Middleweight champion Ryan McGivern and lightweight champion Ryan Schultz both defend their respective International Fight League titles at the Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Conn. this Friday.
Winning a world title carries more than simple prestige. In some cases it can weigh like an anchor, in other scenarios it can instill extra courage, but in all cases it definitely means the other fighters are gunning for you.
“It’s everybody else’s biggest fight of their career,” said Schultz, 30, who captured the IFL lightweight title with a technical knockout win over Chris Horodecki in the IFL Grand Prix last December, avenging an earlier defeat. “They’re trying to take what’s yours.”
The IFL is trying to salvage what’s theirs after several years of near-drowning from the tidal wave of big brother Ultimate Fighting Championship. This fight card draws the line in the sand for the New York-based MMA organization.
IFL’s Jay Larkin, the former boxing television mogul, announced at a press conference last week plans to co-promote MMA events, loan fighters to other MMA organizations and look for new buyers into the IFL concept. He cites a desperate need to unify championships with other MMA organizations.
That’s where the two Ryans step in.
Both titleholders are among the best the IFL has to offer alongside a number of others that include heavyweight titleholder Roy Nelson, who defends his title against Brad Imes on the same Friday night card, as well as popular welterweight champ Jay Hieron. There is talent in the IFL but the company has had trouble drawing big live crowds.
Lately, the IFL has been putting out shows and allowing the public, and perhaps potential buyers, a chance to see what a few hardcore fans have eyeballed since 2006.
“I think Horodecki is a young star in the making,” said Don Leonard, a writer who visits MMA clubs in the Southwest. “Roy Nelson is a good heavyweight.”
The rapid fight pace is welcome by Schultz and McGivern.
“It keeps me edgy and ready to go,” says Schultz (19-9-1), who defended his title with a unanimous decision win over John Gunderson in February.
McGivern, meanwhile, took the IFL middleweight title from Matt Horwich by unanimous decision on the same February fight card.
Ryan Schultz KO'd Chris Horodecki for the title in December.
Now that McGivern has the title, you would imagine he’d be running from building to building with his title belt wrapped around his waist. Not so.
“As far as I’m concerned, I got to just put that aside and realize that this next fight is my competition,” said McGivern (12-5), who trains with Pat Miletich in Iowa. “If it’s a title defense or a title fight, I try to put that stuff aside. If you allow it, you can definitely add a lot of pressure to yourself.”
McGivern, 28, faces Dan Miller (7-1) in his first IFL title defense and expects a rough contest against the ground expert.
“Definitely, I’m aware of the ground skills and the submission ability and things like that,” McGivern says. “It’s just making sure that no matter where the fight goes, no matter what position it goes, I’m prepared to react.”
Schultz, the other Ryan, faces Deividas Taurosevicius (9-2) from Lithuania who fights out of New Jersey. He’ll be throwing more than vowels at Schultz.
“I’m aware that he specializes in the arm bar,” Schultz said of Taurosevicius. “I’ve been working hard to make sure that doesn't happen.”
Schultz, who fights for Team Quest, owns the only win over UFC hotshot Roger Huerta that happened four years ago. At 30, he’s got a little mean in him.
“I’d definitely like to punch his face in from the top,” Schultz said about Taurosevicius. “I definitely have some things I’ve worked on from watching films of him.”
It’s a loaded fight card and one that should be seen by the MMA loving fans.
Also on the IFL card will be Roy Nelson (12-2) defending his IFL heavyweight title against Brad Imes (11-4); Aaron Stark (5-4) facing off with Lamont Lister (5-3) in a light heavyweight fight; welterweights John Howard (8-3) squaring off against Nick Calandrino (5-0); Matt Horwich (21-10-1) meets Joey Guel (12-5) in a battle of Oregon middleweights; Danilo Villefort (6-2) poised to meet Mike Massenzio (10-1) in a middleweight bout. There are several other bouts planned.
Jason “Mayhem” Miller, who we featured in last week's MMA Notebook, scored a first-round technical knockout over Japan’s Katsuyori Shibata at the Dream 3 event held at Saitama Arena in Japan. The Team Quest fighter has been rampaging against the competition lately. He could be ready for bigger things, like a crack at some of the world's top middleweights.
EliteXC - All-female fight card?
Gary Shaw of EliteXC said that an all-female fight card could occur in 2009. At the moment the MMA organization does not have enough female fighters to carry out an event of this kind. Recently, a representative of EliteXC was present at an all-female fight card presented in Los Angeles by famed promoter Jackie Kallen’s Fatal Femmes Fighting championship. A number of excellent fighters took part in the card held at the Shrine Auditorium.
Here are two recommendations: Wendy Rodriguez, a boxing world champion who spent the past five years learning jiu-jitsu. Anyone who saw her 29-second submission at Irvine Marriott Hotel two months ago was very impressed.
Another is Elena “Baby Doll” Reid who actually trains with Gina Carano at Xtreme Couture. Her standup is great. It should be. Reid is the current flyweight boxing world champion.
Fights coming up
May 15 – King of the Cage at San Manuel Casino in Highland, California. (800) 359-2464.
May 16 – IFL at Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Conn.
May 17 – Gladiators Fighting “Thunder Dome” at West Allis, Wisconsin.
May 17 – CageFight MMA at Bedford, New Hampshire.
Video: MMA from NBC Sports
Cavalcante didn't want fight to stop
After losing his fight with Justin Gaethje due to a deep cut above his left eye, Gesias Cavalcante talks about the decision to stop the fight. Cavalcante says he was ready to continue the fight before the doctors made the call.
• Click here to email MMA Fight Weekly