Jamie Turns To MMA
Sunday 20th September 2015 @ 12:00 by Mark Phillip
Football Sports

A 37-year-old former footballer is attempting to revolutionise mixed martial arts in Ashton-Under-Lyne.

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Having played for Glossop North End in 2009, Jamie Lester – son of former Manchester City midfielder Mike Lester – has swapped the pitch for the cage.

Prior to his transformation, Jamie played for a host of clubs, including New Mills, Abbey Hey and Ramsbottom United.

The long list also included spells with Atherton LR, Chadderton and the now defunct Oldham Borough.

Given his reputation within non-league circles, why did Jamie stop? “My time at Glossop North End was one of mixed emotions really” he said.

“I found myself playing in a very good team, with good individual players, well organised, fit and hard to beat, with plenty of goals in the side.

“It was also the year that they reached the FA Vase final at Wembley.

“However, there were a number of things going on at the club concerning the manager and several of the players, and I felt there were a lot of things wrong within the group.

“After one game, there was a discussion between me and those whose intentions or integrity I questioned.

“I sat on it for a few days before ringing Steve Young.

“We had an open discussion where I was able to discuss all the things I thought was wrong, and with that, we agreed that it was the right decision for me to leave the club.”

Despite suffering a troublesome time at Surrey Street, Jamie holds no grudges. He added: “I think Terry Hinks did a really good job at Glossop.

“We didn’t always see eye to eye, but that never obscured my respect and admirations for him as a person and manager.

“It’s a shame I didn’t play under Terry, as part of a managerial team made up of others of a similar ilk.”

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Having been born into a football focused family, Jamie fell into the sport naturally.

Citing his father as the greatest influence and manager he has played under, Jamie added: “My dad is, without doubt, the best manager I’ve played for.

“If an automatic response would be ‘is it because you’re his son’, then that’s a shame for anyone asking.

“His knowledge, detail, honesty, integrity and understanding are all of the highest quality.

“I would do everything I could for him as a player, like a lot of lads who have played for him, because he would do anything for you.

“The depth of him as a person and football man can’t be overstated.”

The fighter also reflected fondly on his days at Ramsbottom United. “I would like to add that Neil Hart at Ramsbottom United was another first class man and manager” he said.

“Again, he was straight with all the players, with everyone’s best interests at heart and a lot of knowledge and ideas.”

With football but a distant memory, Jamie is enjoying life to the full.

As a personal trainer, he has a natural tendency to keep himself in shape, but his desire to maintain active strays beyond the norm.

In fact, Jamie rarely has a day off from exercising, and when he does, it’s usually to recover from bouts of physical torment.

On a weekly basis, the joint owner of Viva Combat Athletics will undergo an intense six day training regime.

“On Monday night, I’ll train kickboxing for an hour, and then I’ll train MMA for an hour” he said.

“Tuesday afternoons consist of a lot of drilling, then an hour of sparring, which includes nine five minute rounds with other professional fighters, so it’s pretty tough.”

Not one to stray too far from the gym, Jamie is back later that evening, partaking in a session of submission grappling and bag work.

He then trains ju jitsu for an hour on Wednesday’s with his partner Anthony Griffiths, who co-owns the highly regarded gym, situated directly beneath a railway track on Lower Wharf Street. Jamie added: “I’ll spar again on Thursday afternoon, which comprises half an hour of drill technique, followed by an hour of full sparring, and then I’m back later that night for an hour of submission grappling.”

While Saturday is tailored around his desire to increase power output, Sunday is reserved for inner healing. “I’ll do yoga for an hour and 15 minutes on Sunday, because I feel like it keeps my locomotion young.

“I still feel like I move like a younger person, and it improves my flexibility, core strength, breathing, balance and unilateral strengthening.

“Generally, I feel like it’s a nice way to end the week.”

As our conversation developed, I couldn’t help but notice an intense sparring session taking place outside the confines of his office.

Questioned on whether sparring was a crucial element in MMA, Jamie responded, saying: “There’s a couple of different trains of thought on sparring, about how hard and often you go.

“I’m 36, but I don’t feel old within the sport, because I don’t have many miles on the clock.

“Me personally, I have to spar, because I think that’s what sharpens me up, so I’ve just gone back to sparring over the past month.”

The above statement is telling to say the least.

At 36-years-old, Jamie’s football career would more than likely be over, yet he views his present circumstances somewhat differently. He added: “The past decade of turning 30-40 has been dedicated to my career and setting other interests up.

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“With regards to retiring, I feel like its miles on the clock, how you train, how intelligent you are and your overall outlook on life.

“If I didn’t feel like I was physically fit enough, then I wouldn’t compete.”
Upon relinquishing football in 2009, Jamie -equipped with an interest in keeping healthy- decided to pursue MMA.

Given its brutal reputation, the obvious, yet pertinent question was: Why MMA? “I was intrigued by MMA, but i was taken back a little bit at how brutal it looked at first” admitted Jamie.
“I started training in 2009 and then was pretty much hooked from there .

“I already had a background in martial arts because I competed in Karate as a junior and I trained intermittently in Tai boxing during my football career.”

Jamie exudes a sense of calmness outside the cage, yet inside, however, he’s a completely different person.

Reflecting on his first few fights as an amateur, Jamie said: “My first fight was in wales against a decent ju jitsu fighter which went the distance, so I had plenty of cage time during my first experience.

“My second fight was at Stockport County’s ground, which also went the full distance.
“I was entered into a grand prix title fight at Manchester velodrome, where I had to fight twice in one day, but I ended up winning the welterweight title at 77kg.”

Upon turning professional last year, Jamie has enjoyed a glittering 12 months.

In August 2014, Jamie competed in his first professional fight against a Norweigan. “The toughest fight was my professional debut, because I’d not fought for two years before that, and id had a knee operation in-between it.

“I fought a Norwegian southpaw fighter, who had fought the current Lonsdale British title holder.

“If was tough after all that time out to be honest, but as I said, it ended up as a unanimous draw.”

Fast forward three months and he was back in action again. “I fought again on November 30th against a boxer which finished in 24 seconds, but that’s as far as I’ve got personally” he said.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that Jamie was plagued with nerves throughout his professional debut.

As it turned out, however, he was quite the contrary. He added: “It’s always a little bit of a bizarre sensation when you go into fight, and I’ve written a blog on it.

“Typically, I train a lot and I’m conscious about who and when I’m fighting.

“I choose the best coaches to train under, and I surround myself with the best people.
“When it comes to walking out, you hear friends and family supporting you, but I tend to shut off and get tunnel vision.

“I trust everything I’ve done beforehand to prepare for the fight, and I’m completely in the zone”.

As a physically taxing sport, MMA is associated with its brutally savage injuries.

Needless to say, Jamie isn’t immune to these wounds and wears the battle scars to prove it. He added: “I’ve had my jaw broken in three places, displaced a rib, broke a rib, dislocated my toe and broke my foot in January last year.

“I’ve come through being chronically anaemic twice, but never once have I thought that it’s going to deter me from competing.

“Injuries heal, and like anything we do in life, we tend to come back stronger.
“I think you’ve got to accept injuries as part and parcel of the sport.”

Having almost pledged ten years of his life to the sport, Jamie and his partner Griff are looking to give back to the community.

“We take juniors in at six-years-old, and then they train up until they can go into the adults class” he said.

“We have a grading syllabus for the Brazilian ju jitsu, and we also have the grading system in MMA that not many people have.

“The kids train in all aspects of mixed martial arts, which involves kick-boxing, boxing, wrestling and grappling.”