Ryan Dickson has finished all 10 of his wins, eight of them by submission. | Photo: Keith Mills/Sherdog.com
Even if Ryan Dickson never gets a single bout inside the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s hallowed Octagon, the Canadian lightweight prospect has already won one of the most significant fights anyone can win: He is a cancer survivor.
Diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2013, Dickson has remained cancer-free since undergoing surgery and has become a spokesman for the Canadian Cancer Society in the battle against a disease that claims more than 7.6 million lives annually worldwide.
“The way I found out was completely by luck, which is why I want to promote awareness,” said Dickson, who hails from Burlington, Ontario. “I’m a person who waits forever to get things looked at, but I was going to Brazil for three months and wanted to get my Ontario license before I went. When I went to get checked out for my physical, I felt a little off, so I got checked and found out that I had testicular cancer. The day I was supposed to leave for Brazil was when I had the surgery done. They did it a little less than a week after my diagnosis.”
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Remarkably, just two months after his surgery, Dickson returned to fighting, and despite suffering a unanimous decision loss to Tristar Gym’s Alex Garcia in May 2013, he believes he learned some valuable lessons.
“After I had my surgery, I took two weeks off then I started training again,” the 25-year-old Dickson said. “When I went for my follow-up, my surgeon told me to stop training or else I’d develop a hernia. He told me to take four or six weeks off from training, so I took the fight after having six weeks of no training; then when I came back, I was weak. Looking back, I’m glad I did that fight. Going in, I was very cocky. I learned a lot about what I need to do to be at the next level and to be where I wanted to be.”
Dickson still has to make frequent trips to the doctor to make sure his cancer has not returned, but the longer his cancer stays in remission, the less frequent his visits will become.
“Last year, I had to get checked every month,” said Dickson, who has finishes in all 10 of his professional MMA wins. “I had to go twice a year to get a CT scan for a more thorough look. This year, I haven’t had a CT scan and I’m getting checked every two months. Eventually it’ll go to once every four months, then six months, then just once per year.”
Fighting out of Joslin MMA/Tapout Burlington, Dickson has won four straight fights, including earning the Hard Knocks Fighting Championship 155-pound title with a second-round knockout of Dave Mazany in his most recent outing in October. The win was his second at lightweight. Dickson said he plans on staying at 155 pounds for the foreseeable future.
“I did six amateur fights at 170 and was at 170 as a pro,” he said. “I went to 155 to get more fights and because I knew I could get down there. Now that I can do 155, I’d like to make a run at the UFC there. Once I get older, it’ll be tougher to cut, [and] then I’ll go to 170. I think I can make a good name for myself at 155 and go from there.”
Dickson came to mixed martial arts from a varied sports background that included everything from wrestling and powerlifting to hockey.
“I did karate as a little kid, but I don’t really count that,” said Dickson, who holds the rank of purple belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. “I did wrestling for two years in high school and then I stopped that to do powerlifting and bodybuilding. One day, I jumped into a kickboxing class and then I switched to jiu-jitsu. I’ve been training to compete in mixed martial arts for about six years now.”
A first-round armbar of Brett Biederman in August 2011 launched Dickson’s professional MMA career, and he won his first five fights, four via submission, before the loss to Garcia. Another victory in September 2013 earned Dickson a spot on the World Series of Fighting Canada “Ford vs. Powell” roster five months later, but he lost a unanimous decision to Michael Hill. Since then, he has won four straight, culminating with his knockout of Mazany.
“So far, things have been going well,” Dickson said. “I’d prefer to be undefeated, but in my opinion, I don’t count decision wins or losses. I’m going to make this public, but anytime I go to a decision with somebody, I feel like there should be a rematch. I’m very happy with how I’ve finished all my fights and I’m happy with where I am, skill-wise.
To further improve his overall arsenal, Dickson recently spent several months training in Thailand.
“I took some time off since I had a busy year,” he said. “I took two weeks off to heal up some stuff. I did five MMA fights and the BJJ world championships in the span of eight months, so I wanted to recover. I was so busy fighting that I wasn’t developing my skills. I went to Thailand to work on my muay Thai from late December to early February.”
Dickson will defend his lightweight crown against Bellator MMA veteran Jason Fischer, as they headline Hard Knocks Fighting Championship 42 on Friday at the Century Casino in Calgary, Alberta.
“I made a goal as soon as I started MMA -- when I was right at 18 -- that I wanted to be in or close to the UFC by the time I was 24,” Dickson said. “I’m a year late from that goal, but I feel like I’m on track for that goal.”