Lansing’s Ron DeLeon Promotes And Loves The Fight Game
DeLeon, who works as a CATA bus driver for routes on Michigan State’s Campus, has been involved in setting up the area’s biggest MMA and boxing cards for 25 years.
On any given day in Lansing, someone may come across Ron DeLeon. Odds are that he is operating one of the many 60-foot buses in the Capital Area Transit Authority’s fleet across the city, shuttling hundreds of workers and students to their destinations a day. In his work outside of bus driving, he is equally if not more visible as a boxing and mixed martial arts promoter.
DeLeon is the Lansing area’s premier name in promoting combat sports, doing it for 25 years. For him, it is simply a labor of love.
“I love providing a platform for these young men and women to showcase their talents,” DeLeon said. “We live in such a dark and crazy world. You can see fights anywhere. I tell these guys, ‘You can fight on my bus and go to jail, or you can learn how to fight, develop a skillset, earn money, a following, and do something productive.’”
DeLeon is for helping people. He is a people person. He even said he would do his jobs for free if it was possible.
“Any time you can provide a platform for someone to shine, there is no greater glory than that,” DeLeon said. “No money could equal that.”
DeLeon was born a military kid in Fort Bragg, North Carolina in 1965. His family moved to Lansing when he was five and has been here ever since. He boxed briefly, winning the Golden Gloves in 1991 at the old Lansing Civic Center. He retired from fighting soon after.
“Training got to be difficult, a lot of fights fell through,” DeLeon said. “I was okay, but I was not outstanding at it, so I got into other things.”
DeLeon was friends with the owners of an area nightclub and they soon asked if he was interested in promoting shows with them. His first promoted fight was 25 years ago. According to DeLeon, a familiar Lansing area celebrity was on the call.
“My first ring announcer was the late great Earle Robinson. Earle and I had gone back years before that.”
In 2008, DeLeon became the first promoter to put on an MMA fight in Lansing. He has been promoting both sports ever since. DeLeon works with fighters from all over the Midwest, as well as Canada. He is also involved in match-making the fights. DeLeon has always had an ability to put a good show together.
DeLeon’s most recent fight occurred on January 7 at the Lansing Mall. He has held events at a variety of venues, this was the first one held at the mall situated on the westside of Lansing.
According to fight inspector Jessie Lopez, it was a hotter ticket than expected. 850 people attended the event.
“They were turning people back at the door,” Lopez said. “It was so packed in there. He didn’t advertise it as much as normal and yet they had to turn people away. It was great.”
Lopez recalls a time when DeLeon put together a fight event that included two of his coworkers at CATA. The two bus drivers went at it in the ring, and Lopez found the display to be quite funny on a macro level.
“I’ve worked with a bunch of professional and amateur fighters of different levels,” Lopez said. “To see a couple of regular bus drivers fighting in the ring, by comparison, was very funny.”
Lopez has been an inspector for boxing and MMA events in the area for 28 years. He’s certified by the state to ensure everything about the fight is above board. When DeLeon has a fight, Lopez is the one he calls upon to inspect it.
“He has been promoting fights for 25 years, and he’s called me to inspect his fights for 25 years,“ Lopez said. “I consider him like a surrogate son of mine. I’m old enough to be his dad. He is a really good guy.”
DeLeon considers himself a father first, a bus driver second, and an event promoter third. He is not just a fight promoter. He also is involved in promoting an annual tennis tournament at Waverly High School and donates the funds raised to the American Cancer Society.
He has been a bus driver for CATA for almost 25 years. According to DeLeon, his ability to juggle all of his roles stems from the fact that he has never had a bad day driving the bus. Every day brings him a new story. Including a time one summer where a bus passenger was rather unruly towards him, so a couple of his regular riders bounced the passenger off themselves. He is known as “Uncle Ron” to some of his regulars.
“I don’t condone violence outside the ring or cage, but I appreciated that,” DeLeon said. “That’s why I love what I do. I didn’t tell those girls to defend me, but they did it because they see me as Uncle Ron.”