Being in Ottawa for Fight Week was bittersweet for Chad Laprise.
Taking part in the UFC #WeAreAllFighters event at 100% Martial Arts & Fitness — the UFC partnered with Special Olympics Ontario-Ottawa — the outgoing Chatham-Kent, Ontario, Canada native helped lead a collection of eager participants through a series of techniques and drills. The activity culminated with the Special Olympics athletes letting loose a string of attacks in combination similar to what Laprise and his colleagues might unfurl in the Octagon.
Always eager to give back, the smile never left the Montreal-based lightweight’s face as his students put a charge into the focus mitts and Muay Thai pads Laprise held out to catch their attacks.
However, with the UFC in town for the first event in the Canadian capital, it was difficult for “The Disciple” not to feel some pangs of regret and disappointment as his ability to take part in the 90-minute training session meant he wasn’t preparing to compete at TD Place Arena.
“It’s breaking my heart,” laughed Laprise, only half kidding. “This is the first Canadian show since I’ve been signed to the UFC that I haven’t fought on, so I’m itching to get on that Vancouver card.”
Having made his official Octagon debut in Quebec City, where he won the TUF: Nations welterweight competition with a split decision victory over friend and teammate Olivier Aubin-Mercier, all but one of the fluid striker’s subsequent bouts have taken place on Canadian soil. From Halifax to Saskatoon, if the UFC was touching down in the Great White North, you could be sure Laprise would be on the card.
But after the 29-year-old made the trip to Brisbane, Australia in March, turning around and taking part in June’s event in Ottawa didn’t work logistically, bringing Laprise’s streak of representing his country in the cage whenever the UFC touched down in Canada to a close.
“They just announced UFC Vancouver, so I’ve got my fingers crossed for that,” Laprise said in June, days after the organization confirmed it would be returning to Vancouver for a UFC on FOX event at Rogers Arena on Saturday, August 27. “This is the first time I’ve ever had to miss a Canadian show, so I’m not looking forward to doing that twice. Hopefully I get to fight in Vancouver and put on for more Canadian fans.”
Earlier this month, Laprise got his wish.
After beginning his career with 10 consecutive victories, the former The Ultimate Fighter: Nations winner will look to halt a two-fight losing streak when he returns to action in Vancouver against Frenchman Thibault Gouti. Now training with the team at the Jackson-Wink MMA Academy in Albuquerque, New Mexico, “GT” is a familiar foe for Laprise’s coaches at Tristar Gym. He took on Aubin-Mercier in Ottawa, with “The Quebec Kid” collecting a third-round submission victory to send Gouti into this fight on a two-fight skid as well.
“Right after the (Pearson) fight, I was like, ‘I’m ready to go!’” explained Laprise, who dropped a split decision to another member of The Ultimate Fighter winner fraternity, Ross Pearson, back in March.
The bout came together on short notice, with the Canadian initially booked to face rangy Brazilian Alan Patrick and Pearson teamed with Abel Trujillo. But when Trujillo was scratched from the fight card a week before the event, Laprise was promoted into the vacancy opposite Pearson and the two thrilled the Australian crowd, engaging in an entertaining back-and-forth over 15 minutes that ended with the Brit getting the nod and the Canadian getting saddled with a second straight loss.
But now Laprise’s ticket to Vancouver is punched and the 10-2 lightweight can get back to doing what he loves: fighting on home soil and putting on a show for the rabid Canadian fans.
“When you hear those fans cheer you, you know that they’re all Canadian, it’s amazing and you really can’t put it into words,” he said of the allure of competing in his home and native land. “I’m a super-proud Canadian, so any time I can fight for my country, I’m game.
“I would have all my fights in Canada if it were possible. If I could pick to have four fights a year in Canada, I would fight four times a year in Canada.”
Unfortunately, there are only expected to be three Canadian dates in 2016. However, with a spot on the Vancouver card secured and the final event expected to take place in the frostier months, Laprise might have to settle for getting two hometown scraps under his belt this year. Though he did have a suggestion most fight fans in Canadian would surely agree with.
“C’mon Tom, we need to get more events,” he laughed, making a half-hearted plea to UFC Executive Vice President and Managing Director for Canada, Australia and New Zealand Tom Wright.
“Rumour is three this year, so Vancouver and then one more, so we’ll see.”