by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
This year has been an up and down year for Team Quest’s Ryan Schultz. A long time favorite amongst fans in the lightweight division, Schultz has yet to see his hard work pay off with an opportunity to face some of the top talent in the weightclass. That is, until now.

At the upcoming Absolute Fighting Championships 14 show in Ft. Lauderdale this coming weekend Schultz will face off against perennial top contender Rich Clementi in a battle of two of the best American lightweights around. Ryan recently took time out of his training schedule for MMA Weekly to discuss the fight, his year, and what’s ahead.

“It should be good I’m ready to go, I’m excited,” said Schultz of his return to action after suffering a rib injury in his last bout at FFC 15 in September. “I’m not even going to be thinking about it (the rib injury), I’m just going to go straight ahead.”

Ryan hopes to rebound off the loss at FFC and prove that he’s back to make a run at the rankings. One thing that will be essential to making that move is his recent relocation back to Oregon and Team Quest’s main training facility after spending much of the year in Colorado.

“I think it’s definitely where I should be, no doubt about it,” said an enthusiastic Schultz. “That’s why I moved back out here. I get to train every day instead of crash courses every few weeks. I’ve been training about two and a half to three months, it’s good stuff.”

Schultz continued, “I think I still performed well training out of Colorado, coming back here for two or three weeks I don’t think I still made my potential, but now I think I’m going to rise to the top.”

To take that first step Ryan has to get by Clementi, a fighter with experience on the biggest stages of MMA, but as Schultz puts it, he’s excited for the opportunity to face a fighter he’s wanted to match up against for quite some time.

“It doesn’t matter (who I fight), I just want to fight who everybody claims to be the best fighters,” explained Ryan. “I have respect for Rich as a fighter for sure, he definitely does have a name and being given a chance to fight him is great. I think it’s great for the sport when they start doing this, start getting everybody going at it and find out who the toughest guy is for real.”

Like Schultz, Clementi is also coming off an injury. Early in the year he injured tendons in his knee and it cost him eight months. While many fighters may take advantage of a fighter’s recent injury, it’s not in Schultz’s gameplan to go after Rich’s knee and alter the gameplan he has set for himself every time he fights.

“No I’m not looking to attack his knee or anything like that,” admitted Schultz. “I know he hurt his knee, I have some sympathy for him there, I’ve hurt my knee in the past, I’m not looking to take out his knee or anything like that. I’m focusing on my game and what I do best and let the chips fall where they may.”

Regardless of how the fight ends, if it ends in the ring it will be a step up from where Schultz found himself a few months ago losing to Dave Gardner at FFC, a fight that Ryan calls one of the worst moments of his professional career.

“That fight was very frustrating and the low point of my career right there,” said Ryan. “Just because I was the main event on the card and he just kept shooting and I kept stuffing him and went to throw him over, head whip him I think, and I popped my own ribs out. To concede on something like that was a pretty low point because we didn’t even get to fight. He may have the win but he didn’t beat me, that’s how I feel about it. I’ve never been booed before and I got booed. Most people like my fighting style, I think it’s exciting for the crowd for the most part. That was definitely a bummer, for everybody, not just me, for the show, the crowd, they were like, ‘what the hell…it was kind of an uneventful main event.'”

If things go Ryan’s way and he picks up a win this weekend, the plan is to continue to make his push to become one of the recognized top fighters in the division in 2006. “I want to be in the big dance, whether that be over here, in Japan, I think I’m ready for that, that level of fighters. I don’t think they’ve got anything big on me, to be honest with you I think I can go with those guys no problem. I believe I belong there with the top guys.”

But just because Schultz is looking to make an impact in the near future, don’t think for a second that he’s taking his task at hand lightly. He knows what kind of fight it will be and he intends to do what he does best and give the crowd a fight they’ll remember.

“Just come out and see the fireworks, I think me and Rich are going to go at it and bang, it’s going to be good,” concluded Ryan. “I think my fighting style is pretty entertaining. I don’t think I have to focus on being entertaining, I think the fight will be entertaining by itself. I think me and Rich’s style will make for an entertaining fight. We both come at it pretty hard and that’s what people like.”