Lindenhurst's LaFlare battles setbacks, lands UFC bouts
The phone call began with bad news.
For MMA fighter Ryan LaFlare of Lindenhurst, it had been a three-year string of bad news. A growing list that included two major surgeries, two canceled fights, one car accident, one folded fighting promotion, one superstorm Sandy and one change in management.
So what could his manager say on the other end of that phone that could deter LaFlare's fighting career once more?
"World Series of Fighting is out," LaFlare said his manager told him last month.
That was just a few days after LaFlare tweeted that he signed with WSOF and would be fighting on their Atlantic City card last weekend.
The phone call continued, but with a more upbeat tone.
"But the UFC signed you for four fights. You're fighting in Sweden April 6," said LaFlare, recounting his manager's conversation.
LaFlare, an undefeated welterweight champion for Ring of Combat, was so excited, he forgot to ask who his opponent was. At the point, for him, it didn't even matter.
After coming down from the high of finally being signed to the biggest MMA promotion in the world, LaFlare gathered himself and texted his manager to get the name of his opponent. Benny Alloway.
"Didn't even look him up for another two weeks," LaFlare said. "I just started training."
LaFlare (7-0) had a contract with Strikeforce but never fought for them because of injuries. He said he received a temporary release from Strikeforce to fight on a Ring of Combat card last November, which was then moved to January because of superstorm Sandy.
When Strikeforce folded last January, UFC absorbed that promotion since both organizations were owned by parent company Zuffa LLC. LaFlare's contract status was left in doubt.
It was right after that Ring of Combat fight in January -- a submission win over Andrew Osborne -- when WSOF entered the picture before UFC exercised its contractual rights.
Contractual issues were just one minor glitch in LaFlare's journey from rising welterweight champion in Atlantic City's Ring of Combat to a 29-year-old unknown on the undercard of a UFC on a Fuel TV fight in a foreign country.
In June 2010, LaFlare tore ligaments in his right wrist in a car accident a week before defending his Ring of Combat title. He managed to win by first-round TKO throwing mainly kicks, knees and his left hand. And, of course, he broke a metacarpal in his left hand during that fight.
The wrist injury itself put LaFlare out for nine months. Once the wrist healed, LaFlare resumed training for what would have been his Strikeforce debut.
"Then out of nowhere, I tear my ACL," LaFlare said. "You gotta be kidding me."
He can laugh about that 2011 injury now. It healed. As did his wrist. As did his left hand. As did his fighting career.
"I'm an anxious person," said LaFlare, who also trains at Bellmore Kickboxing Academy. "For some reason when I'm in the cage, everything is just me and the person I'm fighting, I feel at home when I'm there. I feel like that it's my place when I'm actually fighting. I feel like I didn't take any time off."