LAS VEGAS – That nice little oval commemorating his work in the octagon went away in March, replaced by a not-so-sexy vertical line nine months ago.
On Friday, Ryan LaFlare will enter the UFC’s octagon with a loss on his record, something the Lindenhurst fighter has never done in his seven-year MMA career.
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“It’s a little weird,” said LaFlare (11-1, 4-1 UFC). “I’ve had these visions of going undefeated. Who wants to lose? You don’t think about losing. You’re not like, ‘Oh well eventually, I’m going to lose.’ Some people can think like that. I don’t think like that.”
That loss came to Demain Maia, one of the top welterweights in the UFC and among the elite in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. It was LaFlare’s first five-round main event.
And he did it with a busted-up hand.
“As soon as he came in for a shot, I punched him on top of the head and I felt that thing explode,” LaFlare said of re-aggravating the hand injury. “I couldn’t even get my glove off. My hand was like a volleyball.”
LaFlare’s hand is healthy now, as is the rest of his body, as he prepares to fight Mike Pierce on Friday on the main card of The Ultimate Fighter finale. Featherweights Frankie Edgar and Chad Mendes headline the card at The Cosmopolitan.
LaFlare will experience another first this week: fighting in Las Vegas. It is just the second time in six UFC fights that LaFlare is fighting in America. He beat Court McGee in Sacramento, California, two years ago. LaFlare’s other fights took place in Sweden, Abu Dhabi and two in Brazil.
It’s a welcomed change for LaFlare, a father of two who co-owns Long Island MMA in Farmingdale and closed on a new home in West Islip on Monday. But fighting in the States still costs a couple of bucks.
“I had to buy tickets for a couple coaches,” LaFlare said.
As LaFlare returns to fight at home, Pierce (17-6, 9-4) returns to fighting in general. Injuries delayed the career of the 35-year-old Oregonian. In October 2013, Pierce tore an ankle ligament in a loss to Rousimar Palhares, who has a history of holding on to submissions for too long and was released from the UFC after that fight. Pierce then broke his hand in early 2014 and has been recovering since.
“Mike Pierce, if you watch, there’s really no holes in his game,” LaFlare said. “He stays nice and tight, compact, puts pressure, good wrestling. That being said, I think what I do is perfect for his style. I’m long-rangy, strong wrestler, too. I think I can really confuse him and make him really uncomfortable in there.”
LaFlare said he has nothing to prove after losing to Maia last March. He views the loss as a positive.
“I didn’t get humiliated. I fought a top guy in the world,” LaFlare said. “I made mistakes. I knew what I did wrong. It wasn’t like I had to reinvent myself as a fighter.
“If Mike Pierce is thinking he can take me down and hold me down like Maia did, he’s got another thing coming to him. I know I can go with the best guys in the world, and then some.”