by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
(Photo courtesy IFL)

Team Quest’s Ryan Schultz seemed like the perpetually snake bitten fighter for much of his career.

Momentum built up by big wins over fighters such as Eddy Ellis, Gil Castillo and Roger Huerta were often derailed shortly thereafter by inexplicable losses. Consistency often eluded Schultz, until last year.

Seemingly out of nowhere, things began to fall into place. Three straight unanimous decision wins (including one over Ultimate Fighting Championship and Pride veteran Aaron Riley) placed Schultz in a position to challenge Chris Horodecki for the International Fight League’s lightweight championship after injuries befell Shad Lierley and John Gunderson.

Inspired to wipe away a disappointing loss to Horodecki in 2006, Schultz dominated the fight, finishing the previously undefeated Team Tompkins fighter halfway through the first round. It was a perfect cap to an undefeated year, as the first-ever IFL 155-pound champion.

“It feels good,” said Schultz of being a champion for the first time. “I want to fight the best guys, so I guess I’m in the right position.”

Despite the fact that he is proud to have the title, he remains grounded and refuses to let his newfound success get to his head.

“It’s just another fight for me, and I want to win every fight, so they’re all serious,” commented Schultz. “It was pretty neat to receive the belt from the IFL, but I definitely take it seriously.”

As for what allowed Ryan to have such a successful year after constant ups and downs, Schultz feels he finally has been able to combine all aspects of the sport and fight intelligently.

“I think I’m definitely a smarter fighter right now, but I also feel that I’ve just put the whole game together now,” he stated. “Early in my career and in the middle there, I separated wrestling and striking. Now I think I’m putting it together to where I don’t have to worry about both aspects of it.

“I think one sets up the other. That’s really been the difference, learning how to put it together at the same time. I think it finally made sense to me that I had all these other tools worth using.”

For his first title defense this Friday at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, Schultz is slated to face off against a fellow Northwestern fight circuit product, John Gunderson of the newly formed Lion’s Den team.

“I think it’s a good match-up,” said the Team Quest fighter. “I know Gunderson really well and have seen him fight a few times. I see it going real well for me. I think he’s well-rounded. He doesn’t have a huge hole in his game, but I don’t think he’s exceptional anywhere. In my opinion I’m better than him everywhere in the game.

“He’s been known to say that I don’t’ have any technique in my stand up. Well, if he’s going in there with that game plan, he’s sadly mistaken. He also thinks that I’m too aggressive to go five rounds, which I’ll tell you right now, I’m in shape. I’m probably in the best shape of my life, so he’s in for a rude awakening.”

Now that his goal of holding a title in a major promotion has been achieved, Schultz talked about what his goals for this year are.

“I don’t want to look past any fights,” he stated simply. “For me, if I perform, that’s my main concern. For me to perform to my ability, and if I do that, I feel like no matter what or who, I’ll get my hand raised at the end of the night, whether it’s a finish, a decision or whatnot.

“Obviously I always want to finish. I fight that way. I don’t look for a decision and I’m looking to keep it out of the judges’ hands. For me, the focus is more on my performance and not the outcome. If I perform well, like I said, I definitely feel like my hand’s getting raised.”

This Friday at the Orleans Arena, Schultz will look to continue his winning ways and begin his championship reign with a big win over a heated rival in what should be one of the evening’s most exciting fights.

“Definitely want everybody to come out and watch the fights,” closed out Schultz. “It’ll be great, a good card, with a lot of high-level fighters on there. I also definitely want to thank all my sponsors for sure for getting behind me, especially Brian Ludwig; he’s definitely been great to me.”