Just over a year ago, Scott ‘smash’ MacKenzie was sitting in a cubicle, putting his environmental science degree to good use.
When the economy took a nose dive, MacKenzie was laid off, but the Lacombe native quickly found his calling.
The 29-year-old jumped full time into Muay Thai and has never looked back. After a winning at a Canadian qualifying event last year, MacKenzie will represent Canada next month at the 2017 World Muay Thai Championships in Minsk, Belarus.
“Definitely want to go and win the gold medal. I’ve been training super hard, I’ve never been in better shape. Just want to go and win,” he said.
MacKenzie took up the sport around 2010 and had his first fight in 2012, but never had the time to pursue it as hard as he liked. Now he works full-time in Calgary at Mike Miles Muay Thai and Kickboxing facility, as well as working with Fresh Start Recovery Centre, which is a men’s rehab facility for recovering addicts.
“When the downturn came I got laid off, and it was kind of a blessing in disguise. I used that as an opportunity to just dedicate myself,” he said.
“I went from sitting in a cubicle, to training people martial arts.”
The nickname ‘smash’ was given to him by his sister, after one too many injuries on a skateboard, and whatever else a slightly reckless kid can get into, he said. It took hold after he jumped into martial arts and suffered a number of broken bones, and also gained new significance with the loss of his job in late 2015.
He credits the support of his girlfriend Meaghan for helping him make the transition. Along with her support he’s been able to devote himself to the mental aspects of Muay Thai, something that separates some of the top athletes in the world, he said.
“The biggest thing is how mental the sport is. How at the highest level, everybody can punch hard, everybody can kick hard. It’s just all about when to use what weapons,” said MacKenzie.
“It’s like physical chess. Very small margin for error. You have to make the right decisions on the fly. Under incredible pressure.”
The tournament-style event at the Minsk championships will be different than a typical fight night. In the latter, MacKenzie can prepare for weeks to fight one opponent, but in Belarus he will likely face five or six opponents if he hopes to capture gold in the bracket-style event.
Being ready for that type of test means a lot of high-intensity training, hours of sparring and six days a week, sometimes twice a day, visits to the gym.
“It’s gruelling. Real test of who’s the best,” he said.
“You just have to focus on your condition. Just being able to keep a high volume and high pace throughout the entire fight. Use conditioning as a weapon.”
MacKenzie explained that his rise in the sport, as one of Canada’s premier Muay Thai fighters at 75 kg., happened rapidly and reached two pinnacle moments in the past year. The first, was facing one of the top athletes in the sport in Lima, Peru, last winter, as well as a recent bout in Calgary.
“Even though I lost, I fought one of the best guys in my weight class in the world, and it was a really close fight. That told me I’m on the same level as these guys and can beat them,” he recalled.
“My last fight in Calgary I fought a very experienced opponent from Thailand, who had about 80 or 90 fights and I just picked him apart. I know I’m ready for that level of competition.”
He’s set to take off for Minsk on May 1, with the first day of competition on May 3.