When Lindenhurst's Ryan LaFlare began his MMA career, he also worked full-time installing HVAC units. Now, he co-owns the Long Island MMA gym in Farmingdale.
When LaFlare began his MMA career, MMA wasn’t legal in his home state. He has since fought in Brooklyn and Long Island and cornered his fighters elsewhere in the state.
When LaFlare started his MMA career, he hadn’t traveled much. Since then, fighting brought him to Sweden, Brazil and United Arab Emirates.
And when LaFlare started his MMA career, he said he’d do it until his mind and body were no longer into it.
"As soon as I know I can't compete with the best guys in the world, it’s time to hang 'em up,” LaFlare told Newsday on Wednesday, shortly after posting his retirement news on his Instagram account. "I'm never going to be one of those guys just hanging on."
LaFlare, who trained with Keith Trimble at Bellmore Kickboxing MMA since the start of his career, did leave the door to a possible return slightly ajar. In his Instagram post, he made sure to write that he "most likely" has fought for the final time.
LaFlare lost by third-round knockout to Tony Martin at UFC 229 last Saturday in Las Vegas. It was the third career loss for LaFlare (14-3, 7-3 UFC) and the second time he had been stopped.
“My passion for this sport kind of started dwindling," LaFlare, adding that he first started thinking about this last year, said. "This isn’t something that you can just train and expect to be good. You have to be passionate about it. You have to want to get better. It started fading for me. It started becoming a job.”
He began his career with 11 straight wins, including a 4-0 start to his UFC career. He reached main-event level in 2015 when he headlined UFC Fight Night 62 in Brazil against Demian Maia. He went the distance with Maia, losing by unanimous decision in the five-round bout.
Injuries took their toll on LaFlare, who recently turned 35. He said he went into last weekend's fight with a torn ACL, bone chips in his elbow and a nasal hematoma.
LaFlare has had six surgeries since he began his MMA career in 2008, and he has another two on the horizon. If there was a bone to break or ligament to tear, LaFlare did.
“I'm happy with some of the stuff I've done, but youre never sastified in life,” LaFlare said. “I really believe at one point I could have beat anyone in the world. I could just never stay healthy.”
LaFlare has business interests beyond MMA and his gym locations in Farmingdale and Islip. He and his wife, Danielle, also have two young children. The nature of LaFlare's higher-profile job of MMA fighter entails getting punched, kicked, twisted and mangled — and that's just in preparation for the fight.
It became something LaFlare started to dread, he said. He wanted to not bring that home with him anymore.
“I'm not the dad or the husband they need me to be," LaFlare said about life during a fight camp, "so it’s not fair to them."