was flown to Las Vegas for three days of medical check-ups and interviews with Ultimate Fighter producers.
“After you come home (from Las Vegas) they call you either way,” Stevens said.
Luckily for Stevens, the call was one in which the Ultimate Fighter producers told him they wanted him on the show.
Stevens wasn’t sure whether he would automatically be granted a spot in the house or if he would have to fight his way in.
On the season premiere of Ultimate Fighter 12, Stevens was featured in a match against fellow upcomer TJ O’Brien to determine who would earn a spot in the Ultimate Fighter house. Stevens fought in the first match of the show and defeated O’Brien in 13 seconds.
When asked if that was Stevens biggest match of his life, he answered, “Yeah, I would. Some of the guys had said that. Javier Mendez, (founder of the American Kickboxing Academy) brought up a good point when he said, ‘This shouldn’t be different from any other fight, every fight is your biggest fight.’”
Stevens kept this in mind and tried not to let the fact that this would perhaps be the most noticed and widely talked about moment of his young MMA career affect his preparation.
“I had fought on TV before, but never on a stage like that. The thoughts (regarding the magnitude of the fight) would come in and I’d try to get them out.”
For Stevens, this is the most important time in his career. He explained that opportunities to be featured on a national stage are very rare and success is a necessity.
“As a fighter you have a short window,” Stevens said. “You’re no good to anyone if you lose, you’re pretty much done because nobody wants to watch it.”
To watch Marc Stevens on his quest to become the Ultimate Fighter, tune in to Spike TV at 10 p.m. Wednesdays.
Marc Stevens is a cast member on Ultimate Fighter 12 on Spike TV. The show airs at 10 p.m. Wednesdays.
Phil Migliarese did an awesome seminar in Watertown at Jiu Jitsu Nation/Tai Kai North. At the end of the seminar Ken Kronenberg and Phil Migliarese promoted Marc Stevens to Brown Belt and Jordan Damon to Blackbelt. Ken Kronenberg also received his first stripe on his Black Belt. Jordan and Marc will also be coming October 23 to Tai Kai for the Belt Ceremony to fully certify their new belts and run the gauntlet of grappling.