When Victor Valimaki steps into the ring on Friday night at the Shaw Conference Centre as part of KO Boxing’s Retribution card, he’ll do so without his father Michael, who was his biggest fan and supporter during his 15-year fighting career.
“My father passing away was a huge turning point in my life. They say that you don’t really become a man until your father dies, and I believe that’s true. Even still, I get emotional talking about it,” said Valimaki.
“It’s going to be an emotional night for me. Knowing that he was my biggest supporter, it’s strange not having him in my corner, but I’ll be fighting for him.”
Valimaki, who holds an 18-10 mixed martial arts record and is 3-0 as a boxer will take on former Edmonton Eskimo and fellow heavyweight Adam Braidwood (2-1) in one of KO Boxing’s biggest cards eve, which also features a main event rematch between Edmonton’s Jelena Mrdjenovich and Argentina’s Edith Matthysse for the WBC and WBA World Featherweight titles.
Valimaki has been one of the best fighters Edmonton has ever produced, but the last two years have been filled with many highs and lows.
Just before his MFC 39 fight in January 2014, he had a cancer scare when doctors found a benign tumour in his chest that moved into his throat.
Then, after a long recovery, in his first fight back last September, he blew his knee out.
That compiled with the loss of his father has made it one of the most difficult comebacks Valimaki’s ever faced.
“Something has changed in my soul. It takes adversity to toughen you up. Everyone goes through their issues, but the last two years have been the most challenging of my life, but it’s made me a better human being,” said Valimaki.
While he’s faced many tough challenges, Valimaki has also accomplished two of his biggest dreams recently.
He opened up the first UFC Gym in Canada in Sherwood Park last year, and recently he launched the Triumph Fighting Championship, and Valimaki is dipping into the world of promoting the sport that he’s given his life to for the past 15 years.
“For myself on a personal level, with a lot of these negative things happening, it’s shaped me into what I’ve wanted to do with myself for a long time,” said Valimaki.
“I’ve always dreamed of owning my own gym, and Edmonton has a huge void when it comes to MMA and we want to put on big shows and put on cards that will blow people away.”
Triumph Fighting Championship will debut on April 22nd at the Shaw Conference Centre. It’s a unique opportunity for Valimaki, who now enters the MMA fight game having experienced life as a fighter.
At 34, Valimaki doesn’t know how many more fights he has left, but he’s accomplished a lot throughout his career, no matter where this latest comeback takes him. He’s fought in the UFC. He’s fought all over the world, and while he wants to continue to fight, owning his own gym and fight promotion gives him ways to stay in the game.
“People don’t always know what’s going on in a fighter’s head. I’ve had a lot of ups and downs in my fight career and they can all correlate to my personal life,” said Valimaki.
“I spent a lot of time working and hanging out in the bars, and it sidetracked me from accomplishing a lot of things I wanted to do in my career. But I’m done living that “fighter lifestyle”. I’ve seen it sink so many people.”
While Valimaki has been forced to comeback from many tough injuries, losing his father, not only changed him as a person, but also as a fighter.
Win or lose Friday night against Braidwood, Valimaki couldn’t be in a better place.
“It was like the universe slapped me across the face and said smarten up,” said Valimaki.
“You realize the important things in your life. You cut out the fluff in your life and you focus on your family, your work and training.
“Mentally, I’m not getting shook in there. It will take a lot to finish me. Even if my body breaks, mentally he’s got nothing on me now.”