The term prodigy is defined in the Cambridge English Dictionary as someone with a very great ability that usually shows itself when that person is young. TKO is extremely fortunate to have many athletes on its roster that fit that definition however none exemplify it more than the two young men who will headline TKO 41: CHAMPIONS at Montreal’s Bell Centre on December 8, Charles Jourdain (5-0-0, 4 KO, 1 sub) and TJ Laramie (6-2-0, 4 KO, 2 sub).
When Stephane Patry resurrected Canada’s greatest mixed martial arts promotion in the summer of 2016 and announced the signing of these two young studs, it seemed to most that they were destined to clash sooner rather than later. Although both did achieve much success over the past months, their paths to the featherweight championship has been quite the contrast.
For the 22-year old Jourdain, everything seemed to come easy. A 1-0 fighter when his TKO career began, he competed in the opening fight of the TKO 36 main card which relaunched the organization. With his flashy muay thai skills, he wowed spectators and quickly gained a significant fan base.
After 3 consecutive victories, Jourdain was tasked with the challenge that he had long dreamed of: competing in his first main event against a man he had forever admired, Bellator veteran Will Romero. On that night in June, the youngster proved too much for the veteran and with that spectacular performance, he became the man to beat at 145 pounds. Jourdain recalls that there were many who doubted he could get the job done against such a high level foe this early in his career: “My closest friends thought Romero was too fast for me but I know who I am and I know what I can do. He was the most dangerous man in my weight class and I really wanted to knock him out to prove that I’m not just some poster boy.” Jourdain’s success has seemed natural, almost easy, a statement “Air” was quick to qualify: “Some could say it came easy but I’d like to think that it’s not easy to make this look easy.”
On the other side of the cage on December 8 will be the 20-year old from Windsor, Ontario, TJ Laramie. When he joined TKO the word was out that he was one of the most dangerous young featherweights in the country and he proved that with an incredible debut fight last November. It was after that though that a dark cloud seemed to hang over the young man at every turn in 2017.
The year started with a January clash with Maxime Dubois where in a close battle, Laramie scored a TKO victory which many felt was controversial due to what was perceived as an illegal knee to the head of the downed Dubois. In April, Laramie fell victim to what he felt was an early stoppage at the hands of Alex Morgan. After a solid performance which saw him get his hand raised against veteran Jimmy Spicuzza, Laramie took a break from competition in order to heal his injuries and prepare for his upcoming championship fight.
However, two additional hurdles were thrust in his path. First came Alex Morgan who would compete during Laramie’s layoff against one of the best featherweights in the world in a fight that would procure him enough points in the TKO standings to knock Laramie out of contention; Morgan lost by split decision. Then Laramie was advised that former TKO champion Hatsu Hioki had contacted the promotion to defend the title he had never lost. Again, Laramie dodged a bullet as Hioki was knocked out in Japan, rendering him unable to compete. No matter what the outcome, Laramie looked forward to showcasing his skills in the mecca of Canadian combat sports, the Bell Centre: “I would have been ready for any fight had this not been for the belt. The win is always most important not the reward.”
Although the road to the title has been a challenging one, Laramie looks forward to stepping into the cage at TKO41 in the hopes of bringing home the gold. If he is successful, he would take over from where Mark Hominick, the greatest champion in TKO history and one of Laramie’s mentors, had left off. “Mark has been someone I’ve looked up to since I started as a pro” said Laramie. “I’ve trained with him many times and he’s always given me a great sense of confidence getting in there with one of the world’s best.”
Laramie is no stranger to the spotlight having been labelled a future champion all the way back to his amateur days. When it comes to how he sees the outcome of the fight, he remains confident in his abilities all the while needling his Quebec born counterpart: “Charles is a good fighter but still a little green if you ask me. I’ve fought opponents far tougher than him and at only 20 years old, I’m walking into the cage the more experienced fighter. He has skills but hasn’t really had many great athletes test him yet and you can be sure I’m going to do that on December 8. It’s going to be great bringing that 145 belt back to Ontario where it belongs.”
As for Jourdain, his analysis was concise and to the point: “My devotion to this sport knows no boundaries. Come December 8, he’ll be strong, he’ll be ready but he’s gonna fall like the others.”
This fight represents everything TKO is about and that is why it is only fitting it serves as the main event for the biggest card in the promotion’s history. Two young men representing the new generation of fighters with their flashy fighting styles in a balanced matchup that could see either leave with his had raised and the gold around his waist.
Join us on Friday, December 8 for TKO 41: Champions at Montreal’s Bell Centre. Tickets on sale now at www.evenko.ca or by phone at (514) 790-2525.