It was an intense two days of drills, testing and interviews as Tiger Muay Thai & MMA decided its 2013 professional MMA team. Although hundreds of fighters applied, only thirteen were invited to attend the tryout sessions overseen by Head MMA Coach Brian Ebersole, MMA Coach Roger Huerta, 4th degree resident BJJ Black belt Fernando Maccachero, Tiger Director Will Elliott and Tiger’s Director of Marketing & Communications, Natasha Horrelt.

The winners were offered free training, a meal plan, housing stipend, gear and the full backing of Tiger’s marketing and communications department. It is the first time in Tiger’s history that tryouts were held with a full MMA team created. The winners were chosen on a number of criteria including attitude and ability to be coached. In the end, all participants were given partial scholarships through TMT to pursue their fighting careers under the best coaching available.

“Choosing only five full scholarship recipients was a tough decision,” explains Horrelt. “Every person who was invited to attend had an exceptional amount of heart and talent and we used a variety of criteria to pick our final team. At the end of the day, the team was selected by a unanimous decision from the coaches and upper management.”

Congratulations to new TMT MMA Team!

With the coaches in the back (Left to right, Roger Huerta, Brian Ebersole, Wiktor Svensson, Fernando Maccachero and Tiger Director Will Elliott), the new team is (left to right), Matt Te Paa, Kaiwhare Kara-France, Danny Mitchell, Cody Stevens and Ben Nguyen!

Matt Te Paa – Matt is 31 years-old and from New Zealand. His MMA (pro) record is 11 (3ko, 8sub) – 3. Matt has 11 Professional Boxing bouts, five Muay Thai fights (4 pro, 1 am) and several grappling comps (no gi & go). He’s refereed about 200 MMA fights. Matt won his place on the team by being the first person to reach the top of Big Budda in a gruelling 4.5 km run in steep terrain and fierce heat. He was a force to be reckoned with and secured his spot!

“I feel truly blessed to be part of the experience. The bond gained with all the guys who went through this will last for a lifetime. As ‘the old guy’ of the bunch I knew that I’d probably never get an opportunity like this again and gave every ounce of myself, as did all the guys. To come through successful and be part of Tiger MMA history is a feeling that words can’t describe. I look forward to the hard journey ahead of us and to represent my new family to the best of my ability.” ~ Matt Te Paa

Kaiwhare Kara-France – Kai is a 19 year-old New Zealander who fights under Strikeforce in the Legend FC. He has a six fight contract. Kai is the top flyweight (58kgs) and Bantamweight (61kgs) in New Zealand. He recently got back from Legends FC 10 in Hong Kong where he won by first round submission. His MMA pro record is 4-2 and he currently holds a number of titles in wrestling and BJJ.

“It was like the ultimate fighter, but compressed into two days. No time to recover, really tested how bad you wanted the scholarship. I enjoyed the thrill of not knowing what they were going to throw at us. I am looking forward to having some training partners the same size as me and also learning from the head coaches. I’m wanting to take my career as far as I can and become a well-rounded martial artist.” ~ Kaiwhare Kara-France

Danny Mitchell – Danny is a 26 year-old British fighter with an 8-2 amateur and 12-3-1 pro record. He’s trained in martial arts since the age of 10 and holds a black belt in Tae Kwon Do and Kickboxing and a brown belt in BJJ.

“The whole trip out here was like something straight outta Enter the Dragon. It was some of the hardest training I’ve ever done. We all got pushed to our limits and I feel like we all have a connection for going through it together. I’m excited to be part of the team and looking forward to what the future holds.” ~ Danny Mitchell

Cody Stevens – Cody is a 30 year-old American who undoubtedly stole the tryouts with his incredible passion for MMA. His record is 9-5 and previously represented Tiger at the Pan-Asians where he won gold. He holds multiple wrestling titles and has a life story that will blow your mind! He’s been training and competing full time in MMA & grappling events for nearly seven years.

“The 2013 TMT Tryouts were one of the MOST GRUELING, yet REWARDING experiences of my LIFE! And would do it all again in a blink of in eye to have a chance at GREATNESS…I enjoyed every step of the way! From the Muay Thai Class, to the MMA Session, to the Jits, and even when I thought I was gonna pass out and possibly drown during the beach workout! As well as when I thought it was over…but it was far from over! The Run up BIG BUDDA! I was beaten, dehydrated, and had the worse cramps of my life…but I wasn’t defeated! (never that) I told myself it was GUT-CHECK TIME! Thought about ups and downs I’ve had through out my career (and life), Melissa and Jocelynn back home, the rest of my family and friends that sacrificed money out of their own pockets just to get me here, and said to myself, ‘How bad do you want to be great?’

I’m looking forward to working with each and everyone of these coaches! I feel all of them have so much to offer to helping me elevate my game! I want and will get to the UFC, but mainly I want people to remember my heart and work ethic, and be a role model for our youth! Remember the name Cody “The Wolverine” Stevens…”

Ben Nguyen – With a professional record of 7-5, Ben is a 26 year-old from America and Vietnam. He started martial arts when he was 12 doing Tae Kwon Do. At the age of 18 he started training in Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Judo, and wrestling. He has fought all over the world but found himself trapped in the corporate world until he saw the TMT tryouts as a way to escape the ordinary and dedicate himself to MMA full-time.

“It has always been a dream of mine to train and fight overseas. I now get to live that dream!!” ~ Ben Nguyen

Stay tuned for the four part documentary series we’ll be launching during the second week of December. Get a behind-the-scenes look at the tryouts from the inside-out. See the pain, the tears and the victories as thirteen men battled it out for the chance of a lifetime!