Behind The Gloves: Jahnis “The Maori Shinobi” Bowden

City Kickboxing boasts an impressive roster of talented athletes, one of which is Jahnis Bowden. Bowden, who is 4-1 in amateur MMA and 1-1 in amateur kickboxing, was scheduled to compete at Shuriken Fight Series 8 on March 28 against Shuriken MMA’s Ollie Smidt for the Shuriken Amateur Featherweight New Zealand MMA title. However due to the nationwide lockdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic that bout has been postponed.

A hardworking, dedicated and focused mixed martial artist, Bowden made time for NZ Fighter to tell us more about himself, his career, life at CKB, and how he sees combat sport developing in the coming years.

It all began for Bowden when he was 16 and started training jiu-jitsu with his ex-partner's dad.

"He was a big, tough, intimidating looking Samoan man. The biggest, strongest brother of 5 in family of rugby league heads. He said to me, if I wanna take his daughter out I better know how to defend her so he took me to a small basement under a house where a bunch of sweaty men learnt how to choke each other out. It was Steve Oliver's first gym, in the basement of his house, before Oliver MMA was established. And I was the only kid there."

After a couple of months of training, Bowden landed his first submission on a fully grown man.

"I was hooked. It blew my mind. I asked my parents to pay the gym fees so I could train but they couldn't at the time so my training stopped for a while, which was not until I had my own job and house and was paying my own bills. Then I went back to the now Oliver MMA and signed up."

He competed for the first time, not long after that, when he participated in a jiu-jitsu competition, after committing to 10 weeks of intensive training.

"I won gold in my division and never looked back, and began training as much as I could every day but Oliver at the time, lacked day time MMA classes and a full schedule outside of afternoon training. I wanted morning day and night, I hadn't even had an MMA fight, but I knew I wanted to, so I looked to train at the best place possible, so I knew I was fully prepared."

Bowden had just started exploring the possibility of training overseas at gyms like AKA and ATT when he came by CKB.

"By fate... I seen a post by the only current UFC fighter based in NZ at the time, beside Mark Hunt, Daniel Hooker, who was doing a competition to have dinner with him and stay at Sky City hotel and watch the UFC. I shot my shot and won."

The following weekend Bowden was watching fights with Hooker, and what he discovered led to his decision to begin training at CKB.

"I found out he trained with all these super talented NZ fighters, all on the cusp of the UFC at city kickboxing, and they have a full-time MMA schedule… I had to try a class. But my gym wasn't so keen. So when I left Oliver MMA, I didn't have their blessing at all, but I knew it was the right thing."

After a few months at CKB, his head coach, Eugene Bareman, said he was ready to compete. Bowden committed to 10 weeks of training, similar to what he had done prior to his first competitive bout. However, this time it was for an MMA fight.

"[I] won in the second round via RNC and absolutely loved it. Since then, MMA has become my whole life."

When asked about what motivated him to participate in martial arts, Bowden says he loves to compete.

"In every aspect. I will do everything to win. I used to love rugby league and the physicality of it but couldn't stand teammates who didn't give it their all. MMA gave me that, and I didn't have to rely on anyone else to win."

His advice for someone considering taking up the sport is to give it a go and try it out for themselves.

"[The] hardest thing is walking through the door or beginning. It's always daunting at the start, but once you go/do it, it's always a great time regardless of how you felt before. And if you don't enjoy it at least you tried you've got nothing to lose. Everyone begins from scratch, even the best in the world. You have to start somewhere."

Bowden answered a few more questions about his fight night rituals, dream opponents, CKB and combat sport for NZ Fighter.

Do you watch or follow other sport?

Used to love Rugby league but left the sport to do MMA. These days all my time is spent training or watching fights so no time for other sports, other than sub mma sports like jiu jitsu and wrestling.

What do you do before and after a fight?

Before I fight I just like to sleep tbh lol, and once I get to the arena, I just try to enjoy every moment of the whole experience. (After) Food!! Usually burgers and shakes, and I like to watch the fight over ASAP, at least a few times.

How do you pick our walkout song

There's a bunch of walkout songs I have stored for the right occasions just from listening to music throughout the years. But I always toss it up last minute and end up going with something that gets me amped up and that I've been listening to recently.

I have a dream to make a walkout song and I know exactly how I want it to go but waiting for the right person to help create it. One day.

Do you have any dream opponent(s)?

Bruce Lee, how cool would it be to test your skills against a legend but I think he's a bit light to be fair. (Alive) Connor McGregor. It will happen one day if he's still around 😉.

What effect do you think the global exposure of City Kickboxing had on the gym and NZ?

I think it's insane how fast CKB has risen. I got there just before Izzy (Adesanya) was in the UFC, before Dan (Hooker) was on a win streak at light weight, before Kai (Kara France) was in the UFC and Shane (Young) had just lost his debut. Since then it's been nothing but pure success, and I've been lucky enough to experience most of it and watch it unfold.

What do you think of combat sport right now, and what will it be like in 5 years, both in NZ and overseas?

I think it's only gonna grow. UFC is only 25 years old, and now there are a bunch of other organizations doing well and getting good exposure for the athletes. People like Connor (McGregor) and Izzy are transcending the sport and it's only growing year by year. It's also blowing up in NZ right now with the success of CKB, I see a few more belts making their way down to our side of the world in the next 5 years

A well-spoken, intelligent and interesting mixed martial artist, when he is not training at CKB, or in a fight camp, Bowden can often be found teaching kids classes.NZ MMA fans would be wise to to keep an eye on Bowden whenever he steps into the cage, and to stay up-to-date with Bowden and his MMA career, you can follow him on Instagram at: @jahjitsu_mma

Written by Agent 33