Grandpa grapples best
MMA trainer Kaan Clark wins two medals at grappling tournament
Before Kaan Clark took a family vacation to Northwest Montana, he had things to take care of himself.
The 41-year-old grandpa not-so-kindly took care of wrestlers, martial artists and cage fighters on the mat in their early 20s.
Clark tapped out five of his six opponents by submission at the first ever Western Colorado Grappling Tournament in Grand Junction on July 14, at the Two Rivers Convention Center.
The event was hosted by 8th Street Gym in Grand Junction and more than 150 competitors were in attendance. As the owner of Lifer MMA in Cortez, a MMA trainer, second-degree black belt in kempo karate and a blue belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu, Clark used his vast pedigree to show the young guys a thing or... 10.
“I think the closest one to my age was 22, maybe 23,” Clark said. “It’s nice to know I still got it.”
Grappling is similar to wrestling with three rounds totaling five minutes. Scoring is the same with takedowns, reversals and escapes, and people win by pin. But the ultimate objective is to tap out an opponent by submission hold. That’s where jiu jitsu heavily comes into play.
Clark won a first-place gold medal in the 145 to 160-pound Gi (Brazilian jiu jitsu) class. He took second with a silver medal in the No-Gi (no uniform) 135 to 160-pound class.
Not bad for a guy who’s actually not as experienced wrestling.
“I never wrestled in high school or anything like that,” Clark said. “There’s a lot of really good wrestlers that come to the grappling tournaments. One of the cool things for me was, I took two wrestlers down (by submission). For me, that was kind of a big deal.”
In the gold-silver medal round of the No-Gi class, Clark went toe-to-toe with an experienced wrestler from Provo, Utah. The grapplers went the distance. But Clark nearly had his opponent in the jaws of victory.
“I almost had him. I had him in an armbar,” Clark said. “I zigged (one way) when I should have zagged (the other way). He ended up getting out of it.”
At the end of three rounds, Clark lost on points.
Durango Marital Arts trainer and friend Matt Young was there coaching Clark.
“He would run over to my mat and coach me. That’s what helped me to do really well,” Clark said about Young.
Clark and Young have worked together for roughly four years. Despite not wrestling as a kid, Clark has learned the sport well. He trains Grants Hobbs in cage fighting at Lifer MMA. Hobbs, 23, is a former two-time Colorado state wrestling champion at Dove Creek High School. Clark has also trained with Josh Edwards, who wrestled and coached at Dolores High School.
“What really helps me is getting my fighters ready for their fights,” Clark said. “They’ll come in here and we’ll sparr (a form of martial arts). I work on it while I’m getting them ready for their fight. The harder I push them, also keeps me training. That’s one of the reason’s I teach.”
Clark retired from the MMA cage, where he was 2-0 as a fighter. But the teacher still loves competing.
“I like winning,” Clark said, emphatically. “I tell my guys all the time, there is no drug like having your hand raised (in victory). Some people smoke for it, some people snort for it, some people drink. I fight for it. I love being the winner.”
Clark definitely won’t be letting up any time soon. He’s coaching his mixed martial artists for the next King of the Cage fights in September.
“One of the ways I teach them, is by beating them. Showing them where their strengths are, where their flaws are and working on those,” Clark said.
The husband, father and grandpa has indeed still got it. Whatever “it” may be, Clark can and will master it and teach it.
Reach Bobby Abplanalp at firstname.lastname@example.org.