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1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
The nature of a saint, the will of a lion

Williams Lake’s Gurdarshan Gary ‘Saint Lion’ Mangat proudly wears the Battlefield Fight League featherweight championship belt after becoming the first Sikh in the history of mixed martial arts to win a featherweight title. Mangat, who graduated from Columneetza secondary in 2005 and was born and raised in Williams Lake, now lives and trains in Vancouver with aspirations of making the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

It wasn’t all that long ago when Gurdarshan Gary ‘Saint Lion’ Mangat recalls roaming the halls of Columneetza Secondary School with aspirations of becoming a certified general accountant.

During the summer of 2005, Mangat’s high school graduating year, he headed off to Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Vancouver to begin his studies — the thought never even entering his mind he’d be where he’s at today.

“When I was in high school I was kind of the geeky kid,” said Mangat, now 23 years old, looking back on his high school days. “It was more like my whole life I was kind of the follower.”

Today, he’s a mixed martial arts champion.

Mangat won the vacant 145-pound featherweight title on Saturday, Jan. 15 at Battlefield Fight League’s Battlefield 5 event at Richmond’s River Rock Casino and Resort, beating Kelowna’s Cam Deleurme in a unanimous decision for the belt.

“Basically, I lived my whole life in Williams Lake,” he said. “When I moved up to the big city I wanted to do something less ordinary but never knew that MMA would be the thing I’d get into. In high school, I was the kind of kid that whenever there was a fight I would run.”

With no fighting background or mixed martial arts background, Mangat discovered the sport while watching an Ultimate Fighting Championship pay-per-view at a bar.

“I haven’t turned back since,” Mangat said.

“I started training in 2007 in January. They said I was kind of a natural at picking it up. I always absorbed everything when I was in high school and I was a good observer and I would be able to apply all the things I learned to my everyday life.

“I just became obsessed with it and just kept going up the ranks of the charts and here I am now.”

Mangat, now with six wins and two losses in his mixed martial arts career, said his proudest moment was winning the title with his family, who were in attendance for the event, by his side.

“Winning the bout left me speechless,” he said.

“When I left Williams Lake I know a lot of people would have never expected such things from me. It was probably one of my proudest moments to take the belt off and put it on my dad’s shoulders.

“I was the first Sikh ever in MMA history to win a title in MMA. It was a historic moment for me, and it means a lot to me.”

Battlefield Fight League, based out of Vancouver, is the premier mixed martial arts organization in the city, and works beneath the UFC as a potential talent pool for upcoming fighters.

“When the UFC’s looking for fighters they’ll look to Battlefield,” Mangat said. “Me being the number one guy at 145 pounds will definitely help my chances of getting to the UFC, along with my marketability.”

Mangat said his ultimate goal is to make the UFC’s Ultimate Fighter TV show by this summer.

“And if not, my goal is to be the first Sikh to make it to the UFC,” he said. “There are no Sikh fighters at the world-class level. That was the thing that I took day by day and kept training keeping that goal in mind.”

In preparation for his five-round fight with Deleurme, Mangat trained four to five hours a day and six days a week for three months.

“I was training with the best guys in everything,” he said. “For wrestling I was in Vancouver with Frank Mesnah (Commonwealth champion), K1 Kickboxing champion Kultar Gill out of Abbotsford, Bibian Fernandes (former World Champion and training partner) and Blake Fredrickson — he’s my main MMA guy who put my game plan together.”

Mangat’s nickname, Saint Lion, also speaks volumes about his character.

“I was at a west coast Sikh youth camp about four years ago in Kelowna and when I arrived there I was still stuck in that mindset of being a follower,” he said.

“My self esteem wasn’t very high — mentally I wasn’t very strong.

“I met these martial artists from the United Kingdom and they started saying how I conducted myself around them was kind of a real nice guy, a saint kind of guy. Later on we did some martial arts and they were like, ‘Wow, you turned into a lion and took out the whole competition.’ When I came back after that camp is when I discovered MMA and all the time it stuck.”

Everything he’s been through, he said, has made him a better person.

“I just want to show what kind of inspiration MMA can be,” he said. “There’s a lot of discipline behind it and it’s made me a better person.

“I’m much nicer and more a complete person and that’s all through the journey while still remembering where I cam from in Williams Lake.”




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