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Local mixed martial arts fighters win big at world championships

By Sean Cann-Sheppard [1]

BELLEVILLE — Two local mixed martial arts fighters managed to take home gold and silver at the World Kickboxing Federation [2] World Championships in Italy last week.

The two local fighters, 22-year-old Zach Baldwin and 19-year-old James Georgiou, competed against 50 other countries representing Team Canada and Loyalist MMA [3], a local gym that trains students in a variety of different combat sports.

At the end of the six-day event, Baldwin won the world championship belt in the 56-kilogram category while Georgiou took home silver in the 60-kilogram category.

Both Baldwin and Georgiou say they’re happy with their victories, with Baldwin adding that they trained hard for this moment.

“I expected a lot of myself, so I’m not really surprised that it went down like that,” he said.

Baldwin joined Loyalist MMA back in 2013, but he’d been involved with the sport three years prior in various clubs outside of Belleville. Georgiou also joined Loyalist MMA in 2013. They both eventually took up a form of combat sport known as Muay Thai. [4]

The sport originated in Thailand and organizations like the World Kickboxing Federation and gyms like Loyalist MMA have since brought it into other countries, including Canada.

Georgiou says he got into it shortly after joining the local training gym.

“I was boxing for awhile, and after boxing, I just (saw) a lot of the guys taking off really well with Muay Thai, so I tried it out and that’s how I got started with it.”

Georgiou says he’s happy with winning silver at the world championships and there’s always next time to aim for the gold.

“It’s good to keep my head on my shoulders, as I’m always learning, and there’s always another level to go to.”

Overall, it’s a great success for Loyalist MMA, says coach Jay Davies, one of the head coaches for Muay Thai and mixed martial arts.

He trained both Baldwin and Georgiou and said he couldn’t be prouder of their accomplishment.

“They come from a little gym in Belleville to the world stage. These guys started with me in the basement of the North Way Plaza. They didn’t have any knowledge of combat sports. They didn’t even know what the hell Muay Thai was.”

Both Baldwin and Georgiou have competitions coming up in the next few months in Ottawa and Oshawa. Davies says he’s optimistic not just for them, but for the other fighters with Loyalist MMA.

“We’ve developed some good fighters, and for myself as a coach I want to be the best possible coach I can to take them to where they want to go.”