In an exclusive interview for BadManSports.com, I sat down with IFL lightweight champion Ryan Schultz. We discussed life as a new champion, changes in the IFL and his upcoming fight with contender John Gunderson.
In December, Schultz won his title by beating previously undefeated Chris Horodecki at the IFL World Grand Prix finals. Displaying his trademark aggression, he came out fast and pressed the action to Horodecki.
“In the fight with Horodecki, the game plan was to get him on his back,” says Schultz. “We wanted to expose his ground game and showcase mine.”
Viewers of the match will not soon forget the ending which had Schultz holding Horodecki’s arm behind his back while dropping numerous fists to his undefended face. The referee determined that Horodecki had received enough punishment and awarded Schultz the title via TKO.
“That move is called the wrist ride and I do it a lot,” recalls Schultz. “I look for it. It’s hard to get out of, especially when you’re in half guard.”
The outcome was decidedly different when the two met just over a year earlier when Horodecki scored his own TKO. Schultz feels he was better mentally the second time around.
“I am basically a stronger fighter now,” says Schultz. “The first time I didn’t come in with a game plan and my head really wasn’t into it. Now I’m stronger and just better.”
Having a belt around one’s waist does have some advantages. While he may not be a recognizable face across the country, Schultz is starting to become a minor celebrity in his home of Oregon.
“I get a little more attention now,” says Schultz. “I was invited to a (Portland) Trailblazers game and they asked me to bring the belt. Some people recognized me and they put me on the big screen. It was pretty cool.”
Speaking or Oregon, Schultz is still working with Team Quest where he has trained since the beginning of his MMA career.
“I’m very happy with them,” says Schultz. “I coach MMA and wrestling at Team Quest three time a week and I also teach an instructor’s course.”
The IFL currently holds their fights in a ring while many other North American organizations use a cage. Schultz agrees that game plans can change depending on which is used, but it makes little difference to him.”
“To me there is not much difference between the cage or the ring,” says Schultz. “The cage does give wrestlers like me an advantage because we pin guys up against the fence and in the ring they drag you back to the center. But either one is fine with me and I don’t change my game plan between the two.”
Recently, the IFL announced changes to the format that made them stand out from some of the other MMA organizations. They are no longer going to run a team or league format. Instead the IFL will focus on their champions as well as camps like Team Quest and The Lions Den.
Some detractors of the league concept feel this is a good move while others have voiced concern that this eliminates one of the differences that allowed the IFL to stand out from the crowd. Schultz doesn’t seem to care either way.
“It’s not much different to me now that the IFL has done away with the team concept,” says Schultz. “All of my teammates worked out at Team Quest anyways and the same guys still do. If guys don’t come in to train, we’ll call them and get on them. It’s like a big family. Maybe some of the other teams weren’t like that because they didn’t all train at the same gym – they just came together for the days of the fights. But for us, it’s business as usual.”
“Plus I really liked the team concept,” continues Schultz. “I grew up wrestling and it was a lot like being on a wrestling team.Things shouldn’t change much now that they have camps instead of teams. I’m still training with the same guys.”
To Schultz, the format change will not hurt the IFL as it’s all about the quality of fighting.
“The UFC is definitely the five-hundred-pound gorilla because they’ve been around longer,” says Schultz. “But the IFL is right there with all of the other organizations. Look at me for instance. I’ve beat some top guys like Roger Huerta.”
Schultz handed Huerta what remains to be his only loss with a first-round submission in June 2004.
“You don’t hear about this because the guys in the UFC say he’s ‘undefeated in the UFC.’ But I beat him,” says Schultz.
But first things first, Schultz will be defending his title against John Gunderson on February 29 at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas. Schultz is focussed but confident that he will be coming out on top.
“Gunderson is very well-rounded,” says Schultz. “He’s a solid fighter. But I’m better than him at everything. My standup is better. My takedowns are better. My top game is better. He’s probably training on is back a lot, assuming I’m going to take him down.”
“I’m going to go wherever the fight takes me. Against Horodecki, we definitely wanted to get him on his back as quickly as possible. But like I said, I’m better than Gunderson everywhere so I’m not going to force anything.”
Assuming he gets past Gunderson, what’s down the road for Schultz?
“I just want to keep on fighting and keep on winning. The IFL has been very good to me and I’ll continue to be loyal to them. I want to fight the best lightweights. List the top five lightweights in the world and I’ll fight down the list from five to one,” says Schultz.
“And if Huerta wants a chance to get that blemish off his record, all he has to do is give me a call.”
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