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Ryan LaFlare's message to fans soured on UFC Fight Night 62: 'Give me a shot'

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

The best laid plans of UFC matchmakers mean nothing once the injury bug set its sights on a show, and no card in 2015 has been so thoroughly stripped as UFC Fight Night 62. With names like Faber, Assuncao, and Thomson now gone, a lineup that was at one point comparable to any Brazilian Fight Night event has been left with just three fighters ranked in the UFC's own media-generated rankings.

Two of those fighters, welterweights Ryan LaFlare and Demian Maia, collide in the night's main event. At 37 years old, Maia is a known commodity, having fought 19 times in the UFC and even challenged unsuccessfully for the promotion's middleweight title in 2010. LaFlare, on the other hand, is the card's great mystery, an undefeated 31-year-old who strung together four wins in four Octagon tries, but has been sidelined since April due to injury. The bout itself doesn't scream for attention like many of 2015's blockbuster headliners have so far, though LaFlare has an answer to fans who may feel inclined to skip spend their night on March 21 elsewhere.

"These cards that they say are going to be weak are usually the best ones," LaFlare said on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour. "I think it's a highly competitive card. You've got me and Demian. No one really knows me yet, so wouldn't they want to watch and, you know, see what I'm about? They know who Demian Maia is. They want to see what Ryan LaFlare's got.

"Obviously they made me main event, the UFC believes in me, so give me a shot. Plus we've got (Blackzilian teammate) Gilbert ‘Durinho' (Burns), world champion in jiu-jitsu. I don't know why they wouldn't want to see him too, so I don't know. It's kind of one of those wait and see. If you're not watching it then you're missing out."

The road to headlining a UFC event has been a long one for LaFlare. The New York native's career kicked into second gear in early 2013 with a triumphant return from a three-year layoff, the final push that earned him his entry into the UFC. But LaFlare was a fixture of the fight game well before that, traveling the country as one of the original member's of CompuStrike's MMA crew.

A live stat provider that now works hand-in-hand with Bellator MMA, Compustrike was at the time just entering the MMA market, sealing deals with Affliction and Strikeforce along with a myriad of other non-UFC promotions. Early in his fight career, LaFlare helped the company adjust to the nuances of the sport, and in the process LaFlare became a regular sight at weekend events, totaling up punch statistics, takedowns, submission attempts, and everything else under the sun.

"I just remembered when I first started the job, I kind of looked up to everybody. Like, man, I want to be like that guy one day," LaFlare said. "It was almost so far away. Then my career started to build and people started talking, ‘Hey, when are you going to the UFC?' I started doing the shows and being like, man, I should be on this, I should be doing this. So it was weird how it kind of developed. One moment you think you're so far away, and then, really overnight, you're like, wait, why aren't I there? I should be fighting with these guys."

Now the owner of a perfect 11-0 record, highlighted by back-to-back decision wins over Court McGee and John Howard, LaFlare has proven himself to be one of the more intriguing prospects of the UFC's stacked welterweight division.

Though he usually splits time between his native Long Island and the sunny sands of Boca Raton, LaFlare elected to train exclusively at the latter with the Blackzilian camp for this go-round. His time in Florida ultimately ended up coinciding with the filming of season 21 of ‘The Ultimate Fighter,' which features the Blackzilians versus Coconut Creek's American Top Team. The show's new theme is a significant departure from its norm, though for a top prospect training for the biggest fight of his life, LaFlare wasn't exactly thrilled by some of the changes.

"It was definitely an inconvenience," he admitted. "And not so much as far as cameras being everywhere, but we had to move our training session an hour up -- which is fine, I don't mind -- but at eleven o'clock on the dot we had to be out of the gym. We only had one hour exactly to train in our training practices, and then when we come back at night, there's a huge cage obviously for the show, so the whole gym got cramped.

"I went down a couple times, did what I could to help them, but as I got closer to my fight I had to worry about my training camp instead of trying to get TV time."

LaFlare's own TV time will come soon enough. Set to air on FOX Sports 1 later this month, UFC Fight Night 62 will see LaFlare take his biggest step forward thus far in his quest for contendership. Despite some recent struggles, Maia remains entrenched in the welterweight division's top-10 rankings. LaFlare actually targeted the Brazilian following his latest win, so now that he has his wish, he's hoping to replicate that feat once more in Rio de Janeiro.

"Demian Maia was the only top-10 guy who didn't have a fight booked and I think my style matches up really well against his," LaFlare said. "I want to be in the top-10, I want to be the best in the world and Demian Maia is in the way. He's where I want to be, so let's get him out of the way and then I'll ask for somebody else."

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