GRIZZLY’S QUEST ’15 by Mike Martelle


Mike Martelle a professional MMA fighter, Boxer, and BJJ Black Belt visited Senegal and accomplish his lifelong dream of
competing on every continent. Mike Martelle, owner and Head Instructor of Grizzly Gym’s in Kingston, Ontario, has a MMA
pro-record of 15-2 and also competed as a pro boxer and pro Thai boxer.

While completing his quest, Mike offered to support the LionHeart Initiative by holding open MMA and BJJ Seminars, as well as smaller BJJ training sessions with select groups. These events introduced MMA and BJJ to newcomers, and further develop the skills of relatively new BJJ practitioners in Dakar. While in Senegal, Mike trained in traditional Laamb Wrestling under the tutelage of Kairé Deux at Soumbédioune Training Center.

“LionHeart Initiative made my martial arts dream to compete on every continent come true” – Mike Martelle

This project contributed to the LionHeart vision to lift deserving and talented athletes from poverty by driving a long-term development of MMA in Africa with the aim of creating local and international opportunities for young athletes to excel in the world’s fastest growing sport and mainstream entertainment. A unique strength of the LionHeart Initiative is its ability to motivate volunteers and connect experienced martial artists with talented athletes in Africa. Over the years, the MMA for Africa movement, which grew out of the LionHeart Initiative, has led to dozens of volunteer instructors worldwide traveling to Africa and offering free seminars in MMA or underlying grappling and striking arts. In return, these foreign visitors are afforded a life-changing experience in training with local martial artists and being exposed to the rich culture and traditions of African communities.

While continuing short-term projects led by foreign volunteers to grow MMA and underlying martial arts (thereafter cited as MMA) in Africa, but recognizing its limitations, the LionHeart Initiative will also fund long-term MMA travelers to live and train in African communities. Concurrently, LionHeart will promote and support pan-African exchanges for African MMA fighters to travel to neighboring countries to share their skills, which represents a cost effective and sustainable long-term concept of operation. Additionally, LionHeart will  help organize competitive circuits and collaborate with local promoters to hold MMA events, which will serve promote the sport locally, motivate aspiring pro-fighters, and alter the local martial arts landscape.

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