After winning The Ultimate Fighter 22 with deft grappling skills and an ability to make a fight dance to his own tune, jiu-jitsu ace Ryan Hall has successfully entered the UFC waters. He was able to beat heavy-striker Artem Lobov in the season Finale, a suffocating performance that either perplexed or delighted spectators, depending on the point of view.
And he backed that up with a one-sided unanimous decision over longtime veteran Gray Maynard at the TUF 24 Finale on Saturday night. Once again, Hall was subjected to scrutiny over his grappling-heavy style that doesn’t fit the aesthetic of the more blood thirsty in attendance.
Which is okay with Hall, all that criticism.
“Honestly, I don’t pay too much attention to what people have to say,” the 31-year old jiu-jitsu champion said during an appearance on The MMA Hour on Monday. “I guess, anytime you do something a little bit different there’s going to be mixed reviews, and as long as me and my coaches are happy with the way [it went] and the result is a positive one then that’s all that matters to me.”
Hall is now 2-0 in the UFC. He was able to make Maynard fight his fight, which at times made each man appear gun shy. Through three rounds, the former lightweight title contender Maynard threw fewer punches than Hall landed. It was not a close fight, but it was unorthodox — and different.
The Virginia native Hall said it went according to plan, on whole.
“Of course, nothing’s perfect, but I felt I was able to go in there and execute the game plan and more or less neuter a very dangerous opponent, a guy with a lot of experience, a bigger guy who has beaten some of the best in the world,” he told Ariel Helwani. “I think [Maynard] landed one clean punch, and one illegal kick on the ground, and that was pretty much it in the course of 15 minutes. He refused to engage me on a lot of different levels and that was a choice he decided to make. But Gray is very tough guy, and I was very happy for the opportunity to face a decorated champion.”
The former Michigan State wrestler Maynard, who looks to stand in the pocket and throw, wasn’t exactly forthcoming either. At least in Hall’s mind, and in the view of a lot of fans who have been pointing it out.
“I would agree with that,” Hall said. “Again, I was dominating the fight, every inch. I’m just as ugly as I ever was, whereas Gray was slightly uglier than he was when it started. He wasn’t effective in there. If he was expecting me to trade punches in the pocket, I’m a better boxer than he is. But that doesn’t matter, because I try to understand how competition works. It’s more about not doing what the other guy needs to be able to do to be effective, and as a result I don’t feel a need to engage him on that level.
“Even if I’m a better boxer, the reality is I’m certainly no Manny Pacquiao, no Floyd Mayweather, so better is a relative thing. It’s not so much that I can’t be touched or can’t be hurt, and he’s very dangerous and MMA’s a tough sport.”
Hall, who was speaking thoughtfully on his approach to fighting — particularly in transitioning from grappling/jiu-jitsu competition — said MMA is a different beast. Fighting smart is one of the key components he brings to the cage.
“When you talk about other ring sports, when someone gets knocked down, you get eight or 10 seconds to collect yourself,” he said.” You get to have that heroic moment. It’s pretty cool. In MMA you eat that shot, people just pounce on you. It changes the nature of the game and in my opinion I believe it should change the behavior as well.
“When I roll into the legs or even hit the ground to protect myself from punches, Gray is under no obligation to back off. He and anyone else is welcome to come down to the ground. And for people that think that’s passive, I would disagree. I’m conceding a certain portion of the fight to invite you to another. And if Gray felt like sliding into guard or pulling guard, I’d have welcomed the opportunity to come on top if I had the chance. That’s a choice he elected to make. It’s a choice that’s within the bounds of the rules, both for him and me, and it just played out the way it did on the night.”
Still, the unspoken law in the UFC is oftentimes a desire to see two fighters chin-checking in each other’s wheelhouse, a brand of roulette that Hall says he’s not interested in playing.
He said he understands, though, that there’s a big appetite for that kind of fighting, and that everything else will look disappointing for those who have it.
“It’s the nature of the game,” he said. “For the most part, when it comes to fights a lot of people…a lot of the experts don’t know what the hell they’re talking about in my opinion. And to say nothing of the fans, obviously. People are going to look for a certain type of fight, and Gray was looking for a certain type of fight. The reality is, at least in my opinion the goal is to hit and not get hit, and I was fortunately able to do that in this case.”
Asked what he’s say to those that criticized his fighting methods, Hall (6-1) said he’s doing his best to bridge the gap in experience between him and the guys he’s facing.
“I really don’t have much to say — I hope that the things I do speak for themselves and I just try to carry myself in a respectful and respectable fashion,” he said. “I do my best in there facing tough opposition with a heck of a lot more experience than I have in mixed martial arts, and I’m trying to bring something different to the table. In jiu-jitsu I was able to, in the course of my time there, impact the direction and the flow of the way the game was played, and if we’re able to that in MMA as well, that would be a pretty neat achievement.
“In reality, I’m just trying to fight in a way that feels right for me and then develop myself as a martial artist. And if people can appreciate that, fantastic. And if they don’t, that’s also fine with me. I encourage them to watch what they like.”