Canadian-born Ben (Vanilla Thunder) Tynan a winner in his One Championship MMA debut

Canadian-born MMA heavyweight Ben (Vanilla Thunder) Tynan leaves Bangkok, Thailand, with a US$50,000 bonus after winning his debut in the One Championship promotion.

The 29-year-old Tynan (5-0-0) submitted South Korean Ji Won (Mighty Warrior) Kang (6-2-0) on Friday night's One Fight Night 16 card.

Tynan, a former Canadian junior national wrestling champion who grew up in the U.S. and calls himself "Camerican," used his wrestling base to deny Kang's striking. He took the Korean down early each round, punishing him with ground and pound before finishing him off with an arm-triangle choke one minute 22 seconds into the third round.

That earned Tynan the bonus, which was announced in the ring after the bout.

"Hell yeah baby, that's what I'm talking about," said Tynan. "That's life-changing right there. Thank you."

Asked who he wanted to fight next, Tynan had a ready answer.

"Anybody. I don't care who it is. Send anybody you want. Just not anyone you want back."

Tynan celebrated the win by ripping off his Canadian tuxedo T-shirt, a la Hulk.

The main event at Lumpinee Boxing Stadium saw England's Jonathan (The General) Haggerty), the One bantamweight Muay Thai champion, stop Brazil's Fabricio (Wonder Boy) Andrade, the One bantamweight MMA champion, to claim the promotion's vacant 135-pound kickboxing title.

For Tynan, Bangkok was the latest stop on a circuitous route that started in Fort McMurray, Alta.

Tynan now looks to make his mark in One Championship, a combat sports promoter with roots across the Far East and a broadcast deal with Amazon Prime Video.

Tynan is unfazed at signing with a major MMA promotion, saying he just sees it as a "step in my overall plans in MMA."

"It definitely is a big moment but I still have so much more work to do," he said. "I don't really have time to just sit here and kind of celebrate this. I plan to be a world champion one day so I think of this as just a good stepping-stone."

The six-foot-three, 244-pound Tynan went 8-0-0 as an amateur before turning pro.

He needed just 45 seconds to stop American Cody (The Mountain Man) Sheronick in his pro debut in March 2022. He then stopped Trevor Wallace and Lance (Southpaw Outlaw) Lee in the first round in Legacy Fighting Alliance action, needing just four minutes 58 seconds to finish off his first three opponents.

He stopped American Lee Johnson last time out at 1:43 of the second round of an April LFA card. That was followed by a social media post saying: "I am the women’s pet, the men’s regret. If you went against Vanilla, you made a bad bet."

Tynan says One Championship contacted him "in the nick of time." He was tired of fighters avoiding him on regional circuits.

"Now that I'm with a big promotion like One, these high-calibre guys aren't pulling out. They're dogs too. I get to really show my skills and kind of prove myself."

Tynan's father Charles was originally from Fort McMurray, Alta., meeting his wife Lisa on vacation in her native Hawaii.

"It was pretty cool," Ben explained. "He was actually just like a dorky Canadian tourist but he had a lot of game. So he was able to kind (of) persuade my mom to come visit him in Canada (and) win her over."

After his father died in 1995, his mother remarried and the family moved to Seattle in 1999.

"I spent a good chunk of mostly just being a kid in Canada but I have a lot of roots there," Tynan said. "I was always going up there during the summers. My grandparents, aunts and uncles were up there … It's a place I love a lot."

He grew up in the Seattle area and also spent a little time in Hawaii. He started wrestling in middle school before attending Hanford High School in Richland, Wash.

"I've always been a fan of that one-on-one combat feeling," he said.

He won the 2014 Canadian Junior Freestyle National Championship at 264.55 pounds in Edmonton. And he was a walk-on at Highline Community College, a junior college in Des Moines, Wash., where he earned all-America honours to complete a 26-4 sophomore year.

He came north to train at Simon Fraser University while at junior college and contemplated transferring there but eventually made the move to North Dakota State.

He got interested in MMA while at Highline, whose alumni includes former UFC middleweight Trevor (Hot Sauce) Smith.

Tynan now trains at Elevation Fight Team in Denver. He hasn't lost yet.

"I don't want to brag too much but yeah I like to think of myself as being kind of a (tough guy) when it comes to fighting."


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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 4, 2023

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press