Muay Thai and mixed martial arts offered a young Dylan Lepage redemption when he was bullied as a youth.
Sticking with the sport and a strict training regimen has led Lepage to a chance to fight for a championship belt at Caged Dragon’s Redemption event on Feb. 23 in Brantford.
“In elementary school, I was getting bullied a lot in Grade 7 and 8,” Lepage said. “I tried turning to karate, but it didn’t work for me and the bullies were still getting on me. That’s when (Caged Dragon owner) Todd Whetter opened his gym and I found him.
“I didn’t get bullied anymore.”
That’s not to say Lepage got into fights or completely dismisses other disciplines. The unique and varied training of MMA gave him the confidence to stand up for himself.
“With MMA, you are in there getting punched in the face,” he said. “It’s pure physical fitness and hands-on work. (Other disciplines) felt like I was just going through the motions.”
At first, Lepage was an avid boxer, but he started branching out from there.
He quickly ramped up his training to six days a week, doing classes in several martial arts, as well as fitness and running.
“It’s addictive,” Lepage said. “I’m more respected in this sport and respect a lot of the people in this sport. It’s hard work.”
Now at 19 years of age and with 26 amateur Muay Thai fights under his belt, he will be challenging for a World Amateur Muay Thai Association of Canada welterweight title.
“I have to gain some weight for the (145 pound) bout,” Lepage said. “I don’t know too much about my opponent. He is from Guelph, a southpaw and is a big boy. He has to cut for the bout.”
The fight will be part of the Redemption card being staged by Caged Dragon.
With anywhere from 13 to 15 fights being planned for the evening at Mohawk College, Whetter said the success of the Undisputed card last November at the Best Western Brant Park Inn allowed for a quick turnaround on another show.
“The last show was electric and the quality of Muay Thai was excellent,” Whetter said. “We are very excited to be bringing an event like this back to Brantford again.”
The name of the card – Redemption – was arrived at after local fighters went 0-5 at Undisputed.
“We will be looking for a little redemption,” Whetter said.
Aside from Lepage, Kyle Towler, Alex Rozicki and Bailey Castledine will be representing Caged Dragon on the card.
The rest of the fighters are coming from other gyms around the region.
“We are very appreciative of the support from other clubs,” Whetter said. “We couldn’t put these shows on without them.”
Because of the success of Undisputed, Whetter decided to seek a larger venue for this show. Mohawk College will be able to accommodate nearly 800 people.
Tickets, available at Caged Dragon on Copernicus Boulevard, cost $25 for the bleachers, $35 for the floor or $500 for a VIP table that seats eight.
Lepage thinks he will have a big hometown advantage in his title fight.
“I’ll have a lot of friends and family there to support me,” he said. “I think the crowd will be good to the ‘Brantford boy’ as well.”