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SportsMixed Martial Arts

UFC 208: Through injuries, Ryan LaFlare still loves fighting

After fighting on three other continents and traveling all across the world, Long Island's Ryan LaFlare finally realizes a dream: to fight at home. LaFlare faces Roan Carneiro at UFC 208 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Feb. 11, 2017.  (Credit: Newsday / Mark La Monica)

Bones have been broken, ligaments have been torn.

Multiple times.

Still, Lindenhurst’s Ryan LaFlare, professional mixed martial artist, fights on.

Through injury after injury — if the bone or ligament has a name, there’s a decent chance he has injured one or both of his — LaFlare continues his life’s work.

“I enjoy fighting,” said LaFlare, 33. “Some people fight for different reasons. Obviously, I do it for financial reasons, too, but I enjoy it. I enjoy the competition. I enjoy putting pain into people, I guess.”

Not that LaFlare, a husband, father of two and a small business owner, is a brute. His job just happens to be kinda rough.

“I’m not malicious about it,” LaFlare said. “I enjoy everything that comes with it. You have to enjoy what comes along with fighting. The respect that you get from other people, the fact of everybody looking up to you. I think that’s a really big motivating factor for me. Anyone who says different, I think they’re lying to you. That respect is important.”

LaFlare’s next chance to earn that respect comes Saturday against welterweight Roan Carneiro (21-10) at UFC 208 in Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. It’s his first fight in more than a year. It also happens to be LaFlare’s first opportunity to fight professionally in his home town.

“The last time I fought in New York was like 2006, 2007, in some, like, rusty old gym, bare-knuckle illegal style fighting,” LaFlare said. “I stuffed in, like, 200 of my friends there. It was like a regular boxing gym. It was just a rush having all my friends from home and my first fight ever, regardless of if it was legal or not, it was a cool fight.”

MMA fights were illegal in New York then, a law enacted in 1997 and not overturned until March 2016.

UFC 208 will be the promotion’s third event in the state since the state regulations went into effect last September.

“Something I’ve been waiting my whole career for,” said LaFlare, who expects to have more than 200 friends and family members at Barclays Center. “I can feel their energy. When I see familiar faces before the fight, it kind of gets me motivated.”

Fighting so close to home has its benefits for LaFlare (12-1), who in his first six UFC fights has competed twice in Brazil and once each in Sweden, United Arab Emirates, California and Las Vegas. He can drive to the arena if he wants to on fight night. He can see his family during the week. He can get his food and incidentals easily. And more purse money goes into his pocket since he doesn’t have to pay for his cornermen’s flights and hotel rooms.

It also brings with it a sense of legitimacy for LaFlare.

“The legalization of MMA in New York is extremely important to me, not only for me just to fight in my home town, but for me as a businessman and a family man,” said LaFlare, co-owner of Long Island MMA in Farmingdale. “It legitimizes my lifestyle. I dedicated my entire life to fighting back in 2008 when I turned pro. It’s all I do besides care for my family and spend time with my family. I teach martial arts at my gym, Long Island MMA. I coach up-and-coming fighters, both amateur and professional.”


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