by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
2006 was a year that had started with high expectations for the IFL’s Toronto Dragons, but it ultimately ended in disappointment.

After winning their first ever team battle over the San Jose Razorclaws to start the second season of the IFL, they were promptly ousted by eventual tournament champions, the Quad Cities Silverbacks in the second round, and Dragons’ head coach Carlos Newton has yet to earn his first personal victory in the promotion.

But with a new year comes new hopes, enthusiasm, and according to now-middleweight team representative Brent Beauparlant, a chance to redeem themselves and turn some heads in the 2007 IFL campaign, starting with this Friday’s match-up with the Portland Wolfpack in Atlanta, Georgia.

“We did all right,” admitted Brent of the Dragons’ performances last year. “I think it was a very average performance. We talked about that a lot, that if the team this year is going to go anywhere, we’re going to have to meld a lot more.”

Beauparlant continued, “A lot of guys on the team are going to have to step up. There are a lot of top guys coming into the IFL, and every year there will be more and more top guys coming in, so we’re going to have to start training together a lot more and putting on a good show.”

As Brent sees it, there is no real reason why the team can’t be successful this year, considering all the incentives they have to achieve beyond what they accomplished in 2006.

“Last year in our second fight we had two replacements, we’ve had guys that have come and gone, and it’s sort of like a painful growth that’s going on,” admitted Beauparlant. “At the end of the day I don’t really care who else is experiencing it, because we get win bonuses, team bonuses and it would be really awesome to get that ring.”

“I think a lot of guys weren’t really aware of it, that if you do well individually there’s superfights and the grand prix, so there’s only incentive for people to do better. There can’t be any excuses. Be a professional, get the job done and work as a team,” added Brent.

The road to redemption for the Dragons can start this Friday against the Wolfpack. Beauparlant in particular has a difficult task as he moves down in weight to 185lbs to take on the more seasoned Matt Horwich.

“I think it’s going to be a barnburner,” exclaimed Brent. “He’s a guy that always comes forward, is always in shape and I like the fight. He’s a gentleman, so I don’t really have anything bad to say about him. I think it’s going to be a real interesting match.”

When it comes to countering the game that Horwich brings, Beauparlant feels he’s found the right strategy and that Matt is going to be in for a long, unpleasant night.

“Simply put, his game relies a lot of cardio, taking people down and working them on the ground,” commented Brent. “I don’t think he’ll be able to take me down, so I think he’ll have to endure a lot of punishment standing.”

Beauparlant continued, “I’ve hired a Muay Thai coach since my last fight and I’ve been training with him extensively. I’ve also been training extensively to get my wrestling back up. So, he won’t be taking me down and will be experiencing a lot of pain.”

And when it comes to the Dragons’ chances against a team that made it to the finals of last season’s World Team Tournament, the Wolfpack, Brent is confident that if his teammates have everything together, then they could become a team to be reckoned with.

“If people on our team, today, acknowledge that this is a professional business, and that we have to get serious about things, I think the Toronto Dragons are going to upset a lot of teams,” exclaimed Beauparlant. “I think we can surprise a lot of people. If members on our team don’t acknowledge that it’s a professional business, then we’ll have lackadaisical results like we had last season.”

“Having replacements all the time hurts a lot, because it’s a team, and you want the team to do well. So it’s very simplistic, if we can meld and get together more often, we’ll do well, if not, we won’t,” further stated Brent.

So it’s a new year, a new season, and a new outlook for the Toronto Dragons and Brent Beauparlant. Already the 2007 IFL season has shown us that any team can win on any given day, and Brent knows it and urges people to pay attention, because they might just be surprised.

“First and foremost I’d like to thank the MMA fans,” said Beauparlant. “With the IFL I think we’ll be getting new fans and without them, there wouldn’t be anything. I really want to say thank you to them from the bottom of my heart.”

Brent concluded, “I do hope the fans come out and more and more. Especially with all the TV shows, you’ll be able to understand the team concept more and be able to come out, because these are the best live shows to watch. The energy is great and you don’t see a lot of people sitting on their heels holding back.”