CANMORE, ALBERTA – Travis Erlam is wavering between Johnny Cash songs that will be playing over the speakers when the Canmore fighter struts to the MMA cage for his debut.
On one hand, Erlam's pick of “Hurt” suits the nature of the business he’s about to get into when the cage doors lock on May 6 at Unified MMA 44 at 7 Chiefs Sportsplex on Tsuut'ina First Nation.
On the other hand, is there a better blood-pumping tune to have on before getting into a fight than “God’s Gonna Cut You Down”?
For the jiu-jitsu wizard turned pugilist, the walkout song is the only thing he is uncertain about when the day comes to put on the gloves and throw down.
“I’m looking for the knock-out,” said Erlam. “I’m going to start throwing bombs.”
Owner of Dark Horse Martial Arts in Canmore, Erlam is set to fight in an amateur middleweight bout (185 pounds) contested under three, three-minute rounds.
Erlam’s dance partner is Said Dzafic of Winnipeg.
Not much of the nervous-type when it comes to hand-to-hand combat, Erlam has climbed the ranks to become a brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu – for those unaware, that means he's pretty damn good – and he is at home in the realm of ground fighting.
However, the 36-year-old grappling ace thinks using his limbs for something other than choking people until their faces turn purple will suit him better come May 6.
In jiu-jitsu, going for the kill comes naturally and Erlam hopes it crosses over in what will be a very different experience.
But after three cancelled bouts in 2021, an eager-to-fight Erlam is ready to put that theory to the test.
“I’ve only guaranteed one thing: it’s not a win, it’s not a loss – it’s going to be exciting,” said Erlam. “I’m not going to lay off the gas at any point.”
Standing at six-foot-two, the southpaw takes a different approach in the sport where mean-muggin' ass-kickers are a dime a dozen.
You can usually catch Erlam being relaxed, friendly and smiling – whether that’s before or after he’s strangled half-a-dozen pupils on the mats upstairs in Dark Horse’s HQ is another story.
“I tried to be the serious and get the win-type, and I find that my game just sucks,” he said. “It just does not work for me. I have to go in there with a smile. You can’t not be your self and go in there, and my self is just having a fun time, I mean, I wear an orange gi and goofy stuff for a reason, it’s just who I am.”
Unified MMA’s main card will stream live on UFC Fight Pass, as per the Edmonton-based company's working deal with the juggernaut fight organization.
Erlam’s fight is on the undercard, however, there’s a probable chance it gets bumped up and featured as one of the few amateur bouts on the international streaming platform due to the Canmore martial artist’s fan-friendly approach.
“Whether they want to see me get punched in the face or punch someone in the face, I don’t know, but ... as long as they’re cheering,” he said.
“If it gets to the ground, I’m happy with that, but I do want that knock-out.”
Tickets for Unified MMA 44 are available at www.showpass.com.
For those looking to stay closer to home, a viewing party of the fight will be held the evening of May 6 at Sheep Dog Brewing in Canmore.
Inaugural jiu-jitsu tournament planned at Banff Fenlands
The Dark Horse Grappling Series, a submission-only jiu-jitsu tournament, is set to host western Canada’s best martial artists at Fenlands Banff Recreation Centre on June 11.
The inaugural tournament-style event has a maximum 500 entrants, and will feature sub-only bouts for every belt colour and weight class, and handpicked super-fights will close the show.
“What we want is an exciting tournament,” said Erlam, who’s one of the organizers. “This one you have to go for the submission in order to win.”
Dark Horse is “filling a void” left by Submission Ace, a defunct grappling series in western Canada, said Erlam, which ran events multiple times per year.
“I just want to pick up the mantle of sub-only … There’s not a lot of sub-only tournaments around here,” Erlam said.
The Dark Horse Grappling Series’ main event is a super-fight between purple belts Lucas St-Jean of Calgary and Tanner Brenner of Edmonton.
The event is free for ages 10 and under and $5 for everyone above, which will go toward the Bow Valley Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.