SCOTT – A sweat-seasoned roux floats thick in the house of gladiators, broiling beneath an industrial tin roof.
In a neighborhood of warehouses populated by a bunch of machinists and one mixed martial artist, Tim Credeur emerges from a gym he owns and operates earlier than expected. Thursday’s training session was supposed to be an hour long. It lasted about 30 minutes. Someone got ringworm, he says, shuddering. Even tough guys get the willies.
His post-workout T-shirt is dry, minus a few stubborn patches of leftover perspiration. His face is surprisingly unscathed for someone who fights for a living, though the cauliflower crowns of his ears validate the pain endured throughout his career as a mixed martial artist. His mind is split, divided among providing for his growing family, managing his blossoming business and preparing for his long-awaited June return to the octagon after a two-year hiatus; Credeur will fight Ed Herman in an Ultimate Fighting Championship event staged at Las Vegas’ Palms Casino.
His gym – Gladiators Academy – is aesthetically simple and currently empty. On most nights, it’s filled with an eclectic and somewhat unexpected mix of patrons eager to learn or let off some steam: high-schoolers, lawyers, offshore workers, accountants. His (thankfully air-conditioned) office is littered with framed pictures, though the one Credeur reaches for rests loose on his desk.
More than any of the others, this picture encapsulates the duality of Tim Credeur: It’s of his 5-month-old daughter, Audrey. Asked what her most prevalent personality trait is, Credeur answers, “awesomeness.”
“Look at that face,” he says proudly, showing the picture.
The photographer captured Audrey’s soft skin being cradled by Credeur’s hands. The contrast is striking. These are the same tested, vicious hands that punch; grab; hit; and end matches with submission holds such as arm bars, triangle chokes and something called a guillotine choke. But, as Credeur is quick to counter, these are also hands that pray, hands that greet visitors with a firm shake, hands that console and hands that hug lovingly.
“You can be a fighter and a father,” Credeur says. “You can train and teach. You can balance both lives. I’m preparing [for a fight], but I don’t care if [Audrey] wakes me up. She can throw up on me all she wants.
“The other day I was looking up on the Internet about schools,” Credeur continues. “I’m looking at younger education programs, and I’m examining what each has to offer, and it just hits me all at once: ‘What the heck am I doing?’ I’m dissecting toddler educational systems for three hours, and I’m so serious about it.”
The welcomed responsibilities of fatherhood are among a host of life changes that have occurred since Credeur’s last UFC fight in September 2009.
A film crew followed Credeur and other participants in Lafayette’s burgeoning MMA scene for the documentary Fightville, which premiered in March 2011 at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas.
Credeur has also seen his business, Acadiana’s only modern martial arts school, continue to swell. People whose opinions Credeur really values told him he was making a mistake when he opened the place in 2008. He did it anyway. Some of those same people said the same thing when Credeur decided to pursue a pro career in mixed martial arts. And, well, he did that anyway, too.
Academy participants range from schoolchildren to those approaching the age of receiving Social Security benefits. They learn a curriculum of Brazilian and Japanese jiujitsu, judo, boxing, kickboxing and mixed martial arts. Besides the physical activity, Credeur emphasizes the subsidiary benefits of martial arts, hoping to build “better students, better fathers, better men” through the practice. Credeur also consciously tries to squash some of the darker stereotypes associated with fighters by electing not to wear clothing depicting blood, skulls or anything sinister.
“I’m just not that guy,” Credeur says. “I’m a Christian. I love my wife. I take care of my daughter. I love teaching kids. My martial arts school is here to build people into better people and to help people live a healthy martial arts lifestyle, which contributes to the betterment of society.”
Credeur stops himself and smiles before showing his other side: “But, by the same token, I love to fight. And it’s a passion I have. I have no problem getting in the ring and demolishing another guy. I’ve missed that.”
In the spring of 2010, three weeks before he faced Tom Lawlor at UFC 113 in Montreal, Quebec (“numbered” UFC events are considered the most prestigious), doctors discovered an anomaly in Credeur’s brain during a routine scan. Credeur returned to the hospital three days later and was told further testing needed to be done regularly to determine the severity. Credeur asked what could be done. Nothing, he was told. The anomaly rested in an inoperable part of the brain.
After leaving the office, Credeur sat in his car for a couple of minutes. He held his cell phone, knowing he had to call his wife, Mamie. He wasn’t quite sure what to say.
Just then, his phone rang. It was Mamie.
“Are you sitting down?” she asked, excitedly.
Credeur didn’t say a word.
“I’m like, ‘Am I sitting down?!? I’m about to drop a bombshell. You need to be sitting down,’” Credeur recalls.
“Then she told me she was pregnant. You go from one extreme to the other in 10 minutes.”
So as not to ruin Mamie’s moment, Credeur withheld his worrisome discovery for several days. The results of the brain scan forced Credeur to withdraw from UFC 113. Further tests revealed the abnormality to be benign – both a relief and a frustration because, at age 33, Credeur knows he’s a fighter in winter.
“Whether I get a shot like that again, I don’t know,” Credeur says. “But when the UFC tells me it’s time to give it up, I’ll go. I had dreams, and I have dreams. Sometimes, your dreams change. But your passion to fight doesn’t.”