Ode Osbourne has always had a solid team behind him since he started his martial arts journey.
And the memory of the man who helped him get his foot in the door still lingers.
Osbourne, 28, made his amateur MMA debut in 2013, originally starting his training at small gym in Waukesha, Wisc. It was there that he worked with Reese Shaner, the man he still refers to as “probably the best martial arts instructor of all-time.” Keep in mind, since leaving Waukesha MMA, Osbourne has trained with the likes of Duke Roufus and former UFC fighter Zak Ottow, among other respected members of the MMA community, so that gives you some idea of how high in regard he holds Shaner.
Were it not for Shaner’s untimely passing in August 2015, the two might still be working together today.
“He passed away in a motorcycle accident,” recently told MMA Fighting. “The thing he loved to do was martial arts and ride his motorcycle. He was very spiritual and zen and it was one of the ways that he would have time for himself. He actually would pick me up on the bike. It’s funny because he was a grown man and he had this fighter on the back of his bike.
“At the time, I didn’t have a car or anything, so Reese would go out of his way every day and pick me up and take me to the gym.”
In Osbourne, Shaner didn’t just see someone who needed a helping hand, he saw an athlete with a legitimate shot of making it as a fighter. Osbourne has proven him right so far, going 8-2 (with one no contest) to start his pro career and earning a UFC contract with a first-round submission victory on the Contender Series last July. He makes his debut for the promotion Saturday when he fights Brian Kelleher in a bantamweight bout on the main card of UFC 246 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
Osbourne credits his close relationship with Shaner for pushing him to the next level as a martial artist.
“For me, Reese was way more than an instructor. He was a mentor to me, he was like a father figure, he was very, very positive role model in my life,” Osbourne said. “He was at my house almost every day, I was at his house almost every single day. We went to church together every Sunday. We spent the duration of our time together because I was still the one from the gym that he dedicated all of his time into because he saw something special within me that he sparked.
“He’s the one that sparked that fire in me and he saw something from day one, he saw something special within me, and he put all his time and dedication, not just by being a coach but by being like a father figure to me and it paid off huge because I never really had that.”
Growing up in Kingston, Jamaica, Osbourne lived primarily with his grandmother and then his great grandmother. His mother had him when she was 18 and still in school, and his father moved away to England when he was seven, so it took a joint effort to raise Osbourne, an only child.
Though Osbourne recalls climbing trees and going on little adventures, he also remembers the struggles he and his family went through.
“When I first lived with my grandma, we didn’t have hot water,” Osbourne said. “First I lived with my mom’s mother and then my mom’s mother’s mother, so my grandma and then my great grandma. My first grandma, we had an outhouse, so I had to go outside to use the bathroom. We had to shower outside. We didn’t have any plumbing. The kitchen was off to the side, another area. We used our resources very well, I’ll just say that.”
It became Osbourne’s goal to find purpose beyond the island and the first step was joining his mother in America. She’d also left Jamaica when he was seven, but worked hard for two years so that she could save up enough money to bring him over to Brooklyn. Osbourne bounced around from there, making a stop in Florida where he went to high school and played football alongside future Indianapolis Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissette. By his own recollection, his gridiron career wasn’t anything to write home about, but he did excel as a member of the school’s wrestling team.
That talent served him well when he ended up in Waukesha, where Shaner took him under his wing. After Shaner’s death, Osbourne spent some time at Roufusport in Milwaukee, then joined the Pura Vida BJJ team where he currently trains.
Outside of fighting, he found his passion working as a teacher, and he brings a lot of the lessons he learned with Shaner into the classroom.
“Motivation, structure, and discipline. Those are the three fundamentals I use,” Osbourne said. “The same fundamentals I use in martial arts, that’s what I use in the school. That’s what Reese taught me. A trainer motivates his fighter; a teacher motivates their kids.
“You have to have discipline in order to make weight and you have to have discipline in order to stay focused. Same thing in the school, you have to have discipline in order to study instead of playing Fortnite. You’ve got to teach them to be able to have those certain disciplines to come to school everyday on time and do their homework and stuff like that. And the structure of it, it’s just the concepts.”
Osbourne is keeping everything in perspective heading into his UFC debut. He’s not interested in dissecting his matchup with Kelleher, instead preferring to talk about how proud he is to be able to provide a positive example for his students.
After all, he understands the value of a strong teacher-student relationship.
“It’s not even an egotistical thing or I have this chip on my shoulder—I kind of too—but it’s more like I have so many other things that I want to be able to do,” Osbourne said. “I’ve got these kids that their grades are low, I’ve got a lot of these kids who are in poverty, I’ve got these kids who need help. I’ve got these kids who really need a lot.
“I don’t care about Brian Kelleher. There’s so many people that really need my help at the moment. So should I be watching him on YouTube or should I be figuring out ways to get their test scores up?”