Former Tignish resident part of Canadian team in upcoming UFC Nations series

Eric McCarthy
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FREDERICTON, N.B. – For a fellow who merely dabbled in mixed martial arts while participating in high school wrestling and powerlifting events during his years at Westisle Composite High School, 21-year-old Matthew DesRoches is suddenly in the MMA spotlight.

Matthew DesRoches, who hails from Tignish and is now with the Canadian Forces in Fredericton, is making a name for himself in mixed martial arts. He is part of Team Canada in UFC Nations: Canada vs Australia which premieres on Sportsnet January 15.
Photo courtesy of Josh Hedges/ZUFFA LLC.

DesRoches, who grew up in Tignish and is now a corporal at the Joint Meteorological Centre at CFB Gagetown in Fredericton, N.B., was a member of Team Canada during recent taping of UFC’s Ultimate Fighter Nations: Canada vs Australia.

He can’t say much about what went on in a house he shared with 15 other MMA fighters. That will come out during Wednesday night episodes of Ultimate Fighter Nations on Sportsnet starting Jan. 15.

The show pits eight Canadian against eight Australian fighters but there will be only one champion declared at the end of the 13-episode program. Besides UFC Nations bragging rights, the winner gets a six-figure contract with the UFC.

DesRoches went into the house with a 4-0 pro record. That’s what he comes out with, too, because the fights in the house were considered pro exhibitions. Besides, he stressed, coming out of the house at the end of the taping with a different record would take away some of the show’s element of suspense.

He was the only Maritimer on the show and the youngest Canadian. There were two 19 year-old Aussies in the competition.

“Some of my friends had decided to start MMA and some of the friends I trained with did it, so I kind of fooled around with it a bit. I didn’t take it seriously,” the son of JoAnne Arsenault of Tignish and grandson of Kevin and Marie DesRoches of Anglo said of his early exposure to the sport.

Then one day one of his friends signed him up for a fight. “I knew the type of sacrifice and dedication it took and I just didn’t think I had time for that, but once he put my name in for a fight, that’s when it all started,” he related.

That first amateur fight was in Moncton when he was 19.

“It was a pretty big slugfest,” he assessed. He got hurt early, but fought back for the win. “It was kind of a big thing for my friends and family to watch, how exciting it ended up playing out.”

He’s not so casual about the sport anymore. “This is my life now,” he confessed. “It’s a sport where you have to be 100 per cent dedicated. You can’t be half in, half out. It’s very demanding and it will teach you quick that you have to give 100 per cent of your time and focus to it.”

Living in a house with 15 other fighters for six weeks, he admits, was a different dynamic. Cast members had to stay on top of their diet and training, and look after their psychological health, he said.

Despite being Canada versus Australia, DesRoches said he left the house at the end of taking as close to the Australians as he was to his Canadian teammates.

Going from what producers told him, DesRoches expects to have a strong fan base when the show hits the TV screens next month. He expects the buzz about the show to start soon, once promo clips start airing. He believes his style of fighting, with a lot of contact is what won him a spot on the show.

The 5’11” DesRoches says he “walks around” at 200 pounds but fought on the show at 170 pounds. He plans to continue training hard and wants to trim down to 155 for future fights.

Organizations: Joint Meteorological Center, Team Canada, Ultimate Fighter Nations on Sportsnet

Geographic location: Tignish, Canada, Australia Fredericton Moncton

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