- Associated Press - Monday, November 9, 2015

ST. MARTINVILLE, La. (AP) - The amount of wisdom garnered after a lifetime of knocking other guys around has been surprising for St. Martinville resident Jules Bruchez.

“Most people will avoid a fight. It’s common nature. For some silly people like us, it’s exciting,” Bruchez said.

The Iota native isn’t talking about bar fighting. During the mid-2000s, Bruchez became a career fighter for the Ultimate Fighting Championship, specializing in submission, or no-gi grappling.

Bruchez got his break after getting on the eighth season of the reality television show “The Ultimate Fighter,” where he was awarded a contract with the league in 2006. After health issues and several losses, however, the UFC decided not to renew the contract.

“During my last two matches, I lost to two Brazilian Jiu Jitsu fighters. That’s actually what fueled my fire. I didn’t have enough experience with it, so after I retired I wanted to train in that style,” Bruchez said.

The biggest reason Bruchez stopped grappling, however, was his wife Nicole. The two met shortly before Bruchez had gotten on “The Ultimate Fighter,” and the fact Bruchez put his health at risk was a problem for his future wife.

“We met in 2006 when he wasn’t there yet. I was OK with it, but not really. I’ve never really been OK with it,” Nicole Bruchez said.

As with all successful marriages, a compromise was struck. Jules was no longer competing professionally and his interest was now gearing toward Jiu Jitsu instead of grappling. The two struck a deal that Jules could continue training in the style as a hobby.

Although the days of getting paid to travel and compete in mixed martial arts were over, Bruchez still trained and competed in the new fighting style. In 2011, Bruchez began entering tournaments without knowing exactly what he was getting into.

“My coach was also a UFC fighter, and he said I wasn’t getting (special treatment) and I would have to start from the bottom, which I loved,” Bruchez said.

“When I went to my first tournament, I loved the competition,” he said. “When I started to win, I didn’t understand how big of a deal it was. I just enjoyed competing, I didn’t care about the accolades.”

In the meantime, Bruchez got a job teaching at a juvenile detention center in Lafayette. Eventually, he was hired in 2012 as a firefighter in Lafayette. The Bruchez’ also welcomed their first son, Ryker, who is now 3. Their second son, Maddox, was born last year.

But even with a steady job and healthy children, Jules still felt an itch to compete. Fighting goes hand-in-hand with personal growth, Jules said.

“It’s win or lose, and sometimes winning isn’t actually winning. If you’re in a 10-minute match and never submit even if you want to, that’s a win. When you dig deep like that, it helps you with everything else in life,” he said.

Nicole has her own guesses.

“I think it’s (being a firefighter) not exciting enough for him,” she said.

For Jules, an opportunity arose recently that may see him back in the limelight. Bruchez was invited to the Metamoris No Gi Tournament, which pits fighters against each other in the style Bruchez was originally trained in.

After winning the first round in Dallas, Bruchez now has the chance to compete in Los Angeles. A Gofundme account was started to pay for expenses, which easily met the $1,000 goal last week.

In fact, people were a little too enthusiastic as $1,300 was raised.

“I didn’t know that people could contribute after the goal was met. People are hurting right now, so we decided to donate the cash I don’t need to Toys for Tots,” Bruchez said.

Bruchez said he would love to fight professionally again, but realizes his age, health and personal commitments make it an unlikely prospect.

“I’m 38. Realistically, to get back into it now isn’t likely. It’s a sport where they just think ‘I’m old.’ I’ve talked to my wife about it, and she said she would let me. My time has passed. It’s something I would love to do but I’ve accepted it,” Bruchez said.

Nicole, who remains worried about her husband’s health, said she’s learned to let her husband follow his passion.

“I’ve learned that I need to encourage him,” she said.

Bruchez will compete in Metamoris on Nov. 14. If he wins the second round, he will advance to the third round the following day.

___

Information from: The Daily Iberian, https://www.iberianet.com

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