MLB legend, Ted Williams, was famous for his attention to detail when it came to hitting a baseball. Today, in a small corner of the camp that bears Williams' name, that same attention to detail lives on through an instructor of a different sport. Inside the walls of Lakeville MMA, Sensei John Marando has been shaping the minds and bodies of his martial arts students since 1999. He has done so with the same unique passion and detailed focus that made "The Splendid Splinter" famous. I had the pleasure of visiting Lakeville MMA to observe and participate in classes last month and it was an evening well spent. The night began with kids (7-9 years) class, and it was clear from the outset that Sensei Marando truly is a master of his craft. Some people simply coach to coach. They want merely to "get through" training, but Marando does not operate that way. He doesn't want his students to get through training. He wants them to get FROM training. He went out of his way to ensure every student received instruction and every student took something away from the lesson that was being taught. The love and passion he has for his students was immediately evident and it shone through in his coaching style. Marando is firm and demands respect, but he does not do so through intimidation. He expects discipline and one hundred percent attention from his students, but he does not garner that attention by screaming and shouting. He is overwhelmingly positive and reassuring. His students listen, not because they are scared of him, but because they want to make him proud. The 10-12 year old class and the adult class that followed were no different. Each and every student was focused, attentive, and ready to learn. That's a credit to their coach.
A self described, "troubled kid", Marando started his martial arts journey when he took up Tae Kwon Do at age eighteen. Six years into his training he was introduced to jiu jitsu by local legends, Joe Pomfret & Joe Lauzon and knew immediately that he had to add grappling to his arsenal. This addition eventually led Lakeville Tae Kwon Do (est. 1999) into its transition toward Lakeville MMA, and while Marando captains the ship, he is quick to point out that he's not alone. Instead, he credits Mike Avila (striking coach) and Carlos Lozoya (BJJ coach and UFC prospect) for helping Lakeville MMA become what it is today. After troubled childhood and a grand opening in 1999 which was attended by no one other than his own family members, it's safe to say Sensei Marando has come a long way.
A Team on the Rise
Lakeville MMA has been producing quality fighters for many years, but in recent months, two young amateur fighters in particular have helped bring significant notoriety to LMMA on the regional scene.
Jack Congdon (5-0-0) won his debut fight by submission in 2019. Since then, he has gone on to finish four consecutive contests by KO/TKO en route to winning and defending the Cage Titans Amateur Welterweight title. The young champion carries himself with a quiet confidence that belies his in cage persona. He doesn't say much, but he doesn't have to. His fighting speaks for itself. When I asked Congdon about his future plans, he indicated that a pro debut is on the horizon and he expects to be back in the cage again this fall.
Congdon's LMMA teammate and fellow Cage Titans amateur champion, Miguel Sevasin, is a bit more boisterous in personality and also had a much different start to his fighting career. After losing his first two amateur fights, Sevasin has since gone 3-0-1 and captured the Cage Titans Amateur Lightweight strap in a fight of the year worthy performance against Kyle Pufahl last month. Like Congdon, Sevasin plans to turn pro in the near future. However, he made it clear that he intends to defend his title before doing so. A potential match up that has gained some steam on social media is one with former Cage Titans title holder, Chris O'Brien. The Bearded Dragon is in the midst of an extended layoff, but these two each came out on top in what were two of the most exciting amateur title fights in Cage Titans history. I, for one, would love to see this fight. The pre-fight trash talk alone will make for great entertainment. I can only imagine what the fight itself would produce!
Fighters like Congdon, Sevasin, Xavier Cardona, Connor Matthews, and Justin Stevens have helped make LMMA a staple of the New England MMA community. That said, Sensei Marando is excited about the up and coming LMMA fighters who will soon be making a name for themselves as well. Will young fighters, Caleb Redlon, Tyler Harris, Daryl Mackiewicz, and Jason Barroa make a similar splash to that of Congdon and Sevasin? Only time will tell, but one thing is for sure. If they continue to follow the direction of their instructor, they will be successful fighters and successful people.
A Coach's Coach
As someone who coaches for a living, people always ask me what criteria I use to determine who is a good coach. They are usually surprised by my seemingly simplistic response. I tell them, "I observe the coach, I assess his/her knowledge, I listen to how they speak to their athletes, and then I ask myself one question: Would I let this person coach my children?
I can say without the slightest hesitation that John Marando could coach my kids any day. He is interested in his student's lives outside of the studio and he stresses the importance of taking the respect and discipline he teaches them into the real world. He stresses good grades, good behavior, & good citizenship, and it is obvious his students take his teachings to heart. Marando himself states, "I love what I do and I love these students so much. I tell them all the time that if I won the lottery I'd still be in to teach on Monday. There's no place else I would rather be than teaching mixed martial arts". I have witnessed his passion and dedication personally, and I can tell you he means it.
I want to thank John Marando and everyone at Lakeville MMA for allowing me to spend some time with their team. John is most definitely one of the "good guys", so if you're in the Lakeville area, be sure to get yourself over to Lakeville MMA. You'll be a better person for it.