THE NEWS files MMA fighter Shawna Ram trains at the Clinch training gym in Port Coquitlam.

Concussion knocks Ram out of big fight

Maple Ridge MMA pro was on her way to Japan for Rizin fight

Maple Ridge MMA fighter Shawn Ram was getting the break of her career, until a concussion made her tap out before the action even started.

Ram, 33, was on her way to Japan for a fight this Saturday in the Rizin Fighting Federation, a Japanese MMA organization that came out of the former Pride Fighting Championships. The fights are broadcast in North America.

“It’s huge in Japan, and across Asia,” she said.

She was to fight Rena Kubota of Osaka, Japan, who has lots of experience and has gone 8-3 as a pro. She was also the hometown hero, billed as the “Goddess,” noted Ram.

The fight would be a huge step in Ram’s career as a pro, and she couldn’t wait for it.

“I really like performing, entertaining, and really when it comes down to it, I like to scrap.”

But when Ram couldn’t get through a hot yoga class at Oxygen, and found herself collapsed on her mat halfway through, she knew the fight in Japan would not go well.

She had to pull out of the fight, to the chagrin of the promoters.

“It’s a hard pill to swallow,” she said. “Hopefully I’ll get another opportunity.”

She has been climbing up the rankings, and is ninth out of 47 active women in Canada in her weight class.

The new pro has been an impressive amateur. She went 4-1, and although she is an atomweight, at 107 pounds, she competed against bigger women, 120-125 pounds, in all five bouts.

Ram first fought as a pro a year ago, beating U.S. fighter Chelsea LaGrasse by unanimous decision in a Mamba Fight Night event at Hard Rock Casino. The American had already fought on Rizin’s big stage in front of a crowd of 30,000, so beating her got Ram more attention.

She was confident she was ready for a bigger fight.

“I’ve never been knocked out, and I’ve never been tapped out, so I was pretty confident,” said Ram.

She was training like a demon, and fights out of Clinch MMA and Fitness in Port Coquitlam, which she owns with her husband and coach Sal.

But something wasn’t right. She was tired all the time. Ram would drop her kids off for school, and then go back to bed and sleep until it was almost time to pick them back up.

In her sparring, she wasn’t tapping anybody out, as the brain injury robbed from her physical performance.

In her life, her moods changed. Her confidence started to lag. She was depressive. People who know her said she was talking differently. Ram didn’t know what was going on.

Ram has a strong core and her incredible balance makes her a yoga star, so when she couldn’t make it through a class, she knew something was up.

Soon after, she got the concussion diagnosis.

As soon as they heard “concussion,” she and her sparring partner remembered the incident when she got it. They both shot forward at the same time and knocked heads. Both of them saw star. Her training partner actually saw double. Ram had a bump on a her head, but didn’t think it was anything to hold her back.

“I was pushing through it. I was like ‘I’m a fighter,’” she said. “I was training and training, and taking more shots in the head.”

But she learned you can’t beat a brain injury.

READ ALSO: Fighters not swayed by risk of head trauma in combat sports

Her doctor – along with her coach/husband – has ordered no training for three months.

“Everything was going to good,” she said. “Health absolutely comes first, but it’s really hard to accept.”

But it’s also a scary injury.

Last summer Canadian boxer Adonis Stevenson, who then had a record of 29-1-1, suffered a life-threatening brain injury that ended his career. After a fight in Quebec City, he needed surgery to reduce bleeding in his brain. That sparked a conversation about brain trauma in fighting sports, including limiting blows to the head in training, but so far the sports have not changed.

Ram definitely wants to get over this concussion, and get back to her sport. She is confident she will fight again, at the highest levels.

“I’m just waiting to get my brain back.”

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