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Going 12 Rounds with Sandy Bowman

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The age old adage that one is either a lover or a fighter does not ring true with Wood Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2012 inductee, Sandy Bowman. Spend any considerable amount of time with this man, and you’ll conclude that he is both a lover and a fighter. Bowman will vehemently defend anything he is passionate about, and the things that get his blood pumping range from family, community, giving, and yes, the misunderstood world of mixed martial arts.

Sandy has called Fort McMurray home since 1992, and for nearly 20 years has been teaching the city’s youth all about self-defence, confidence, respect, and a myriad of other life shaping qualities that come from studying the disciplines of  martial arts. But Bowman is also about charitable giving, helping Kids Forever and other organizations.
Most recently, Bowman has endeavoured to giving back to Wood Buffalo in a different way, forming the only local mixed martial arts championship promotion, Prestige FC, and staging the first ever, very successful, MMA events in our own backyard.
Outside the cage, he fights to love, loves to fight, and loves to give. Inside the cage…well, ask boxing legend Butterbean if his headache has gone away yet. YMM put in our mouth guard, taped our fists, and went 12 Rounds with Sandy Bowman.

1. Why did you first move to Fort McMurray back in ’92 and was the original plan to stay here as long as you have?
I was actually on my way to BC and just stopped in Fort Mac to visit relatives. But I met a girl, and the rest is history. I started teaching tae-kwon-do to my cousin Jason Lays, and that snowballed into opening Bowman’s Tae-Kwon-Do, now known as Bowman’s MMA.

2. After nearly two decades of teaching local kids and adults martial arts, how have you not become bored of it? What keeps you motivated?
Bored?? Ha ha, wow, how long have you known me? I don’t stop! Teaching children, there is never a dull moment. Every day is an adventure, because every day I get to see children accomplish goals, and the look on their faces when they do it. You can’t measure that.

3. What would you say is the best thing about Fort McMurray/Wood Buffalo?
By far, the people. Hands down. Personally, I feel I have the best wife, children, and friends that I can always count on.

4. What’s one complaint you have with Fort McMurray/Wood Buffalo?
The only complaint I have, is how people complain about this place. If they don’t like it, they need to leave.

5. Dwayne Lewis recently inducted you into the Wood Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame. He is arguably our region’s most decorated and successful MMA athlete. Describe your relationship with Dwayne and why you think he’s been so successful.
Yes, Dwayne inducted me, while Curtis Philips nominated me. Curtis is also a good friend and a leader in Canadian coaching. But I consider Dwayne a brother, we are about as close friends as friends can be. There is a huge bond when you train together and fight together. It’s hard to really explain or for people to understand. I was always more nervous when he was fighting than when I was fighting.  I get asked if it’s the fear of him getting hurt. It’s not that at all, it is that the coach is powerless once that bell rings. You know the hard work that goes into a fight, but in that moment, it's all up to him alone.  And for some of his victories, I was more proud of him than anyone could be. I knew what was on the line, I knew how hard he trained and what he had to get through. Dwayne was successful because of the love for the sport and his ability to work like a horse. We trained so hard he has hated me. Ha-ha.

6. Do you think Dwayne can be talked out of retirement to fight here at home for the first time in Prestige FC?
Never say never. If it's possible, it will happen. Whatever Dwayne wants, I’ll back him 110 per cent. He knows that.

7. Who would win in a cage fight between you and Dwayne Lewis?”
That’s a silly question. Dwayne, for sure. I’m older, so I would have to let him win, so as not to destroy his confidence. Ha-ha, I’m only kidding.

8. Other than Dwayne, who would you say is the most talented MMA fighter from Fort McMurray/Wood Buffalo?
Brad Zazulak for starters. The guy is a monster and probably even scares himself. Some of his quotes that he drops can still be heard as we enter the ring, like “Smashy smashy” and my favourite, when he was fighting Shonie Carter, he looked at Shonie and said, “He’s just a man.” Other than that, Mike Sorensen, who loves to fight, loves it all. He’s a workhorse and a great laugh. Jason Randle is another. I started teaching him TKD when he was playing for the Oil Barons. He reminds me of Leonitis from 300, only with no special effects. Then there’s Steve Dubeck, who never turns down a fight and has more heart than anybody. And Ben Jansen, who’s initials are BJJ, like Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, but I call him the Fort Mac Georges St. Pierre.

9. The UFC has struggled as of late to put quality MMA cards together due to fighter injuries, last minute cancellations, and just having so many shows, so often that it thins out the roster. What would you change about the way they operate if you were in charge?
Well, they struggle because they have four fights a month sometimes. I don’t think there are many bad cards actually. There’s just not the “super fights” that they were famous for five years ago or so. Um, I wouldn’t change anything. The more shows they have, the more fighters are employed. And they always sell out!

10. Recently, despite Prestige FC putting on four successful MMA cards here in town, the future of MMA in Wood Buffalo was called into question by a letter from the municipality’s administration. How and why did this controversy originate?
It was just a question of liability, and we are working with city council to make sure this is alleviated. After a very positive council meeting in September, I’m confident this will be taken care of in the near future. We are lucky to have such an approachable mayor and council.

11. Will you ever step into the cage to fight professionally again, after such a spectacular showing against Butterbean?
I say no some days. But other days, I dream of it. The feeling of waiting in the dressing room, getting my hands taped, my closest friends at my side, then walking out to 2,000 people cheering. Plus, the intensity of stepping into the cage, being confident, being aware that the other guy is confident too, then the cage door shuts. That freedom; you can’t duplicate that with anything else in life.

12. Name Association

  • UFC President Dana White? Self centered, egotistical, genius
  • UFC commentator Joe Rogan? Hilarious. I have some good stories that cannot be shared. Ha-ha.
  • UFC legend Georges St. Pierre? Great fighter, but he punked me (inside story), so we’re not cool.
  • Boxing legend Butterbean? True gentleman.
  • Local fighter Markhaille “Showtime” Wedderburn? Showting. 
  • Mayor Melissa Blake? A pioneer with confidence.
  • MacIsland COO Tim Reid? St. Francis Xavier University! Great all-around guy.
  • Legendary UFC ref “Big” John McCarthy? He is a legend. Awesome guy.
  • Rockband Nickelback? Rob Abel’s favourite band. Proud to see Alberta boys make it big.
  • Gracie Barra Instructor Mike King? No comment.

Sandy Bowman has a mixed martial arts record of 3-0 and the website for Bowman’s MMA is

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