Whitehorse’s Ryan Leef will have some familiar faces in his corner as he takes to the octagon in the Armageddon Fighting Championship 4 (AFC 4) this Saturday in Victoria.
Thanks to some recently acquired local sponsorships, the 36-year-old will have cornermen from Whitehorse, both training partners, as he takes part in his second professional mixed martial arts (MMA) bout.
“Last time I went down and had some guys working the corner for me that were very talented fellows from Vancouver, but hadn’t trained with me and didn’t know my game very well,” said Leef. “So we didn’t have that chemistry that is needed in your corner.
“I’ve been training with Charles a long time and with John just over a month, and we’re building that chemistry and they know my style, they know my strengths, they know my weaknesses.
“They know that I tend to lean back when I get tired and they’ll be able to cue into that real quick and snap me out of it.”
In his corner for the fight will be striking coach Charles Eshleman and judoka John Hawthorne, who can give Leef advice and instruction based on a familiarity with his fighting style.
“He’s been my main muay tai and striking coach the whole time,” said Leef of Eshleman. “He’s been in kickboxing and muay tai fights before – I don’t think MMA exactly – and he’s trained in Thailand and other places. So he’s well versed with the striking game and the competitive end of working a corner.
“He’s going to be setting up the stand-up game for me in the corner. Then I have John Hawthorne, and he’s with the judo club, and he’s going to work all the ground strategy for me.”
Leef will be fighting in the second bout of the evening, taking on kickboxer Cory Gower, who has a 1-0 profession fight record in the 135-pound class.
“Just looking at his profile, he’s taller and leaner than me, so we’re working that reach game and what kind of reach advantage he’s going to have over me,” said Leef. “Other than that, we don’t have a lot of knowledge of his ground game skills. So we’re just making the assumption that since he’s a kickboxer, he’s a great kickboxer. This guy has got to be a great kickboxer and this is what a kickboxer does.”
In his first professional bout, at AFC 2 in March, Leef was beaten by undefeated fighter Diego Wilson (5-0) in just under two minutes. In the fight, Leef was choked out in the opening round, getting pounced on after slipping during a kick.
Over the past months Leef has been training twice a day and “really jacked it up,” last week. Now, in the final days before the fight, Leef is sticking to light training and will need to drop 12 pounds before Friday’s weigh-in.
“It’s a lot of weight, but I’ve gotten pretty good at it now,” said Leef. “It’s all hydration – it’s all water. It’s just pouring water out. So I’ll be in the sauna in the morning, wearing my warm-up gear, and I’ll go in and do some striking drills and on the spot jogging. I’ll dump the weight.
“After the weigh-in I’ll be rebuilding my electrolytes and all the fluid I loss, at the right pace so I’m not gorging myself with water or energy stuff.
“Eight of the 12 pounds I lose I’ll be able to build back before the fight. If I do it right, I may be able to do 10.”
Helping Leef make the best of his opportunity are sponsors Mic Mac Toyota, Better Bodies Crosstraining Centre and local film production company Low Life Films, which has been helping with marketing.
“Without everyone coming out since the original articles in the papers, I would still be forced to head down alone and see what I can do,” said Leef. “AFC would still put a corner together for me, but then you’re missing that chemistry, that late-round knowledge of what I’m going to do when I get tired.”
With a background in high school wrestling and distance running, Leef only began training in self-defence systems in 2000, starting with goshin ryu tai jutsu, in which he now holds a black belt. He went on to expand his field of training through various law enforcement positions he has occupied over the last decade, including with the RCMP, as a wildlife and games warden with Environment Yukon, and now as deputy superintendent of operations at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre.
AFC 4, which is sort of a smaller Canadian equivalent to America’s massive Ultimate Fighting Challenge (UFC), will be televised on the Fight Network at a later date, but the event can be watched live online by ordering it through armegeddonfc.com. The action begins at 7 p.m.
“I hope I can pay back everybody’s efforts back, both their time, their emotional support of me and their financial support by, well, kicking this guy’s butt,” said Leef. “I don’t know how you say it politely in the fight game.”
Contact Tom Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org