‘I’m Bred For Combat’ – How Ben Tynan Became One Of The Most Promising Heavyweights In MMA

Ben Tynan Kang Ji Won ONE Fight Night 16 80

Ben “Vanilla Thunder” Tynan plans on being the next big star in ONE Championship’s heavyweight MMA division.  

The unbeaten Canadian can take another step toward that goal at ONE Fight Night 21: Eersel vs. Nicolas on Prime Video this Friday, April 5, when he faces Australian veteran Duke “The Duke of Canberra” Didier in a clash of elite grapplers. 

With a 5-0 professional record and the charisma to match his skills, Tynan seemingly has all the tools to reach the top. 

Ahead of his return to action in U.S. primetime, find out how the self-proclaimed “late bloomer” grew into “Vanilla Thunder” – one of the world’s most promising heavyweight mixed martial artists.

Early Influences

Tynan was born in Fort McMurray, Canada, where he grew up alongside four siblings.

Despite the city’s severe winters, “Vanilla Thunder’s” dad had managed to persuade his wife to relocate there from the warmer climate of Hawaii and start a family.

Perhaps an indication of where he inherited his own charm, Tynan explained: 

“My father was from northern Canada. My mom was raised in Hawaii, and he met her on vacation. He was a dorky-looking tourist guy, but he had a lot of game and convinced her to move to Canada. Which is a shocker because Fort McMurray is way up there away from everything.  

“But yeah, they had five kids. I’m the youngest of them all. The best looking of them all. But I got some really cool siblings, and we’re all super close.” 

Tynan sadly lost his father while he was still young, but because of the close-knit and loving relationships around him, he still enjoyed his upbringing. 

However, he does cite his dad’s influence as one of the determining factors in his move toward combat, alongside the other pop culture influences of his youth. 

The 30-year-old offered: 

“I’ve always liked fighting. I feel like I’m bred for combat, it’s in my DNA. I come from a lot of fighters. My dad was a fighter.  

“He died when I was a little kid. So I was raised by my mom and my older siblings. It was cool having them mentor me, but at the same time, having five kids, we were rough on each other. That definitely toughened me up too. 

“But yeah, I think there’s so many things [that influenced me]. ‘Dragonball Z’ is one of them. And I watched so much professional wrestling as a kid, ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin and The Rock, and I used to always be like, ‘It’d be cool to be a professional wrestler!’” 

A Late Start On The Mats 

Tynan’s oldest brother, Bruce, seven years his senior, was his biggest role model and often kick-started the youngest sibling’s interest in different hobbies. 

So, when the family moved to Seattle, USA, and Bruce started wrestling in high school, it was inevitable that “Vanilla Thunder” would do the same.  

He recalled: 

“My oldest brother was like my father figure. He wrestled a year in high school, and I often followed in his footsteps. So, I decided, ‘Alright, I’m gonna wrestle too.’  

“My family weren’t really wrestlers. I come from a track family. My mom was runner-up in State for sprints. She ran in college. My sisters and my brothers too. I grew up going to track meets my whole life. But I always liked wrestling, so I stuck with it.” 

As a newcomer to wrestling and weighing barely over 100 pounds, Tynan didn’t envision a serious future in the sport, but he carried on for the love of it. 

This perseverance paid off in the long run, as the teenager blossomed at the right time to earn some good opportunities:

“I started wrestling late. Most of the guys that compete at the D-1 [college] level were going to wrestling tournaments since they could walk. I didn’t start until the seventh grade. 

“I was a late bloomer. I didn’t get my growth spurt till my junior year of high school, and that’s when I grew over six feet. And by my senior year, I was wrestling at 182, but I didn’t notice things really clicking. 

“I remember I got done with the state tournament in Washington in my senior year. And I performed great, I placed fifth – I didn’t do as good as I wanted to, I wanted to win it – but I remember my sister coming to me, and she was like, ‘Ben, I feel like you’re just hitting your stride. This is so great.’  

“Luckily, I was able to walk onto the junior college team and prove myself there. It was right towards the end of high school when I started to get more confidence.” 

Getting The MMA Bug 

While Tynan was still wrestling in high school, the up-and-coming sport of mixed martial arts came to his attention.  

He was intrigued when he saw wrestlers succeeding under the all-encompassing rule set and thought he could put his skills to good use.  

“Vanilla Thunder” later began to adapt his skill set in college, where two of his wrestling coaches were also professional mixed martial artists. After watching them cross-train, he plucked up the courage to ask if he could join, beginning his new journey in earnest. 

Tynan reflected on that pivotal moment:

“When I was at junior college, my coach Scott Norton fought MMA, and my other coach Brad Luvaas also fought MMA. They had professional fights. After wrestling practices, the coaches would do their own striking. 

“I remember coming up to them after my first season, and I was like, ’Hey, I really want to try learning some striking and MMA.’ Scott was like, ‘Sure, Tynan,’ so he would just teach me the basics.  

“I started working with them, and then I started going to an MMA gym, Ring Demon, right there in the Seattle area. That got the spark going and got me excited for fighting.” 

‘Huge Plans’ In ONE Championship 

Tynan transitioned to MMA seamlessly, competing in his first amateur bout in 2017 and posting a perfect 8-0 slate before moving into the paid ranks.  

After starting out 4-0 as a pro, “Vanilla Thunder” was looking for his next move, and now training at Denver’s Elevation Fight Team, he was in town when ONE hosted its first U.S. event, ONE Fight Night 10, in May 2023. 

After attending the show, the Canadian rising star knew it would be a good fit – and he got the invitation shortly after:

“I always liked ONE, and [I was in the audience when] they came here to Denver. A few months later, I had them calling me up wanting me to fight for them. 

“I was really excited about the way they put on their shows and just the energy from it. So the second I got that call, I was like, ‘Let’s do this.’” 

Tynan immediately impressed in ONE Championship with his debut submission victory over a solid contender in “Mighty Warrior” Kang Ji Won, and he can keep that positive momentum with another win.

That means getting past a BJJ and judo black belt in Didier this Friday. And if “Vanilla Thunder” gets his hand raised once again, he feels ready for any opponent who can keep him on an upward trajectory. 

He added: 

“I have huge plans. I plan on being a World Champion. I plan on being one of the best heavyweights to ever do it. So, I figured I’d do it with ONE. 

“I want to keep climbing. I want to line these guys up. So, after this one, I want the next toughest guy you can get. I want to climb until I get that belt.” 

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