Mixed martial arts has taken Tanner “The Bulldozer” Boser around the world. On Saturday, it returns him to his backyard as the Alberta heavyweight makes his UFC debut at UFC 240 in Edmonton.
The 27-year-old from Bonnyville, Alta., who now calls Edmonton home, has fought in Australia, England, Kazakhstan, Russia and the United Arab Emirates in recent years.
“That was definitely a cool way for me to see some of the world in my own way, I suppose,” Boser said.
“But it is definitely going to be nice to fight once again in my home city in front of my home crowd.”
Boser (16-5-1) takes on Brazilian Giacomo Lemos (6-0-0) to open a Rogers Place card that features a featherweight title fight between 145-pound champion Max (Blessed) Holloway and former lightweight title-holder Frankie (The Answer) Edgar.
Felicia (Feenom) Spencer, a Montreal native who trains in Orlando, Fla., takes on former UFC featherweight champion Cris Cyborg of Brazil in the co-main event.
Lemos is a chiselled judo black belt and Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt who likes to tie up opponents in a Thai clinch and then batter them with knees and punches.
“He’s definitely good all-round, he’s definitely tough,” said Boser. “He’s going to be confident because he’s never lost before. But at the end of the day he’s nothing I haven’t seen before.
“I expect a hard fight. But I’ve fought guys like him and I’m ready.”
Only one of Lemos’ fights made it to the third round and that one did not get to the judges. But while the Brazilian is unbeaten, his opponents’ combined record is 47-50-2 with two no contests.
Boser defended his Unified MMA championship in May with a four-round stoppage of Jared Kilkenny in Enoch, Alta. The six-foot-two 260-pounder relinquished the title after signing with the UFC.
Prior to that, he fought Azerbaijan’s Zaur Gadzhibabayev to a draw in March on an M-1 Challenge card in Almaty, Kazakhstan, and lost a decision to Salimgerey Rasulov last November in Moscow in another Russia-based promotion (ACB show).
He had been training for an August fight in the M-1 promotion when the UFC call came.
Boser says his far-flung fights have made for “a cool ride.” They have also upped his game, with matchups against talented fighters who perhaps have gone under the radar of North American fans.
“I don’t think it’s an undertaking that a lot of people would go through or agree to. And if they did, they wouldn’t like it,” he said.
“Fighting in my own backyard without the other guy having maybe a clear edge on the judges’ scorecards before the fight even starts is going to be nice.”
Boser also believes his travels have prepared him for the UFC.
“I don’t really see it as a jump,” he said. “It’s kind of just crossing a bridge, just fighting somewhere else. But it’s the same playing field.”
“I’ve fought a bunch of really tough guys for the last few years … I don’t think I’m walking into a way harder division, at least at the lower end,” he added.
Boser, who grew up in Bonnyville, about 240 kilometres northeast of Edmonton, studied karate growing up and says MMA was a natural transition.
He had no expectations but liked the sport and wanted to try his hand in a pro fight. He made his pro debut in October 2012 as well as his next five fights.
Boser trains twice most days. Away from the gym, he works four nights a week as nightclub bouncer.
He thought of stepping away from the sport for a while, taking an Emergency Medical Responder course with an eye to becoming a paramedic/firefighter. But he missed fighting and got back in the cage.
Boser attended UFC 215 in Edmonton in September 2017 as a fan. He had an interest in the show, having helped B.C. heavyweight Arjan Singh Bhullar prepare for his UFC debut that night.