September 20, 2006

by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
This Saturday, September 23rd is a big day for the Quad Cities region of Iowa. The date marks the debut of the IFL in the area and the homecoming of the defending Team Tournament Champions, Pat Miletich’s Silverbacks.

Among the fighters returning from last year’s champs is middleweight standout Ryan McGivern.

Relative newcomer McGivern defeated MMA veterans Amir Rahnavardi and Dennis Hallman, helping the Silverbacks take the title, and established himself as one of the new promotion’s young stars.

“The people of the IFL and the way they took care of us and put things together was really awesome,” said Ryan of his overall experience with the IFL in Season 1. “They were always working with you rather than ordering you around. When they say they’re really about the fighters, they’re really about the fighters.”

Of course the main selling point of the IFL beyond their great treatment of the fighters is their innovative team-based MMA concept. According to McGivern, the experience of being able to be part of something more than just himself was invigorating.

“It’s great going in there yourself and fighting and winning, but fighting as a team and winning as a team was great,” exclaimed Ryan. “Especially being in there on the ground floor of this thing and being the first team to win it…I don’t think it’s hit me yet.”

For McGivern himself, he feels that his fights in the IFL were an invaluable part of his continued evolution as a fighter.

“Every fight I’m learning and gaining new experience,” explained Ryan. “I can always look back on a fight and see areas I need to improve. Fight-wise I think I grew and performed well.”

Even though McGivern and the entire Silverbacks team are riding high off of last year’s performance, they are sharply focused on their task at hand this Saturday in Moline against Renzo Gracie’s Pittbulls.

Ryan is slated to face newcomer Fabio Leopoldo, one of the many new additions to Gracie’s overhauled team.

“I haven’t seen any of his fights yet,” admitted McGivern when asked about Leopoldo. “I’ve just heard [things] from teammates and people that have see him fight. He’s slick and very crisp on the ground. I don’t know where his stand up or wrestling is at, but at this level of competition everybody is going to be tough and well-rounded.”

As far as strategy goes, Ryan feels that he’ll be able to control where the fight goes, thus determining the outcome in his favor.

“For me my background has always been wrestling,” said McGivern. “Fortunately the gym I’m at with Miletich and all those guys train in everything, so you’ve got the people in there to help you get better at everything. I’ve been trying to work my hands more so I can keep fights standing up. I feel confident with my wrestling background so that it’s hard for people to take me down and it won’t go to the ground if I don’t want it.”

Ryan continued, “I feel confident that I can get some good shots standing and if it does go to the ground I’m going to keep everything tight so an arm or a leg doesn’t fly out anywhere and really use my wrestling to control the tempo. Usually I just try to go in there and push my pace and my gameplan.”

When it comes to the Silverbacks chances this weekend and throughout the remaining tournament, McGivern is confident that his team will achieve their aspiration of repeating as champions.

“I think with the way we train and the mindset we have going into things, that’s our goal, our ambition,” proclaimed Ryan. “Everybody knows what to expect and how the atmosphere is and that’s going to help. Plus all the guys on our team train at the same gym, working together and helping each other get better and I think that’s a huge advantage compared to going in there with guys you don’t know.”

Not only are the Silverbacks competing this Saturday but their legendary coach Pat Miletich will be returning to action for the first time in four years. According to McGivern it’s going to be quite an experience for everyone to see the master back in the ring.

“I’m sure not only for me but for all of us it’s going to be really cool to see him compete again,” commented Ryan. “Having Pat not only coaching, but training along side you and watch him in the ring it’s just an amazing thing. He’s a great guy to have in your corner as far as him coaching you and getting you ready for a fight and it’s going to be an honor for us to see him in there banging.”

McGivern closed out the conversation by urging every in the area to come check out the show and by thanking them and those close to him for their continued support of him and the entire Silverbacks team.

“For anybody that’s coming out thanks for supporting MMA – especially everybody here in the Quad Cities who are coming to cheer all of us on in our fights – that’s really encouraging,” concluded Ryan. “It will be exciting to bring a show to the hometown and go out there and kick some butt and perform everybody. For me personally, I want to say thanks to all my friends and family for their continuous support.”