Edmonton mixed martial arts fighter Ryan (The Real Deal) Ford has a bit of a checkered past, and now he’s in a mob.
But the good news is, Ford’s hellion days are behind him and the mob, well, it’s not exactly the Hells Angels or the Crips.
Ford, who fights Brazilian welterweight Luis (Sapo) Santos on the Bellator 67 card on Friday night at Casino Rama, is a proud member of the Tristar Dorm Mob. And it’s that affiliation, he said, that will put him in good stead against the more experienced Santos on Friday night.
For the past few months, Ford has been training at the world-famous Tristar Gym in Montreal — a centre of athletic excellence that is home to many a top-quality MMA fighter, including Georges St. Pierre, the UFC welterweight champion, Kenny Florian, Miguel Torres and Mark Bocek. Ford said training at the Tristar gym, and living at the Tristar Dorms, gives him a competitive advantage, which he will use to defeat Santos, a 32-year-old fighter with a 50-7-1 record, who has been fighting professionally since 2000. Ford, on the other hand, is 17-4 and only took up mixed martial arts when he was 25 in 2007. He’s 30 now.
“When you train with beasts, you become a beast,” said Ford, of his recent six-week training camp at Tristar. “But when you’re already a beast, you become a monster.”
Though he was a late starter to MMA, Ford said achieving “beast-like” status as an MMA fighter was a natural progression because he’s always been a good athlete. Ford was a highly touted high school running back and wrestler in Edmonton. But in 2003, at the age of 20, he got caught up with the wrong crowd and ended up serving a four-year prison sentence for his participation in a violent home invasion in Abbotsford, B.C.
When he got out, he tried boxing, then saw some MMA fights on TV and decided to give that a whirl. Now he’s hoping a win against Santos will put him in some big money fights in Bellator and then perhaps on to the UFC — though Bellator is his focus now.
“I’m proud that I’ve turned my life around, but I’m not proud of some of the things I did back in the day,” he said. “But I believe everything happens for a reason. There’s a road everyone goes on. If I had gone the football (scholarship) route, I wouldn’t have met my wife (Nina) and had my two kids (Bella and Ryan Jr.).”
Ford said it’s a sacrifice being away from home and training in Montreal, but it’s worth it. Besides the excellent training facilities and sparring, Ford said working with renowned coach Firas Zahabi is a huge bonus.
“He’s one of the best coaches in the world,” Ford said of Zahabi, who is St. Pierre’s head coach.
He said being invited to live and train at Tristar has been a blessing, even if it isn’t exactly the Ritz.
“It’s a dorm, like in college,” he said. “It’s a floor with about 10 rooms and about 17 guys rolling in and out from all across the world — Canada, South Africa, England ... It’s like a family.”
He said the convenience and, especially, the camaraderie are what make the Tristar Dorms a good place to be. “The dorms are right beside the gym,” Ford said. “All you got to do is wake up, throw on your shoes and walk about 15 feet to the training centre. And after a hard day’s training, you can put your feet up and have a good laugh.”
The good laugh part certainly rings true. Punch up Ryan Ford and Tristar Dorms on YouTube and watch The Real Deal’s Tristar rap. There’s another very funny YouTube video featuring Florian in the dorms.
Ford fully believes he can make it to the top in MMA, but he already has plans for when his fighting days are over. He’s started a clothing line called G’d Up Clothing, which has quite the motto.
“If you get into G’d Up, you ain’t getting beat up,” said Ford, adding that there is actually a legitimate explanation for the name.
“When you get into trouble and you have to build your life back up, that’s what G’d Up means — being in trouble with the law and turning your life around,” he said.