Catie Denning and BJ Garceau: Finding good things at Young’s MMA

By:  Thomas Vickers (MMA – Journalist)


(QUEEN MMA MEDIA) –All too often people tend to focus on the highlighted brutal violence and trash talking of the sport of Mixed Martial Arts.  It goes so much deeper. Most who truly taste the sport quickly realize it is far more than a combative athletic competition.  It is a way of life.  Sometimes it’s about questing for a shot at a title, making the highlight videos, and winning.  However sometimes it is about becoming a better person, overcoming fears, building confidence, and achieving good health.  I found these wonderful things in the state of Maine.

“Honestly it was the weirdest feeling stepping into the cage.  You can’t hear anything besides your corner, or see anything besides your opponent.  Everything else was just a feeling.  I felt so good.” – CATIE DENNING


Catie Denning - 2

Catie made her amateur debut under the reputable New England Fights promotion. Her debut was a preliminary bout as a bantamweight, where she won a three round unanimous decision over Chelsea Elizabeth in February of 2018 at NEF 32 Super Saturday in Lewiston, Maine.

Denning trains at Young’s MMA in Bangor, Maine.  She has been a part of Young’s for many years.  It all began with MMA fitness classes during the summer of 2014, she explained.

“When I started I was finishing up my last semester of college, and had gained quite a bit of weight over four years,” Denning continued.  Catie was getting down on herself. She hated how she felt.  The fitness classes turned out to be a positive beginning point for Catie.  She reached her weight goal and realized she moved pretty good and hit hard.  Her confidence grew and she moved to beginner MMA classes in November of 2014.

“Young’s MMA is my home.  My teammates are like my brothers and sisters, and I respect head coach Chris Young very much,” explained Catie.  She is quick to note that she has benefited both physically and mentally under the instruction of Chris Young.  “Before the gym I was very shy.  I’ve grown so much and have come out of my shell.”

Catie did not have any formal martial arts training prior to Young’s MMA, other than three months of karate when she was ten years old.

“Honestly it was the weirdest feeling stepping into the cage.  You can’t hear anything besides your corner, or see anything besides your opponent.  Everything else was just a feeling.  I felt so good,” reflected Catie on her amateur debut.  Her goal was to have one cage fight.  Before she competed, Catie couldn’t answer the question if she would do it again.  She wanted to see what happened before she made any decision of continuing forward with an amateur career.  “Just stepping into the cage once is such a huge accomplishment for me, and I respect anyone who is brave enough to do that,” she added.  “Everything from here on out is just bonus success for me.  I plan on continuing to fight until I decide not to.  When that is?  I am not sure.”

Catie Denning has always been an athlete.  She grew up playing soccer, basketball, and softball.  Part of her motivation comes from the urge to compete she explained. “The other part comes from the slightly rebellious side of me.  I love doing things people tell me I can’t or shouldn’t do.  I find society’s standards of what it means to be a woman ridiculous, and that you can be feminine and strong at the same time.

“I think of how many others out there who have been told they can’t do it or they’re not strong enough. I’ve been told those things all my life.  Guess what? We can do it.  We will do it.” – BJ GARCEAU


BJ - 4

BJ Garceau made her amateur WMMA debut in February of this year as a strawweight at NEF 32 Super Saturday in Lewiston, Maine with a three round split decision victory over a game opponent in Sarah Ziehm.  “My win honestly was unexpected,” laughs BJ.  “There’s actually a video clip of me shaking Sarah Ziehm’s hand congratulating her cause I thought she had won.  Sarah’s a great friend and a tough lady, so I knew it would be a hell of a fight,” she continued.

BJ trains at Young’s MMA located in Bangor, Maine.  June of this year will mark her third year with Young’s MMA.  “It’s been an amazing experience,” she explained.  BJ’s road to the amateur cage began with several months of MMA fitness.

“Young’s is my second family,” BJ stated with a laugh. “Often I consider my team and coaches my first family.  We all support each other no matter what and I absolutely love Young’s for that.  No judgment, just making people the best versions of themselves.”  BJ feels her experience with Young’s MMA has made her mentally and physically the best she has ever been.

“Coach Chris Young (owner and head coach at Young’s MMA) uses a fighter’s strengths to their advantage.  He doesn’t try to make you fight his way but coaches you to use your skills the best way possible,” she continued.

BJ will be entering her second Brazilian Jujitsu tournament in April of this year in an effort to continue her ground work skills.  She realizes the importance of continued training and like all true martial artists understands one must pursue and learn if they are to move closer to the best they can be.

BJ finds her inspiration in the little girl she once was, a young child who was first diagnosed in 1993 with diabetes and asthma.  A little girl who was told she would never be able to realistically participate on a competitive level in sports let alone mixed martial arts.

“I think of how many others out there who have been told they can’t do it or they’re not strong enough,” explained BJ.  “I’ve been told those things all my life.  Guess what?  We can do it.  We will do it.”  When BJ first began mixed martial arts she was dealing with depression over the loss of a few close family members who passed away within months of each other.  “I’m a type 1 diabetic and my health was horrible, so my doctor immediately put me on an insulin pump with a glucose monitoring system and I had to make a choice, die in a few years or get healthy,” explained BJ.  BJ got healthy.  She began running, weight lifting, and mixed martial arts fitness.

She had been walking around at 150 lbs, however today she fights between 115 – 125 lbs.  BJ is quick to explain how Young’s MMA and control of her diabetes literally saved her life.  BJ was determined to be the first type 1 diabetic to enter the cage in New England. She wanted to show those suffering from the disease that they can get in there and succeed.  “I wanted my first amateur fight to bring awareness and help empower others struggling with the same issues.”  BJ does not see herself turning professional. At thirty-five years of age she works full-time and is a continuous advocate for type 1 diabetes.  “Now if I would have started and been as healthy as I am now ten years ago, I feel MMA would have been my career.  I absolutely love it,” she explained.  BJ hopes that in the future as more females become involved in the sport of WMMA she will be able to take more of a mentor or coach role and encourage others.


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