For weeks now, a small group of men have pushed through a grueling training camp, in preparation for Friday night’s upcoming MMA fights at the Horseshoe Casino Riverdome. Inside of the Louisiana Black Belt Academy in Bossier City, Coach Mike Braswell meticulously maps out plans for all of the men’s upcoming bouts. Braswell, who has achieved the rank of black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, is a former professional mixed martial arts fighter, and currently trains dozens of students is various disciplines of martial arts. Not just a grizzled grappler, Braswell holds a Master of Science degree in Exercise Physiology from Louisiana Tech University. He is also a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, through the National Strength and Conditoning Association. The Ferriday native begin practicing Tae Kwon Do in 1999, BJJ in 2000, and opened his own BJJ school (the LBBA) in Bossier City in 2012.
Braswell’s journey through martial arts has brought him tournament experience in Tae Kwon Do, Jiu Jitsu, and 15 combined amateur and professional MMA bouts, fighting on Bellator 9 and Bellator 18, as well as several kickboxing matches. In the brutally demanding world of combat sports, skills learned through years of arduous training are vital, but this is a young man’s game. In his 20 years of martial arts training, Braswell has accumulated a plethora of orthopedic injuries. After retiring from fighting professionally in 2010, Braswell continued training martial arts in West Monroe until 2012, and continued competing in BJJ tournaments until 2013.
Over two dozen amateur and professional fighters are scheduled to step out into the lights, and enter the cage for the American Kombat Alliance on Friday. Three of those fighters will be Braswell’s students. These modern day gladiators, who have rigorously trained over the last few months, will literally put their bodies on the line during-hand-to hand competition Friday night. But for what?
Home grown competitor, Wade Taylor, a 33 year old Shreveport native and Huntington High School product, will be competing in his second amateur MMA fight. Taylor is currently 1-0 as an amateur, fighting in the bantamweight division (135 lbs). Formerly active duty in the USAF, Taylor is currently a full-time college student, majoring in accounting. He has one semester left until becoming an honors graduate from LSUS. He still serves in the USAF Reserve, in an aircraft maintenance squadron at Barksdale AFB. He currently holds the rank of purple belt in BJJ, and has competed in numerous BJJ tournaments. Taylor was introduced to wrestling by a friend in college, and to BJJ by a coworker in the USAF. He witnessed a novice BJJ practitioner easily defeat a state champion wrestler in a friendly grappling match. Soon after, Taylor began training BJJ in 2009, which later led him into MMA training in 2017. He is not planning on seriously pursuing MMA, but does want to test the waters to see how well he can perform inside of the cage. Taylor has trained at five different martial arts schools due to different military duty stations, and said, “Training with Coach Mike is hands down the best in the area, and the toughest school I’ve ever been to.”
Michael Tucci, is 37 years old and from Reading, Pennsylvania. He is an active duty USAF Chief Master Sergeant, currently stationed at Barksdale AFB. Attaining the rank of Chief Master Sergeant is the pinnacle of an Air Force enlisted person’s career, as only roughly one percent of all USAF personnel may hold this rank. With a 0-2 amateur MMA record, Tucci is fighting in the lightweight division (155 lbs). He currently holds the rank of purple belt in BJJ, and has competed in multiple international BJJ tournaments. Tucci originally gained interest in BJJ from watching the early UFC and PRIDE FC matches (professional mixed martial arts promotions in the US and Japan). He began BJJ training in 2007, and has transitioned into MMA training more recently. He enjoys the fun aspect of training, but desires to push his mental development. Tucci believes, if he can push himself through the tough training sessions, then the rest of his life will become easier and less stressful. He stated, “I like the team atmosphere. No one is trying to beat everyone up to get into the UFC. We all have normal jobs and are all working towards helping our training partners improve. Coach Mike is a down to earth guy who is fun to be around with and easy to learn from. His teaching style is very tradition and basic. His coaching works and is along the lines of what the traditional fighting art is truly meant to be.”
Torey Yancy, is 35 years old and originally from Pineville, Louisiana. This will be Yancy’s debut fight, and he will be fighting in the light heavyweight division (205 lbs). He currently holds the rank of blue belt in BJJ, and has won several BJJ tournaments, despite having only two years of BJJ training. Yancy is a family man, who has been interested in mixed martial arts since his childhood in Pineville. Growing up, Yancy watched Kung Fu movies with his family and friends, which left a lasting impression upon him. Like an ancient warrior portrayed in an epic legendary tale, Yancy just wants to test himself and his abilities. “I want to see what I am truly made of, and use this experience to help others with their BJJ and MMA experiences.” Yancy stated, “At the LBBA, I love getting to do what I’ve always wanted to since I was a child, and learning how to defend myself and my family. Another great thing about training at the LBBA is the close friendships we form with our training partners. These friendships last a lifetime.”
Although his competitive days are over, both the passion and competency Braswell has for teaching martial arts is as incredible to watch as it is plainly obvious to see. Whether correcting kickboxing form, demonstrating a proper BJJ submission, or giving some uplifting encouragement during a strenuous conditioning session, Braswell does it simply enough for a large group of young children to grasp, but emphatically enough to captivate a room full of exhausted adults. Plainly put, this man was born to coach. He brilliantly mixes in abstract fighting theories with precise technical knowledge, using corny dad jokes in colloquial and everyday language, and presents it all with a warm smile and charming southern drawl. Even the most novice students seem to be hooked from their first training session. But it is far more than a business strategy for Braswell. His life goal is to leave this world a better place than he found it, and improve the lives of as many people as he can along the way. Braswell is a master builder. And every single time one of his students steps into the LBBA, Braswell helps to elevate them by laying down another brick.
Wade Taylor, Michael Tucci, Torey Yancy and Coach Mike Braswell can all be found training regularly at the Louisiana Black Belt Academy, 1605 Benton Road, Suite C, in Bossier City, Louisiana. While the LBBA specializes in BJJ instruction, various types of martials are taught here, as well as women’s self defense classes and personal training. For additional information on the LBBA, check out their Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/BossierJiuJitsu/ as content is updated numerous times per day.
If interested in seeing how these warriors fare, tickets are still available for Friday’s upcoming MMA fights. They can be purchased online at: www.bishoppromotions.com, or at the Horseshoe Riverdome door. The venue’s doors open at 6:00 PM, with the fights starting at 7:00 PM.
Special thanks to J.C. Kelly for story contribution.