WINTERPORT, Maine — The first six nights of the week training at the Team Irish MMA Fitness Academy often aren’t enough for Jarrod and Jeremy Tyler.
And Sunday mornings, during some down time at Tyler’s Garage and Auto Parts, the brothers work while contemplating moves and countermoves that make for a successful mixed martial arts practitioner.
“We’re open for four hours on Sunday,” said 31-year-old Jarrod Tyler, who runs the family auto shop. “But before Jeremy wakes his wife up, we’re down there for two hours, and it’s pretty much a two-hour slow sparring session.”
It’s also a fairly unique brand of brotherly love the Tylers share as next-door neighbors, contributors to the family businesses and MMA training partners.
Both have been dedicated to the combat sport since taking it up two years ago, and after losing their first fights on the same night, neither has lost since. They are preparing for separate bouts on the New England Fights’ NEF XIII card in Lewiston on May 10.
Jeremy Tyler, 27, will take a streak of four straight victories — all by submission — since the lone loss into his bout with 2-1 Steven Bang of Auburn. Jarrod Tyler (1-1) will face newcomer Jason LaFrance of Bath.
“They’re polar opposites as far as fighting styles, but they’re both athletic; that’s the similarity,” said former Ultimate Fighting Championship contender and Team Irish owner Marcus Davis, the Tylers’ trainer. “They’re both kind of freaky strong, and they have good a work ethic, which I think comes from a strong family values background.
“Jeremy has an eclectic style that has a little of your traditional martial arts and some of the more contemporary stuff, and he likes the ground. And he’s been doing well on the ground. Jarrod will stand right in front of you and bang with you if that’s what you want to do, but now he’s got much better footwork and is concentrating more on the in-and-out game, where he gets in and gets off his big shots.”
Jarrod Tyler, a former all-state football player at Hampden Academy who went on to play in the semiprofessional ranks, discovered mixed martial arts when he needed it most.
“I’ve battled depression since 2007, and off and on I tried different things to shake me out of it but never really found anything specific,” he said. “Then I found out about MMA, and I wanted to try it but was extremely intimidated because I had no martial arts background. I played football my whole life, so the contact didn’t scare me, but being someone with no MMA experience was pretty intimidating.”
He ultimately visited Davis’ MMA club in Brewer, and what began with a few days a week of training became a therapeutic part of his daily life.
“Over the last two years I’ve been telling everyone I lived the first 30 years of my life somewhat happy, but these last two years are the only time I’ve really been able to enjoy everything because every single day is better than the last,” he said.
Jeremy Tyler, a former track standout at Hampden who runs Deb’s Variety store located near Tyler’s Garage, just as quickly became a student of the sport after being introduced to MMA through giving his brother rides to the gym.
“It’s an interesting sport where you can never truly master any one thing, you’re always learning,” he said. “It doesn’t matter who your opponent or your training partner is, they could be 8 years old, and you’d still learn something.”
Both Tylers learned even more the hard way in their amateur debuts, each losing at NEF VII in Lewiston last May 18.
“We actually had drilled the defense for what I got caught in,” said Jeremy Tyler, the victim of a guillotine choke applied by Tollison Lewis late in the first round. “But I got out of there, and it was so motivating that Monday I was right back in the gym going over it and over it, and hopefully I won’t get caught in a guillotine during a fight again.”
He submitted Lewis with a rear-naked choke when they fought again on the Bangor Waterfront last July. Jarrod Tyler was supposed to fight on that card but was sidelined by a shin injury and didn’t return to the cage until September, when he scored a unanimous decision over Windham’s Nate Charles.
“It was humbling to lose that first fight, but you learn so much from that. And then when I got my first win, I was able to appreciate it that much more,” he said.
The brothers have been relentless in their training since then, capitalizing on Davis’ experience and knowledge as well as that of Team Irish professional fighters Jon Lemke and Andrew Hughes.
“You’ve got to be dedicated,” said Jarrod Tyler. It’s all good to take a day or two to relax, but if you truly want to gain in mixed martial arts you have to keep at it. You have to throw your jab a thousand times, and then a thousand times more to perfect it, and then it’s never perfect.”
Often those jabs are thrown at each other during training sessions in that pursuit of perfection. Only once in two years has any anger flared, the brothers said.
“We punch each other in the face, so we’re bound to get angry,” said Jarrod Tyler, “but I have to realize that when he’s hitting me it’s not his fault, my hands have to get better, and if you look at it that way, you don’t get mad at each other.”
The Tyler brothers have plenty of additional family support with a large contingent of relatives routinely on hand to watch their fights.
And Jeremy Tyler has an extra familial voice right at cageside — his wife Sadie Tyler.
“With all the time I spent training, I wanted to show my appreciation, and I wanted her to be right there with me for my first fight,” he said. “With all the noise there, I happened to hear her voice over everyone else’s, so ever since then, we’ve had her relay the messages to me during the matches.”
Sadie Tyler — an insurance agent by day — welcomed the opportunity, not surprising given that she took up karate under her father’s tutelage at age 5. She earned her black belt by age 9.
“It’s brought back part of my past for me, and it’s really become a family thing,” she said. “We have a lot of respect for each other, so Jeremy knows if he hears me yelling something from the corner, he knows we’re saying what’s best for him.”
She also is an active participant in the cage between rounds, helping her husband relax his breathing and providing water while Davis offers instruction.
“I love Jeremy being in the sport, and him being in it shows a side of the sport that needs to be shown,” she said. “The sport already has the crazy, amped-up people, but the respect and the work ethic Jeremy brings to the sport is what it’s all about.”
The Tyler brothers aspire to join the professional ranks some day, and Davis expects both to be able to make that jump, good health permitting.
“When I started, it was just a hobby, but I fell in love with it and now I would love to go to the next level,” said Jeremy Tyler “Honestly that’s a decision where I have the benefit of having a former UFC fighter as a coach, so when he thinks it’s time, I’ll talk to him and my wife about that.
“But right now, when I look across the cage at the amateur level, it’s like my wife says every time before I go in there, ‘Hands up, chin tucked, and remember, nobody’s going to hit you as hard as Marcus or any of the other [Team Irish] guys.’ It’s paid off so far.”