There’s a fair number of fighting brothers. The Diaz’s, the Emelianenko’s, the Nogueira’s, the Shamrock’s, the Miller’s, the Lauzon’s……the list goes on and on. Other than a cameo appearance from the less talented Hughes brother, the list of competing twins is far sparser, that’s until now. Now there are new Kings in town and these two go by the name Mearns.
Richard is the older twin, by a whole thirty seconds, something that he never allows ‘younger brother’ Tom to forget. However, Tom is the professional, where as Richard is still making his way through the amateur ranks. There’s a healthy competitive edge between the two brothers, but this is overridden with burning desire from each to see the other succeed. I caught up with them after another gruelling session at their home base, BST in Northampton.
As they’re identical, my initial concern was working out who was who. “Tom’s got a wonky nose. It got broken in an early fight, which made us look different for the first time”, said Richard. “And more scars”, Tom piped up. “Richard generally wears better clothes too, that’s the best way to tell us apart”.
The brothers don’t come from a particularly sporty family, and certainly not one with a heavy martial arts influence, so the transition into athletes wasn’t pre-destined like it is for some in the sport. “We loved martial arts films and playing Tekken 3 on the PS1”, said Richard. “We both started Taekwondo at the age of eight at our local youth club and it progressed from there. I was probably the sportier one of us. I used to do Taekwondo tournaments regularly from the age of nine onwards. When I was at secondary school I played rugby for the school team, and for a local team too”. Tom continued, “I was always very strong and could do well in athletics, but I was awful at all other sports. I really lacked the motor skills needed to play sports at a good level”.
The journey into mixed martial arts hasn’t been a joint one though, “I was the first to get into MMA”, said Tom. “For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a gut feeling that I was meant for something like MMA. I’ve always been inspired by martial arts and martial artists. Being a fighter always seemed like an honourable thing to become, so I pursued it”.
“For me it was Muay Thai”, said Richard. “I was the first to fight in full contact combat sports at the age of eighteen, but it started with the striking disciplines. It took me three more years to follow Tom into MMA”.
Our conversation moved on through their respective careers. Their likes, dislikes respective targets and opinions. The one thing that struck me was the huge respect these guys have for each other. Never bad mouthing each other, both acutely aware of their respective strengths. Richard is the more dynamic striker, yet Tom has a hugely respectable 5-0 professional record and competes at a higher category in no-gi competitions (usually winning gold), due to his higher grading and superior experience. Both freely admit that Richard has the better career outside of the cage, but whilst they’re competitive, that is purely tongue-in-cheek. They have a fierce desire to help each other succeed and drive each other to greatness; ever self-deprecating, Tom said, “I want nothing more than to see him do well and be the best he can be. This will only motivate me to keep up with him”. “#TeamMearns”, added Richard. There’s even a commonality in their favourite martial artist, Frankie Edgar. Tom described him as “Absolute class. A family man and a damn good fighter. He is persistently impressive and takes out all the scary guys in the division”. For Richard, he is “one of the best pound-for-pound fighters of all time. I don’t think he ever lost the Lightweight belt but fell victim to poor judging”.
Both brothers have clear targets for their personal career steps too. “Aaron Chalmers for me”, said Richard. “I can respect the guy for taking up the training and wanting to compete, it’s a positive thing for anyone to do with their lives, but it’s so insulting to have an MTV juice head, famous for being drunk on TV fighting on a big show like BAMMA. Some people still don’t recognise MMA as a legitimate sport and to have a guy like that on a major platform is harmful to the sport’s credibility. For that reason, I’d have to eliminate him. It wouldn’t be a fight, it would be an execution. Anyone can have a scrap, but just to be a top ranked amateur in the UK involves a lot of sacrifice and suffering. I’ve paid my dues. If I could fight him it would be hard to watch. I’d make an example out of him. A fighter can’t have the recognition of being a real martial artist and professional MMA athlete until they’ve paid theirs”.
Tom was equally as clear in his vision, “I’d fight James Gallagher. This is a fight that should happen. We are both young, unbeaten and entertaining. It probably wouldn’t happen because his team would see me as too much of a threat, which is an awful shame. I’m too competitive and far from a vulnerable fighter, so we all know he can’t and won’t step up to the plate and take me on. The funny thing is, there’s a bit more of a backstory. My coach, Danny Batten, beat his (John Kavanagh) in the cage back in the day, so for sure they won’t want to face me or my team and lose to us again”.
These young men are at the start of their respective journeys, and the future looks very bright for them both. How far they’ll go is anyone’s guess, but one thing you can be sure of is that they’ll get there together. Keep your eyes on these guys. #TeamMearns are coming.