Ex-UFC fighter killed in Edmonton hit and run proposed to girlfriend just before his death
‘Ryan was the love of my life and I was his,’ says girlfriend
Just hours after Ryan Jimmo proposed to Roxie Reece, he was dead — run over by a truck in Edmonton at a Whyte Avenue parking lot.
Reece lay down by his side as he struggled to survive.
"I was telling him I love him and to fight, And he fought really hard, Ryan did, for his life," Reece told CBC, in the first interview she has given since his death June 26.
Jimmo died on the way to the hospital. The truck that hit him left the scene. Two people have now been charged in Jimmo's death — one with murder, the other with accessory to murder.
Two people from different worlds
Jimmo and Reece had only known each other since April 30.
"We were both from different worlds. I was the sweet little Jesus Christian girl and Ryan was this MMA [mixed martial arts] UFC [Ultimate Fighting Championship] fighter, incredibly smart, scientific ninja guy," Reece recalled.
They met for their first date at a "hippie" coffee shop in Phoenix, Arizona, where they were living. Jimmo made an immediate impression.
"He was a ball of energy. He lit up the room. He made friends wherever he went," said Reece.
"His family and Ryan and I both later joked that he was the female version of me, and I was the male version of him. Boy, did we fall in love."
Jimmo was hoping for a kiss that first date. But Reece had one condition — to see one of his karate moves.
"He shook my hand," said Reece. "He said: 'This is the No. 1 most important move you'll ever learn in your life. And if you learn how to do this move, you'll never have to fight in your life and you'll make friends wherever you go.'
"I thought that was so impressive. That was Ryan Jimmo."
Hiking and Gordon Ramsay
Their next date was a hike up a mountain. Reece was nervous but Jimmo told her there was an easy trail.
"There was no easy trail. It was all expert … we just hiked it like champs," Reece said with a laugh. "Ryan and I just talked and talked and laughed. And we filled in the gaps with each other."
Jimmo cooked for Reece. One of his heroes was celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay, who has a British accent.
"He loved to do the accent. Ryan was such a good cook," remembered Reece. "He joked that he was chef Ramsay and I was (female celebrity chef) Rachael Ray, so we were like Ramsay and Rachael in the kitchen
"We would do these accents and I would record us cooking in the kitchen."
Road trip to Canada
Jimmo was leaving Phoenix to return to Edmonton in June.
Jimmo went by the name "The Big Deal" when fighting. He is perhaps best remembered from his seven-second knockout of Anthony Perosh at UFC 149 and his subsequent celebration that saw him do both the robot and the splits. Originally from New Brunswick, Jimmo wanted to move back to Edmonton where he'd had so much success in his martial arts fighting career. He had plans to continue a fighting-related career there, though not with UFC.
He asked Reece to drive with him to his former home town.
Before they left, Jimmo met Reece's parents for the first time. He told them she would be safe with him, even camping in bear country.
"He told them 'I will fight a bear for your daughter,'" said Reece.
The two spent several days travelling north, camping in Yosemite Park and visiting his family in Victoria along the way.
"'Roxie, I am head over heels in love with you,'" she recalled him saying on the first day of their trip.
Reece was supposed to head back to Phoenix long before they got to Edmonton. But the two couldn't bear to be parted any sooner than necessary, and she made the trip all the way to Edmonton with him.
Engaged at the movies
When they arrived in Edmonton, they stayed with one of Jimmo's old friends, did some hiking and trained at the gym.
On Saturday, June 25, they talked about religion. Reece is a woman of faith; Jimmo was more scientific. But that day, Jimmo told her he wanted to go to church with her the next day.
"He was awesome 'cause he was willing to meet me in the middle with that," said Reece.
"He said: 'Honey I believe in Jesus' and he pointed to his heart. To me, that was the biggest gift. That meant more than anything."
That night, they went out to see their first movie together in a theatre. The film was Independence Day: Resurgence. In the middle of the movie, Jimmo turned to Reece with a proposal.
"He said: 'Honey, you're absolutely the most beautiful woman I've ever laid eyes on in this entire world. I just love you so much. I just want to marry you and have children with you.' To which, I was like, 'OK honey, let's do it, that would be awesome.'"
'We felt threatened'
After the movie, the two returned to Jimmo's friend's house. There was a big lightning storm that night and the two lovebirds were excited by their engagement. "After the movie, Ryan and I were on cloud 1,000," said Reece.
They decided to go for a late drive, to see the lightning and a little bit more of Edmonton.
"Ryan and I weren't out at the bar, we weren't drinking, we weren't partying," said Reece. "His goal that night was to take his girlfriend and show her the city and go home."
According to Reece, that's when Jimmo noticed a big truck tailgating them. So he turned off that street and told Reece he was going to let the guys in the truck go by.
"So we took a left to let them go by," said Reece. "They followed Ryan even more close. And so now he and I were both like 'OK what's going on?' And then he took the first right into that parking lot … I had no clue where we were at."
She said the truck followed them into the parking lot.
In those moments, I felt the most scared I've ever felt. I felt helpless- Roxie Reece
"So these guys pulled up real close right behind Ryan, almost as if they were going to hit us, and we both felt nervous. And Ryan felt the need to do something because we didn't want them following us out of there," said Reece.
"It was kind of scary. There was something not right there and I didn't know what was going on. So Ryan, you know, got out to talk to them and they were not nice guys and Ryan came to get back in the car. And they said something else and he went back to talk with them."
That's when he was hit and the truck took off.
As Jimmo lay on the pavement, Reece got out of their vehicle and ran over to him, screaming and telling people to phone 911. She didn't have her phone and Jimmo's was locked.
"In those moments, I felt the most scared I've ever felt," said Reece. "I felt helpless. And I lay beside Ryan and I talked with him and told him, 'Come on honey, you can do it, you can fight, I'm right here, I'm right here.' And it's important to me that people know that Ryan was not alone."
'A piece of my heart went with Ryan that day'
After Jimmo died, Reece was left alone in a strange city. She returned to Phoenix, where she's trying to come to terms with what's happened.
"This has been the hardest thing I've gone through in my entire life," she said.
And, while she wants to see justice for the two men charged in Jimmo's death, she said doesn't hate them.
"To have hatred in your heart for somebody is a bitterness that only wells up in your own heart and it only hurts you in the long run," she said.
Still, Reece has no idea how this could have happened.
"Ryan in the goodness of his heart just wanted to make sure we were safe," she said.. "Ryan was so skilled at defusing things. Ryan had the best intentions…he did his very best to handle it in the right way."
Reece takes comfort in her faith and the memories of the man she describes as "awesome."
"I think Ryan's up there smiling down saying 'What are you guys all crying for? Wipe your tears. There's stuff to be done! We gotta go make a difference here,'" she said.
"I'm now taking everything that Ryan taught me to be strong the rest of my life and to finish out what he started," she added. "I want all of us to come together, not in hatred … and to be the best versions of ourselves that we can be because that's what Ryan would have wanted."