Like many young Canadians, Ryan Dickson dreamt of someday making his living in the world of professional hockey. But Dickson, like more than a few of his fellow countrymen, learned at a young age that big-league hockey most likely wasn’t in his future.
“With hockey in Canada, you know if you’re going to go pro when you’re pretty young,” the 23-year-old Burlington product says. “Some of the guys that I played with were drafted to the Ontario Hockey League, and they were getting talked to by NHL teams. I knew it wasn’t in the cards because I wasn’t getting talked to.”
With Dickson’s dream job seemingly out of the question, he decided to try his hand at a sport that mirrors hockey in more than a few ways—mixed martial arts. Within a week of training under Jeff Joslin, a Hamilton-born Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt and UFC veteran, the then-17-year-old Dickson was hooked on his new sport.
Half a decade since first stepping foot in a mixed-martial-arts academy, Dickson, still a student at Joslin’s MMA in Hamilton, has become even more infatuated with fighting.
“There’s so much to it,” the former forward and defenseman says. “There are guys at Brock wrestling who just manhandle me in wrestling, and there are guys who, like when I went to train in Brazil and this friend that I have here from Brazil, who just destroy me in jiu-jitsu.
“If I was always beating people, I think it might get a little boring, but every day in training I see where I could be—it’s a reality-check—and that’s what keeps me going. I’m very competitive.”
Dickson’s passion for fighting—or improving as a fighter, at least—has so far translated into an impressive resume.
The 5'10'', 170-pound contender fought his way to an undefeated amateur record before making the jump to the professional ranks of the sport in the summer of 2011. Since Dickson’s professional debut—a first-round submission victory—he has reeled off four stoppage wins in four outings, including two under the Score Fighting Series banner.
Dickson has fought progressively tougher competition with every bout, he says, and if that trend continues, he feels that his third or fourth fight from today could very well be with the UFC. Dickson would like little more than to land in the UFC at this point—it is the NHL of MMA, after all—but he has bigger goals than signing a single contract.
“Even when I get to the UFC, there are always places to go,” says Dickson, who moonlights as an instructor at Burlington’s TapouT Training Centre. “I want to be the champ. But like Ben Henderson, he’s the champ, but he wants to be pound for pound. There are always new goals—there is always room to grow.”
Ed Kapp is a Regina, Saskatchewan-based freelance journalist. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations were obtained firsthand.