If the election of former mixed martial artist Ryan Leef as MP wasn’t enough, the opening of a second MMA gym in Whitehorse proves the Yukon loves combat sports.
Chaos Combat Club opened in mid-September on Galena Road in the Marwell area, and with little to no advertising, already has over 30 members.
“Chaos was my fighting name,” explained owner/operator Sheldon Casselman. “I got it when fighting at Urban MMA.”
The Whitehorse native recently returned to the Yukon after competing in MMA for seven years around Vancouver, where he produced a 7-1 amateur record and a 1-0 professional record.
“And I’m still in the midst of fighting too,” said the 29-year-old. “I want to make sure the gym is running smooth and then I’ll focus on training again.”
The gym has something for everyone, offering classes in MMA, wrestling, freestyle grappling, kickboxing and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for men, women, youth and kids, as well as for couples.
“I have about six couples coming here and I told them every second Sunday we could all get together and do a couples class,” said Casselman. “The women can take out all their frustration on the men.”
Availability and convenience is high on the gym’s priority list.
It’s open 11 to 12 hours a day, six days a week. With different classes offered through the week, members can pick and choose what they’d like to work on. They can also decide their level of commitment between going a few times a week and getting an unlimited membership.
“There are lots of people that have good stand-up skills but are wanting a lot of instruction in wrestling, freestyle grappling or Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu,” said Casselman. “People are really enjoying the structured classes because, One: they are getting taught. Two: they have the option of practising the technique and then putting it into an actual match. It’s one thing to be taught it in a class, it’s another thing to do it in a match.
“We do all types of different classes,” he added. “I do strength and conditioning classes too, so with plyometric and isometric contractions three times a week.”
More than a place to train, the gym will eventually become a gateway to getting into the ring at an amateur, or even a professional, level.
“I have four or five guys saying they want to go out and do professional fighting, as well as amateur fighting,” said Casselman. “I still have ties from when I was fighting in Vancouver. They can fight at Battlefield Fights and Fight Valley. The gyms I trained at in Vancouver are welcoming us with open arms to come back and keep training there.”
In addition to a wrestling history, Casselman has a black belt in MMA, coming from a second-degree black belt in Taekwondo and a purple belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He was also a co-owner of Urban MMA in Surrey, BC, where he trained with Canadian UFC fighter Kalib Starnes.
“I left my ties down there. My wife and I missed the Yukon and everything drew me back here to open up a gym,” said Casselman. “I’m from here, all my friends are here, so it just made sense to come back and open up a gym.”
In addition to the things you’d expect in a MMA gym – heavy bags, judo mats, kicking shields, focus mitts, Thai pads, speed bags, medicine balls, etc. – the gym houses a 16-by-16 foot MMA ring (like a boxing ring but with more padding and an additional rope).
The Chaos Club also has licensed instructors, including Casselman, his bother Shane and Charles Eshleman, who helped train Leef for his fights before he entered the blood sport of politics.
“We have a well-rounded group of guys there that are really good instructors,” said Casselman.
With Avalanche MMA opening almost a year ago in Riverdale, Chaos is the second MMA gym to come to Whitehorse.
In fact, when visiting the Yukon four or five years ago, Casselman spent a few months training at Peak Fitness where he met Avalanche owner/operator Cliff Schultz.
“No one was doing MMA up here. When I came back, I didn’t want to lose what I had started, so I went to Peak Fitness … and asked if we could use their aerobics facility,” said Casselman. “About three weeks into it Cliff showed up, eager to learn about the art, and he hasn’t stopped since.
“I want to congratulate him for opening up his own gym. All his fighters are going out, kicking ass and they haven’t lost yet. That means they’re doing it right, training hard, and I want to tip my hat to them. They’re doing great.
“Cliff and I have known each other for years and he’s a great guy.”
For more information, contact Sheldon Casselman at (867) 335-9608 or find them on Facebook under Chaos Combat.
Contact Tom Patrick at