Yukoner to enter the cage in AFC 4

It can't always be easy to be a coworker of Whitehorse's Ryan Leef - at least when he wants to get some practice in. "I work on grappling - a bunch of my coworkers up at the correctional centre donate their time and their bodies to wrestle around."

It can’t always be easy to be a coworker of Whitehorse’s Ryan Leef – at least when he wants to get some practice in.

“I work on grappling – a bunch of my coworkers up at the correctional centre donate their time and their bodies to wrestle around,” he said. “I work with them quite a bit.”

The 36-year-old is currently training twice a day, seven days a week, as he prepares for his second AFC (Armageddon Fighting Championship) appearance November 6 in Victoria, BC.

“I’m getting in a pile of workouts and I just mix it up between grappling and boxing,” said Leef. “I’ve been getting out to the boxing club hosted by Jesse Staffen, and he’s a great coach with lots of experience. I trained for AFC 2 – and now 4 – with Charles Eshleman, who’s just a fantastic striking and muay tai coach.”

In what will be his second professional mixed martial arts bout, Leef will be opening the show fighting kick boxer Cory Gower, who has a 1-0 profession fight record, in the 135-pound class.

“If I can pick up some video of him, I’ll watch it. But I’m not going to spend a lot more time focusing on improving myself and changing my fight game a bit, not worrying about adapting to anyone else’s style,” said Leef. “The AFC 2 video of me is out, and if Gower spends a whole bunch of time studying that and thinks he has me figured out, it’ll be a colossal waste of his time because I will not be same fighter – he’ll be in for a surprise.”

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.

“I think at the time he was ranked fifth in Canada in the weight-class above me, but cut weight to fight,” said Leef. “That was my first fight and the promoter asked me, ‘Do you really want to fight this guy in your first go-around?’ And I said, ‘I’m going to have to fight him some day, I may as well.’”

In the bout Leef was choked out in the opening round, getting pounced on after slipping during a kick.

“I’m working on keeping my kicks in check,” said Leef. “In that one I kicked him and slipped and he just jumped all over me.

“I want to slow the fight down a little bit. We came out – no touching hands – just banging and it was really fast.”

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.

Now, having reached his instructor rating in the Pressure Points Control Tactics (PPCT) system, besides providing instruction to government employees, twice a year he holds a free self-defence clinic at the Victoria Faulkner Women’s Shelter.

“Through those fields I started taking defensive tactics instructional programs and I became a defensive tactics instructor for the Conservation Officer Service and now the Department of Justice,” said Leef. “I’ve trained a number of groups and I run mainly government groups, like the enforcement field.”

In fact, Leef’s decision to once again enter the octagon is partly inspired by how it might benefit his students and hopefully cement his credibility as someone who knows what it’s like to take on a world-class fighter in an all-out bout.

“They are going to listen a lot harder when I say I know this because I’ve been in the cage – I’ve done this,” said Leef. “There is a need for me to speak intelligently about a topic.

“If you’re a karate black belt, no one cares anymore, in this regard,” he added. “I’m not trying to minimize what it takes to become a black belt in any system, but people have a tremendous interest in mixed martial arts as a sport and it’s gaining huge popularity.

“There’s a question mark in the world of law enforcement of where this fits in – how do we deal with the next generation of skilled fighter. From my perspective as a working professional that trains in defensive tactics, the best way to find out is to get in the cage and check it out.”

While his body is undoubtedly a lethal weapon if he wants it to be, his first love might hold some disadvantages when applied to AFC fighting.

Goshin ryu tai jutsu relies more on using the movements of opponents against them, instead of simply exchanging kicks and punches, and it utilizes a lot of arresting and control techniques applicable to law enforcement, but some of its fundamentals are not allowed.

“It has some limitations because in MMA you can’t do small-joint manipulation, which is a lot of what goshin ryu tai jutsu is – wrist locks, twist locks, wrist holds,” said Leef.

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 on-line by ordering it through armegeddonfc.com.

Contact Tom Patrick at

tomp@yukon-news.com