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Ryan LaFlare explains why he’s coming out of retirement in hopes of joining PFL welterweight division

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Burnout and a laundry list of injuries led to Ryan LaFlare’s retirement from fighting back in 2018, but 15 months later, he’s healthy, happy and ready to compete again.

The 36-year-old New Yorker is not only ready to fight but he’s targeting a return with hopes of joining the PFL welterweight division for season 3 kicking off later this year.

According to LaFlare, his decision to call it a career gave him the time off he needed for his body to heal, which also allowed him to find his passion for mixed martial arts again.

“100 percent I was burned out,” LaFlare told MMA Fighting on Friday. “I got to clear my mind. I got to spend time with my family. I never walked away from training and martial arts in general. I own a gym, one of the biggest gyms in Long Island so I’m coaching and training the guys. It was good because I got to take some time out and let my body heal.

“Because I was just going fight after fight, getting injured, and then fighting injured. It just wasn’t a good feel waiting on the UFC to let me know when I was fighting. They would give me eight weeks or so then I’d be a little banged up but I couldn’t turn it down because I didn’t know when I’d be fighting again.”

During his run with the UFC, LaFlare was 7-3 over 10 fights including wins over the likes of Santiago Ponzinibbio, John Howard and Court McGee. Despite an impressive resume, LaFlare was understandably frustrated because he never quite knew where he stood with the organization.

“With the UFC it was difficult, not that I have anything negative to say about them but sometimes it was like one minute you’re the next big thing, you take one loss and all of a sudden you’re forgotten,” LaFlare explained.

“You’re the first fight on the prelims the next fight. It wears on you mentally on top of the physical part.”

After undergoing ACL surgery on his knee following his last outing in Oct. 2018, LaFlare took a step back from his own career but never lost his love for the sport while training and teaching fighters in his gym.

With each passing month, he started to feel that fire inside that he wanted to compete again but only under the best possible circumstances for the right organization.

“PFL was the only organization I would fight for,” LaFlare said. “I probably wouldn’t go back to the UFC even they would bring it up. It really isn’t about the money. I just love the way the PFL is run.

“It’s not how much you talk or who’s the favorite with who. I just love it. It’s a no-nonsense business. You go and take care of your business and you get paid and you get rewarded regardless whether you’re talking. I understand there’s an entertainment thing but sometimes it gets carried away with the UFC. I haven’t talked to one person who fought for the PFL who had anything negative to say. To me, it was the only option for me.”

If there was another driving factor behind his decision, LaFlare says he couldn’t resist the potential opportunity to face former UFC title contender and ex-Bellator champion Rory MacDonald.

MacDonald just recently inked a deal to join the PFL and that is a fight that LaFlare has wanted for years. Now he might finally have his chance.

“I always respected Rory MacDonald. He’s a very good fighter. I’m going back five or six years ago, we were both coming up, he was a little bit ahead of me but I always looked and him and said that’s a great matchup for me,” LaFlare said. “I like the matchup against him.

“I always thought I’d fight him in the UFC eventually but we never crossed paths. I never got to that point before getting hurt. So I saw him get signed and I thought here’s my chance. Because I know I can beat him. I’ve already envisioned myself beating him. As soon as I saw he signed, I said I want to do this.”

Beyond MacDonald, the PFL welterweight division also boasts fighters like season 2 champion Ray Cooper III as well as ex-UFC fighter David Michaud.

Now that he’s made his decision to return, LaFlare is already anxious to get back into the cage and that’s a feeling he’s sorely missed.

“I definitely miss it now. I was burned out but now I’m ready to roll,” LaFlare said. “How could I not be fired up? I’ve had time to rest. I still put on my gear and spar with my guys. It’s not like I’m rolling off the couch like ‘I think I’ve still got it.’ No, I’m good.

“I’m ready to go. It’s not even why not. It’s like this is my time. Everything I’ve done has gotten me ready for this moment.”