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Indigenous Vernon MMA athlete celebrating tournament win in Houston

Rylie "Coyote" Marchand competed in Houston, Texas to win an invitational tournament, her first competition in over a year.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Raj Lee
June 19, 2021 - 6:00 AM

An Indigenous MMA athlete from Vernon is returning home after winning a tournament in Houston, Texas last weekend.

After an upsetting loss in her first round, Rylie "Coyote" Marchand won the Kumite Invitational Tournament, her first competition in over a year, due to public health measures.

The 20-year-old fighter competed in the 135-pound, bantam-weight division in the Brazilian jiu-jitsu tournament on June 12.

Marchand, who has a dual citizenship, travelled to Houston for the tournament by herself, without the company of family or her coach, Raj Lee, but she's glad to have been back on a competition mat.

"It's tough to have that self-discipline to tell yourself you need to warm up now. Raj is always leading that end of it when it's time to get warmed up and stretched," Marchand said. "Raj was watching it live though, and he called me between every match, even from a different country."

In a frustrating start to the round robin tournament, she lost her first round.

According to her coach, it was an unfair loss.

"It's like you pause a game of chess then someone takes away all your pawns, then restart again," Lee said.

Lee said Marchand's nose starting bleeding all over the mat while her opponent made a submission attempt. When they restarted the match after a clean up, Marchand was positioned to be locked in that submission.

However, "Coyote" was able to make a comeback and win the tournament, submitting two opponents with a flying arm bar, and the other by heel hook.

Marchand can be seen in a social media video winning one of her matches by arm bar. She was sporting an orange shirt with the number "215" on the back and "every child matters" on her sleeve, in honour of the 215 children found buried near the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.

Carrying that message on her back and her efforts to help spread awareness of the residential school legacy was motivating for her.

"I really wanted to show that I'm listening. I just want my ancestors' story to be heard loud and clear," Marchand said.

Her family is from the Okanagan Indian Band and the unceded territory of their people, she said.

"I just would hope that people in the Kamloops-area, and B.C., are educating themselves on what happened. To me, this is relieving. We aren't carrying this by ourselves anymore."

Her coach, Lee, says she hopes to fight one or two more times this year before "going pro."

To contact a reporter for this story, email Levi Landry or call 250-819-3723 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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