Okanagan Indian Band (OKIB) youth are getting the chance to learn mixed martial arts from a local fighter who will soon be going pro.
Rylie Marchand is teaching MMA to OKIB youth ages five to 14 as part of a pilot program focused on fun and learning new skills.
The 21-year-old fighter is teaching classes mostly based on Jiu Jitsu with some striking, kickboxing and wrestling mixed in. The class is utilizing an empty OKIB canoe shed fitted with mats for MMA training.
The class is something Marchand says she wishes was available to her when she was coming up in the sport, and she says she’s happy to offer a program that’s close to home for the youth taking part.
“I was lucky enough to have parents who were willing to drive me into town and take me to programs that already existed in town, and I think a lot of kids out here don’t have those opportunities,” Marchand told The Morning Star.
Marchand says she’s always wanted to do a youth MMA program with the OKIB, but it wasn’t until the band’s administration ironed out some of the logistics that the program took shape.
It’s not the first time Marchand has worked with youth in an MMA setting. In the past she’s assisted with the kids’ class at her Vernon gym, Unity MMA and Kickboxing. When she was living in Albuquerque, New Mexico while training at an MMA academy there, she helped out with a high school wrestling team.
“I’ve been around young teenagers and been in that kind of role before,” she said.
For Marchand, it’s about growing the sport she herself has taken by storm as an amateur fighter, and about giving kids the chance to find their passion like she did.
“I think everybody deserves as many opportunities as they can to find what they like doing,” she said. “If one kid falls in love with it and pursues it a little bit farther then that will make me happy.”
The pilot program started Feb. 13 and will run until the end of May, followed by a summer break before it is decided whether the program will return in the fall.
As for Marchand’s own MMA fighting career, it’s about to take a milestone step.
Marchand says she’s set to make her professional debut with a card in early May. She’s yet to sign a contract and can’t say for sure who she’ll be fighting, but one name that’s been thrown around is Maria Clinton, who has a 3-0-0 amateur record.