An Edmonton mixed martial arts fighter will make his UFC debut at Rogers Place next month, after seven years of fighting around the world.
At Frank Lee’s Muay Thai kickboxing gym in central Edmonton, photos of famous fighters, legends and long-time members cover the walls. In the gym’s ring, Tanner Boser trains to be one of them.
The 250-pound heavyweight works on his striking and footwork as his kickboxing trainer Keijiro Noda absorbs the blows through pads.
With each strike, Boser’s mullet swings across his neck as Noda critiques and encourages him over the loud, energetic music in the gym.
After Boser, or The Bulldozer as he’s nicknamed, finishes an hour and a half later, he drives to Little Sweatshop in Sherwood Park.
After a commissioned urine test, he heads to the upstairs of the warehouse gym, joining a session full of Brazilian jiu jitsu disciples.
He works on his wrestling and BJJ for another couple of hours on mats and inside an octagon ring.
The 27-year-old trains six days a week, up to seven hours before heading to his evening job as a bouncer. His rigorous training has paid off.
On July 27 inside Rogers Place, Boser will fight Brazil’s Giacomo Lemos at UFC 240.
It will be Boser’s UFC debut in front of a hometown crowd. Boser grew up in Bonnyville, about 240 kilometres northeast of Edmonton. He expects at least a hundred friends and family to cheer him on in the arena.
“I have a lot of people from town and a lot of people from here,” Boser said. “I think I’m the only fighter from Alberta on the card so it’s pretty exciting.”
His coach, Jeff Montemurro, will be in his corner at Rogers Place. He wasn’t surprised when he heard Boser would be making his UFC debut.
“I was elated. He’s been working so hard for it,” Montemurro said. “He never tried to rush it. He didn’t have the sense of entitlement. He’s like, ‘I’m going to keep fighting and keep fighting.’
“As long as he works hard, it’s going to come to him. He’s got such a good attitude and he’s such a good person. He deserves it.”
Montemurro is excited that fans who attend UFC 240 will become familiar with Boser and see what he can do in the octagon.
Boser signed a four-fight contract with the UFC, but the promoter can cut him after a loss.
His seven-year MMA career while fighting for Absolute Championship Akhmat and M-1 Global has taken him to Kazakhstan, Russia, United Arab Emirates and Europe.
“Fighting in all the crazy places I’ve fought has been pretty surreal. All of them,” Boser said.
“Fighting in Grozny, Chechnya, a place where you can’t just go. Getting driven in a van through Dagestan, [Russia], to get there through some pretty wild circumstances is pretty crazy.”
Between his overseas fights, he’s been featured on Unified MMA cards held in the Edmonton area.
But Boser almost didn’t get to this point. About three years ago, he decided to take a break from fighting to focus on another career.
“I thought, ‘You know, I’m tired of scraping by. I think I’m gonna get a real grown-up job.’ So I went and I did my EMR course,” he said.
While planning to take an Emergency Medical Technician course toward becoming a paramedic, it was interrupted by his itch to get back in the ring. He called his manager and told him to book him a fight.
“When I came back and was training full time again, it felt like it’s what I should be doing,” he said.
Whether or not he spoils Lemos’s perfect 5-0 record, one thing is for sure: Boser will continue his strict, grueling routine in gym after gym preparing for the next fight.