One of the most popular documentaries available on MMA figures after the seminal Rickson Gracie documentary Choke and the harrowing expose of Mark Kerr’s drug addiction, The Smashing Machine, is the Bobby Razak-directed film Rites of Passage.
Contained on the second disc of the DVD set is a short film called “Underdogs”. A glimpse into the lives of everyday men trying to make their way in professional MMA, it is a gritty warts-and-all look at the lower end of the spectrum of those involved in the sport. We see the mixed fortunes of the three fighters and their manager, all from the “Chum Sut” Total Fighting Academy in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
The men featured were Chum Sut head instructor Tom Lamont, brothers Johnny and Andrew Burrows and their manager/agent Paddy Mooney. In Underdogs we saw Tom’s sole professional MMA victory happen in a bare-knuckle contest in Brazil, and his role as trainer to the Burrows brothers. We also witnessed Johnny Burrow’s trip to California to fight in Gladiator Challenge, and little brother Andy’s return to the cage following a stinging loss. So what happened to those involved once the cameras had stopped rolling?
First though, some background on the inclusion of Underdogs in Rites of Passage. When Rites of Passage came out, many UK and Irish fighters and fans were surprised to see the Belfast team on the screen. Chum Sut were widely regarded as “tough lads that try hard, but keep getting a kicking”. Indeed, if anyone deserved the title of Underdogs, it was they. A quick look at any of their records will tell you that they have all suffered their fair share of losses. There were many more fitting candidates worthy of the kind of exposure that an internationally released DVD might offer.
Scratching the surface of the silver screen reveals some interesting information. The manager of the fighters featured in the film is a local promoter and businessman called Paddy Mooney. An extremely shrewd businessman, Paddy is a wealthy man who has a love for professional fighting. With numerous international contacts in the business, it wouldn’t have taken much for Paddy to get Razak to come to Belfast to film someone of his choice.
Upon finding himself in Northern Ireland, Razak would have seen that Mooney is not only a great friend of Chum Sut chief Tom Lamont, but also his biggest fan. Lamont, an ex-doorman and long time traditional martial artist, is a big name around those parts with a reputation for experience on some of the toughest doors in Belfast. Unfortunately, his street fighting expertise never managed to transfer to the ring, nor rub off on his students.
The Burrows brothers were typical products of Lamont’s academy; well conditioned, scrappy, and technically limited. Thrust forward no doubt by their own ambitions as well as upon the advice of their coach and manager, they went out and fought numerous times in mixed martial arts contests, with limited success.
Fast forward to present day and none of the “Underdogs” featured have managed to establish themselves in the world of MMA.
The exception to this is Paddy Mooney, who is still promoting his successful brand of MMA events in Ireland, Cage Wars. He has had names such as Joachim Hansen, Francisco Bueno, Shonie Carter and Remco Pardoel appear on his shows, and continues to go from strength to strength, recently acquiring the status of regional Shooto representative.
Tom Lamont continues to act as chief instructor of Chum Sut Total Fighting Facility, but is no longer resident in the academy you saw in Underdogs. He has moved into a 5000 sq ft state of the art training facility, the set-up of which was mainly funded by Paddy Mooney. Rumours abound as to his next direction. Approaching his mid-forties, Lamont is in incredible physical condition, yet seems to have no intention of re-entering the ring other than as a corner-man. However, it has been mentioned that Lamont has been approached to appear in local pro-wrestling matches, and is seriously considering the offer. How he will balance this with his recent conversion to Buddhism is an intriguing prospect. He continues to produce fighters that struggle to enjoy notable success.
Andy and Johnny Burrows ceased training at Chum Sut, and were last known to be training at various Thai-boxing and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu clubs in Belfast. It is not known if either man has intentions of re-entering the world of professional mixed martial arts.
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