Ryan Hall: Why the UFC is in a precarious position

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Ryan Hall was a grappling phenom, in 2007-2008 medaling in the Mundials as a purple belt and brown belt, and then medaling at the ADCCs. He eventually turned his attention to MMA, and won The Ultimate Fighter 22 lightweight tournament, employing the most Jiu-Jitsu-heavy style since Royce Gracie. Then he spent some time training with karate master Ray Thompson, coach and father to top welterweight contender Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson.

The combination of progressive Jiu-Jitsu and progressive karate proved to be arguably the most innovative approach to MMA yet. The game as it is currently played consists of exchanging strikes, clinching, and pressuring from top (or surviving on bottom). Hall ignored all of that, and chose to strike only from the far outside, where few fighters have any arsenal at all, and then pull Guard, to attack relentlessly from bottom.

Adding to the interest, Royce was picked over Rickson by Rorion to represent Jiu-Jitsu at UFC 1 precisely because he looked like a normal person. But Royce looks like a bruiser next to Hall, who gives the appearance of exercising solely with a large book bag, some years ago. But in fact, he is a deadly, serious, world-class fighter.

Hall used his unique style to defeat Artem Lobov and Gray Maynard handily. Those are big, tough names. Maynard is particular complained that Hall was avoiding a fight. ‘The Bully’ was right to some extent. But it was Maynard who was running away as Hall dove for his legs. That fight was on December 3, 2016, and Hall has not been seen in the Octagon since.

Hall appeared recently on an ESPN MMA podcast (40:23 mark) and detailed what he’s been up to.

“I’ve been mostly in Virginia,” said Hall, as transcribed by Iva Djokovic for BJJEE. “I’ve been training all the time. I’m training with one of my good friends Kenny Florian a lot. I’ve been mostly at home again waiting for the opportunity to compete but always getting a little bit better.“

Hall also explained why he hasn’t fought.

“Not for lack of interest on my part if I’m honest,” he explained. “But, I’ve been hoping to find an opportunity to compete with somebody particularly challenging and tough, and I was comfortable waiting for a time to do that, because I just turned 33, I don’t have 10 years to be in the sport. I think that I would be just looking to face the biggest opposition available.”

So why has the UFC not offered Hall a top 15 opponent?

“Hard to say,” he said. “I’ve been told that a lot of the people will turn down the fight. I don’t know if that’s true or not that people have been turning it down although that’s been relayed to me. I think I find myself in the mildly unenviable position of being better than my reputation. Whereas other people have let’s say phenomenal reputation and phenomenal skill like for example Jon Jones or McGregor. People that are what everyone thinks they are pretty much in line”

“I think the easiest answer to get what I want is to go out there and disrespect people and act in a provocative manner, which is something that’s not in line with my values as a person or a martial artist. … I don’t understand the type of behavior… I just want to compete against the best competition.”

“The UFC finds itself in a precarious situation, because what makes the NFL popular, what makes baseball popular, soccer popular, is the ostensible image of being on the up and up. The team that won on the day gets to play. People can always say the referee did that or say that the referees helped the Patriots, but no one can question that Tom Brady and the Patriots have been a great team over the last x number of years. Internal rot is always a dangerous thing when you stop being a sport it’s not just public perception it’s the people that are involved – debut fighters are being paid more than Bryan Caraway.”

The final reference was to the 33-year-old Bryan Caraway making $21,000 for his split decision loss to Cody Stamann at UFC 222. The same event saw the mediagenic 24-year-old Mackenzie Dern make $50,000 for a split decision win over Ashley Yoder in her UFC debut, which took place after 19 months of fighting and just five fights. Caraway has been fighting since 2005.