Just a head of the NI Open, we took a quick minute with the organiser and local Jiu Jitsu athlete, Leah McCourt and asked some quick fire questions.
LL: Can you briefly describe how you got into martial arts?
LMcC: I started Judo when I was very young, my dad made me do it. I stopped and rode horses and competed whilst I was a teenager. After I had my daughter Isabella I started training in an MMA gym, I fell in love with Muay Thai and started going to BJJ classes.
LL: You train mostly in MMA, so when you train for BJJ do you feel more comfortable in No-Gi?
LMcC: Yes I prefer No-Gi as its faster and more athletic but still enjoy training all aspects of the fight game.
LL: How do you find rolling in the Gi?
LMcC: I find it slower and I have to think a bit more. My coach says No-Gi is like running a race with no restrictions and Gi is like running a race with a band round your waist, it holds you back a bit and you have to work hard at it.
LL: Your aim is to be one of the best woman’s MMA fighters out there, how key is your BJJ training towards that goal
LMcC: I really love BJJ, at the start for a long time I really didn’t get it, I hated it. Its completely different from Judo. I always did well in competitions because I’m a competitive psyhco but it was really when I started doing private with my coach Sebastio Torres, I started to understand it more. I was getting ready for the IMMAF Worlds after knee surgery and all I could do was drill stuff of my back. This really opened my eyes and made me have more patience.
LL: You have trained with a lot of big names within the sport and travelled all over, have you any piece of advice given to you by any of them that has stuck, that you find yourself passing on to others?
LMcC: Work ethic is the big thing I always say. Work hard, sacrifice and believe in yourself!
LL: How did you come to organise the NI No-Gi open?
LMcC: I take a women’s only MMA class and BJJ class. I really wanted to get them into competition and couldn’t find many with a lot of girl entries. I originally was going to do a woman only comp but thought why not run a No-Gi tournament with good prizes to give competitors the opportunity to compete internationally. I had a bit of time off after my last MMA fight and decided to just go for it. More women need to have the confidence to follow through with their ideas, Id love to see more women coaching and competing.
LL: Have you organised many events before or is this your first one? / is there more to come?
LMcC: I was an event manager for a charity and have always worked in events/ sales so I know what it takes.
LL: what do you think is happening now with the BJJ scene?
LMcC: I think its very strong, a lot of good competitors competing internationally from the likes of Team Torres and Eastcoast.
LL: Can you outline some of the prizes up for grabs at the event
White Belt Male and Female Absolute – £100 cash
Blue Belt Male and Female Absolute – £400 expenses to compete at IBJJF No-Gi European Championships or £300 cash
Purple, Brown, Black Belt Female Absolute – £400 expenses to compete at IBJJF No-Gi European Championships or £300 cash- Master divisions winners will be put into the adult absolute
Purple Belt Male Absolute – £400 expenses to compete at IBJJF No-Gi European Championships or £300 cash
Brown/Black Belt Male Absolute – £400 expenses to compete at IBJJF No-Gi European Championships or £300 cash
LL: What advice do you have for anyone that has never entered a competition before?
The most important thing I am telling my girls is to relax, enjoy it, don’t stress or cut weight. Literally have fun!
LL: Who do you look up to within the sport that drives you forward?
LMcC: My goals of being a professional MMA world champion, becoming a black belt world champion and most importantly my daughter, all drive me forward!
Leah Trains out of Team Torres and runs a women’s only MMA and BJJ class. You can enquire through facebook to begin your Jiu Jitsu journey.
Follow Leah on Facebook and Instagram from the links below.