GRANT HAMILTON / BRANDON SUN
Born and raised in Brandon, Curtis Demarce graduated from Vincent Massey High School in 2007. A passionate Mixed Martial Artist who was at the top of his game, Demarce was badly hurt in an accident that resulted in what his physiotherapist termed a 'catastrophic injury.' He's now attempting to rebuild his life. He hopes to return to MMA, but he's also a realist, and knows that the extent of the damage to his right arm is likely to prevent the realization of his dream.
What was it about mixed martial arts that appealed to you?
I think I’m just a competitive person — I’ve always been that way. I love to be in shape — I’ve always been involved in martial arts and I’ve always loved watching UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship). I played hockey my whole life, too. I always loved the competitive part of the game and the training is intense and I just kind of fell in love with it.
As a non-violent person, things like boxing and mixed martial arts — I mean, the aim is not to hurt somebody but the aim is to hurt somebody! So I don’t understand the mindset there. Is it sort of old-world victory and one-man-dominating- another kind of thing?
It’s just pride and dignity and working hard to accomplish your goals. We both know we’re going in there to fight — we both know we’re going in there to accomplish what we’ve trained for. At the end of the fight, we’re friends. And we’ll go for a beer after. It’s just competitive — it’s not, ‘Hey — I want to hurt you.’ We both train to be warriors and we’re going in there and doing our thing and once that’s over, we can be best friends.
Wow! Now up until the time of your accident, you’d enjoyed a lot of success in this field, right?
Yeah. I turned pro when I was 17. So I’m a big veteran in the sport.
So you’re still recuperating? Have you fought since you were injured?
My car accident was March 15, 2012, and I tried to compete November of 2013. But I wasn’t the same — I couldn’t find my rhythm. My arm wasn’t a hundred per cent — I couldn’t perform the same way, I couldn’t hang in there with the elite athletes that I was before the accident.
So you’re not going to fight again until you feel you’re completely healed and as elite as you were before? Is that even possible? Can you ever get back to that level with an injury as extreme as the one you suffered?
In that car accident, my arm was shattered. And with an injury that severe, it almost prolongs the process of healing. And it actually injures more than just your arm because of overcompensating. You use other parts of your body to compensate for that arm. Like my rear deltoid is out, and my back and my shoulder, and just certain things like that. So until my body is a hundred per cent, I can’t return.
And right now you’re doing other things to stay busy and perhaps explore other avenues of employment?
I have a photo shoot in April in Banff and we’re hoping to get into the fitness industries and Calvin Klein and stuff. I’m kind of keeping busy that way and keeping my mind occupied outside of MMA right now. I’m just doing other things — modelling and fitness, which is stuff I’ve always wanted to do, so I think right now is the time while my body tries to heal.
I work with Iconic Beauty Images — the photographer is Scott Schisler — he’s amazing. He shoots some of the top Maxim models in the world and we’re going to be getting published into the Men’s Fitness (magazine), so it’s going to be a good shoot and I’m looking forward to that. I think this could be a good thing as far as my modelling and starting off doing what I’ve always wanted to do aside from martial arts.
And what do you like about modelling?
I just like travelling, I like being in front of the spotlight, and the lights and cameras — I’m used to it from competing on pay-per-views and HDNet for martial arts. I think it would be a great experience, and to be able to shoot in Banff — that’s one of the nicest places in the world. And the next shoot is actually Lake Tahoe, and it’s gorgeous there too. That’d be more of a summer shoot and it’ll be a great experience there as well.
The level that you competed at in MMA was top-of-the-game, and you fought in pretty big bouts, right?
It’s kind of like the NHL, I guess — you know how there’s the AHL, there’s the WHL and there’s the NHL, right? So with MMA, mixed martial arts is, I guess you could say, the sport. So UFC is the top of the food chain where you’re going to get the most publicity, you’re going to get the most marketing. Obviously, they have the money, they basically own most of the top fighters.
But the problem is there are so many other organizations out there that try to compare and that actually sometimes offer athletes better contracts as far as money, as far as marketing deals, pay-per-view buys — that type of deal. And there’s always athletes outside of the UFC who actually are better than a lot of guys who are in the UFC. But UFC is there, it’s been there for 20 years, that’s where the money’s at.
I competed in the MFC (Maximum Fighting Championship) — the biggest Canadian organization in that area — and I was competing against guys who were in the UFC that either just got released from the UFC or were just on their way to the UFC. And it’s kind of who you fight and who you know and what types of contracts those organizations offer you.
So you were at that level — the professional leagues of MMA, if you will?
That’s right. I was on a roll — I just actually competed against Marcus Davis who was the biggest deal in the UFC at one time — he was a top contender. And he lost one fight against Jeremy Stephens and he got released and came over to the MFC. And he and I actually ended up fighting at Caesar’s Palace, and it was a three-round decision that he won. So I think it’s fights like that are really win-win situations because you get to compete against the best in the world and regardless of the outcome, I think there’s a great opportunity. At the end of the day, I actually thought I won that fight, but those are the types of fights that get you recognized, that get you there. But there are a lot of politics involved, too.
Tell me about the accident now. It must be so frustrating — through no fault of your own, at the level you were at, you’re in this position now and having to deal with that. I can’t imagine how that would be, both physically and emotionally.
I think it’s more emotional than physical, even. As far as physically, I’m tough — I’ve been through a lot of broken bones, a lot of injuries. But emotionally, it’s just something that I’ve worked for my whole life since I was 15, and now it’s basically in jeopardy — whether I’ll be able to return. A lot of doubters, a lot of my fans, my sponsors and the people who supported me, you kind of see them leave the scene and see them not be as supportive just because I’m not competing, I’m not who I was, and I’m not fighting on TV — I’m not competing at that high, elite level. It’s been difficult and even to this day, there’s still a lot of things with my arm that I can’t perform the same. My flexibility’s not as strong as it was. But I’m trying to keep a positive mindset.
Well, that’s a really good attitude. If it’s not too difficult for you, tell me about the specifics of the accident from your perspective.
I was living in Toronto at the time. And I was in the best shape of my life. And we just went through a green light and from the opposite direction, a lady made an illegal left turn, and we hit her. I was turned to my girlfriend talking to her, so my shoulder was kind of exposed to the front. And when we got hit, I don’t remember much — it was kind of just blurry — but I remember the vehicle coming to a stop and me getting out of the vehicle and my arm just hanging there limp. And I knew right away, because usually your adrenalin kicks in immediately when you have pain or you have an injury, and I knew right away from how much pain I was in that it was more than just a ligament or a break — that it was something severe.
We ended up going to the hospital, and I was in there for five to seven days without them operating on me, just due to the swelling and how severe it was. They didn’t know what to do with it — whether to amputate it or what. So what happened was, I broke my humerus in half with multiple fractures coming off of it and my radial and ulna were cut. So for 11 or 12 months, we never thought that I would even be able to lift my wrist up. And luckily the third nerve conduction study came back and one or two of those nerves were reconnecting and I got that back.
I actually moved back to Brandon for the rehab, and I had Doug Treloar at PhysioFirst and Brock Mansoff at the Wellness Clinic help me with massages and to deep tissue it out. Without those two guys, I don’t think I could have healed as much and rehabbed as quickly as I have. It’ll never be 100 per cent, but they definitely had a huge impact.
So your future is still up in the air? And if a return to mixed martial arts doesn’t happen, then you’re hopeful the modelling takes off?
Yeah — for sure. I’ve always been driven and motivated. I’ve been in the gym since I was 10 years old, so I don’t think that’ll ever change. If I can’t compete again, I’m always going to be in the gym, I’m always going to be coaching still, I’m always going to continue with my personal training and my modelling, maybe even do a fitness show here in the future. And just continue with being healthy and living that lifestyle.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition April 5, 2014