by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
For the International Fight League’s Portland Wolfpack lightweight Ryan Schultz Christmas has come early.
After going undefeated during the 2007 regular season, Schultz continued his winning ways by defeating longtime mixed martial arts veteran Aaron Riley in a superfight at the IFL World Championship Finals.
Yet for all his success, he was left off the four-man roster for the lightweight division of the Grand Prix.
Fast forward to December, Schultz is in midst of downtime, keeping busy and in shape by teaching and training at the famed Team Quest Gresham facilities in Oregon when the phone rings. It’s opportunity calling.
It seems that both Shad Lierley and John Gunderson have suffered injuries, leaving Chris Horodecki without an opponent for the finals of the Grand Prix. Enter Schultz’s golden opportunity.
“I was ready,” he said of when he got the call. “I’ve been training, and they were worried about that, but I train all the time, so I’m in shape and ready to go.”
Saturday’s bout is a rematch between Schultz and Horodecki, the first of which happened just over a year ago, where Horodecki defeated Schultz via TKO in the second round.
When asked if he’s banking on the rematch being similar to the original, or if this fight is a completely new match-up, he replied, “I think it’s going to be a completely different fight this time.
“I’m not worried about him as far as like, ‘oh it could happen again,’ I’m not nervous because he got the win the first time. I think I’m more excited about the fight than he probably is, because I want to show everybody that first time, hey, it happens, but I’m a better fighter than him.”
Giving him added confidence heading is the fact that not only is he carrying the momentum of an undefeated year with him, but the fact that finally things are starting to fall in place in all aspects of his game.
“I think everything’s falling into place right now and I’m fighting better than I ever have,” exclaimed Schultz. “Mentally I’m just a lot better prepared than I have been in the past. The last few years I was up and down, streaky, a lot of weird things happened, so right now, I’m pretty tuned in.
“I’ve been working with our boxing coach, Clayton, so I’m a lot more comfortable there as far as slipping punches and head movement. I’m adding to my wrestling a lot more. I’m putting it together as far as with the stand-up and the wrestling, and I feel I’ve developed into a more well-rounded fighter.”
Having had possibly his most successful year as a fighter, and with the IFL currently undergoing a makeover, the question was posed as to where he feels his future lays with the promotion.
“I signed a two-year deal originally, so I’m already signed with the company for next year,” stated Schultz. “Obviously a lot of it depends on whether I win this fight or not.
“If I win this fight, then I guess a lot of my fights will be defending the belt and not team fights. That’s what I’ve been hearing. I don’t know the whole layout exactly, but a lot of it depends on if I with this fight or not.”
It’s a fight that very well could earn Fight of the Night, if not Fight of the Year honors in the IFL should both he and Horodecki deliver the type of high-energy action that they’re capable of on Dec. 29 at the Mohegan Sun Casino, which will be aired live on HDNet television.
“I want the fans to come out and check it out and watch the fight,” said Schultz. “It’s going to be a great fight, because Horodecki comes to fight and I definitely come to fight. It’s going to be a great show all over.
“I’d like to thanks to Brian Ludwig, my teammates for my training, Matt Lindland for locking this down, and also IFL for considering me for it – I think they’re not going to be disappointed.”