Club gains experiences in tournaments

Luis D. Gutierrez/ Staff Writer

Twenty years of blood, sweat and overcoming stereotypes have finally put Mixed Martial Ar ts on the map.

One of America’s fastest-growing sports has captivated audiences by combining aggression with artistry to create a spectacle performance.

Now Daniel Perez, lead instructor of FIU’s MMA club, hopes his program can create a spectacle of their own.

“Every day I’d love to watch this club continue to grow,” he said.  “The mixed martial arts have been a huge part of my life for the last ten years and I hope to pass my passion on to other people in order to make this club one of the best.”

Founded in 2009 by student David Cano, the club has already competed in various tournaments during their young history. Among those is the North American Grappling Association’s tournament held annually across various U.S. states.

This year, all five members chosen to represent FIU at NAGA’s tournament in West Palm Beach placed in competition with third-year student Yannick Saez coming in first. Despite being on a steady rise however, Saez sees his club as a piece of art — an ongoing process.

“Every time we step on the mat, I want my teammates and I to reach a certain level we had not reached before,” Saez said.  “For me, it’s like taking a piece of clay, molding it, and creating a sculpture out of it. We’re all trying to create that sculpture, both physically and mentally.”

A solid piece of the sculpture is Perez’s own mixed martial arts academy, located in the Miami area.  Sunset MMA first opened its doors last March and Perez believes his newly inaugurated academy will mold FIU’s squad.

“Our academy gives us as a club, more time to train,” Perez said.  “It allows us to practice above and beyond school confines and I truly believe that will make our competitive team better.”

The opening of the academy was a personal accomplishment for Perez, however, it was also a measurement of how far he had come as a teacher.

Perez stepped aside from competitive combat four years ago to take care of his father, who was suffering at the time from pancreatic cancer. Upon his father’s passing, it was up to him to take care of his mother, which in the process, created an enthusiasm for teaching.

“When I began taking care of my dad, I didn’t have much time to step into competition,” Perez said.

“After he passed away, my focus shifted to taking care of my mom, where I started teaching more. My love affair with teaching the martial arts grew by day and soon enough, I knew it was what I really wanted to do.”

Perez also matured as a competitor, instructor, and person through his father’s battle with cancer, but emphasized having the martial arts in his life during the time period.

“Having jiu-jitsu and the martial arts in my life was instrumental in getting the strength to cope with my dad’s battle with cancer,” Perez said.  “If I didn’t have the sport in my life during that time, I don’t know where I would be now, because it was something I could always turn to for strength and camaraderie with my fellow students. It gave me a strength that I now try to pass on to others.”

The rise of MMA has everyone talking and Perez hopes his club can garner a similar type of attention. The doors of Sunset MMA are open with an interest to broaden FIU’s martial arts club and to build what he calls the sculpture.

“In direct contrast to the stereotype, we’re not a bunch of tough dudes,” Perez said.

“We want people with an interest in the martial arts to come out and join us. We help them become better at the martial arts and they help us become better as a squad.” 

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