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SportsMixed Martial Arts

Villante, LaFlare don't disappoint their fans

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. - Fight cards put on by regional promotions tend to draw fans in groups. Ring of Combat XXVIII Friday night at the Tropicana was no different.

Tiger Schulmann's has four fighters on the crowd and a strong fan base. Serra-Longo Fight Team had a pair of fighters and brought a solid group.

But, the winner by far was Bellmore Kickboxing MMA. Approximately 500 fans of Long Islanders Gian Villante (Levittown) and Ryan LaFlare (Lindenhurst) packed into the Tropicana Showroom to scream and yell and support their boys.

They roared when LaFlare scored the second-round knockout of Justin Haskins to win the Ring of Combat welterweight title.

They barely had a chance to finish their "Let's go Vi-llan-te!" chants as Villante won the heavyweight title in 40 seconds with a submission of Mike Cook.

Villante caught more of a beating outside the cage than he did inside it. He was barely knicked during the fight, but once he stepped outside, he was swarmed by his boys. They lifted him up and carried him a few feet.

"Those dudes are maniacs" Villante said afterward. "It's pretty awesome that people come and support us like this. It's a trip. It's two to three hours from our homes."

And they got to see their boys reach the highest plateaus so far in their young MMA careers.

"It felt great knowing that both me and Gian had all those fans there," LaFlare said. "It felt great, man. Cloud nine."

The celebration continued into the halls of the Tropicana. As LaFlare exited the Showroom's front doors, he was greeted by about 25 friends and family, including his fiancee. When Villante left the Showroom and reached the casino floor, he was greeted by friends and family.


New York Sports