Heading for the Top


Trent Ernst, Editor

Kanyon Gleeson has a simple goal: he wants to rule the world.

His world, in this case, is Muay Thai and its more popular younger brothers, Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) and Ultimate Fighting. It’s an audacious goal, but one that coach Paul Rosborough thinks is within reach of the young fighter.

So, how does one of MMA’s hottest potential up and comers wind up in Tumbler Ridge. Gleeson shrugs. “My coach stole me.”

Gleeson is only 18, but is already four and zero as a fighter, taking on guys who are nearly twice his age. “I’ve been doing it since I was little,” says Gleeson, who was attracted to the sport through martial arts movies and watching Ultimate Fighting on TV. “My whole family has been fighters, going back generations. In my family it’s not hockey, it was fighting. I was blessed to find Paul, so now I’ve got a good coach.”

Rosborough, a former fighter himself (he was once ranked number three in the country), was born in William’s Lake, but moved away when he was 16 to Parksville, on Vancouver Island, where he trained under Richard LeStrage. “I went back to Williams Lake to help a friend train for a fight,” says Rosborough. “I stayed there for eight weeks training him, and I just had people coming to me, so I opened a big gym. I had a 4000 square foot gym.”

After a few years, Rosborough decided running a big gym wasn’t for him. He prefers, he says, working with people one on one. “I like training competitive fighters,” says Rosborough, “So I work with a few guys at a time. You get a lot of fluff in the gym. You get maybe two guys like Kanyon out of 500, and that’s what I was after, so I shut the gym down and started training small groups.

Before he could train others, though, Rosborough had to be trained. While on Vancouver Island, he trained with Richard LeStage, who Rosborough describes as “probably the best boxing coach in Western Canada.”

When he stopped fighting, Rosborough was third-ranked in Canada and held the BC Title and the Western Canadian Title. “I ran my course with the fighting, and got into training instead. I’ve been doing this since I was 15-years old.” He’s been working as a trainer for the past four years. “Once you’ve fought, you’ll never walk away from it completely.”

Rosborough now works at the Wolverine Mine and spends his off hours, training with Gleeson and a handful of other locals. “Kanyon has got a lot of God-given talent,” says Rosborough. “He’s got a great work ethic, he’s young enough and he wants it. I probably wouldn’t be training anyone if he wasn’t up here. This isn’t like a gym. This isn’t for profit. It’s for the love of the sport.”

The plan, says Rosborough, is to spend a few years building Gleeson’s skills. “He’s going to go the MMA route down the road, but we’re just trying to get him a pedigree in the stand-up fighting: boxing, kick boxing. That’s my specialty. We’re working with the guys in Fort St. John at Five-Star athletics. They’ve got some good pros there.”

For now, says Rosborough, Tumbler Ridge is a perfect place for Gleeson to be. Not only does it allow them the ability to train one-on-one every day, there are less distractions. “The cold takes a bit of getting used to,” Gleeson comments.

But how does one go from Tumbler Ridge (with a population of fighters that can be counted on one hand), to the top of the Ultimate Fighting game? With patience, says Gleeson. “I’m not fully grown yet. Once I get my man-strength, I’ll focus on MMA. It’s a long road, but if you’re focused, it’s not really that long at all.”

It will be a few years before Gleeson is ready. “He has to mature,” says Rosborough. “That’s where people screw up. It takes a long time to be a true professional. To get your skills, your strength, your fundamentals, and your pedigree in the ring. That takes time. It doesn’t happen in one or two years. He’s 18 now. When he’s 23, 24, 25 he’ll be ready. We don’t even know what weight he’ll be fighting at. He’s fighting at 155 right now. But I want him at his fighting weight before I even think of turning him pro.”

The secret, says Rosborough, is the get him grounded in the fundementals of boxing and kick boxing. “There’s not a lot of good stand-up fighters in the MMA,” says Rosborough. “I can see a lot of holes in their game. We’re going to have to get Kanyon a good jujitsu and wrestling coach, because that’s not my game. But a lot of these guys are rushed, and I see a lot of holes where a guy like Kanyon can get to the top pretty quick. A lot of guys get the phone call to go the UFC and they’re not ready, they get smacked around and that’s it, they never get called again. We’re fighting him in the ring to get him that experience. It’s a long road, but it’s a doable one. Him accomplishing his goals is me accomplishing mine.”

Rosborough points to another BC boy, Rory Macdonald, who appears to have done it right. The 23-year-old Macdonald, a Welterweight out of Quesnel BC who is 14-1-0 in UFC. He’s one of the top guys in UFC right now.”

Gleeson will be fighting January 26 in Dawson Creek against Hector Backwater.

In February, Gleeson will be fighting for a MMA-BC Title. “He’s fighting a kid he’s already fought and beat,” says Rosborough. If all goes well, and he’s not to worn out from the February fight, he will be fighting for a CMTA title on March 22 in Vancouver, hopefully for another title with another sanctioning body. And then in June, Rosborough says he’s hoping to have a series of fights up here. “I’m also training a guy named Jason Bradley, he wants to fight. He’s really green, but he’s really keen. I’ve got the fighters, I’ve got the contacts and I think this town would really like it.”

Rosborough says another reason that Tumbler Ridge is such a good place for Gleeson is that it is off the MMA map. A place where he can take his time training without the pressure to go to the big time prematurely.

And when that time comes, what then? Says Gleeson, “I want to take this as far as I possibly can. It’s all I ever wanted and I won’t settle for anything less.

“I want to be the best.”