Ryan Hall is no stranger the difficulty finding quality opponents willing to face him.
In the past, the Ultimate Fighter winner has spoken openly about the difficulties he’s endured during his UFC career with the promotion struggling to match him up against equal opposition. As a result, he’s been wildly inconsistent with his schedule, competing just four times over the past five plus years that he’s been in the UFC.
Perhaps the most frustrating part for Hall was the UFC finally giving him a ranked opponent earlier this year only to fall out of the fight due to injury.
“Finally ended getting the top-10 opponent I was looking for in Dan Ige, and then unfortunately I got really unlucky and got injured for the first time in about 10 years,” Hall explained in an interview with MMA Fighting. “Fell on my hip pretty badly, almost tore my hip flexor almost all the way off the femur, and it took a couple months to get back. We’re 100-percent now and just looking forward to being back in the ring.”
As much as Hall might want to get angry or upset about his circumstances, there’s not much he can do about it but accept the fights that are given to him.
He believed after a convincing win over a veteran like Darren Elkins in his last performance that higher ranked opposition would begin to materialize, but then the injury to his hip cost Hall the perfect chance to make waves in the featherweight division.
“All I can say is try to control what I can control, which is my training, my preparation, my effort,” Hall said. “MMA is an interesting thing because prior to the B.J. Penn fight, I couldn’t even get anyone to sign up to fight me, which was absurd. Even after the [Darren] Elkins fight, nobody wanted to sign up to fight. The people who wanted to fight are people that are way down in the rankings or just some random guy. It’s like if Khabib Nurmagomedov wants to fight, of course, I’ll step up. I have absolutely nothing to lose, it would be an honor to face one of the best guys in the world but I’m not the sort of opponent he would be looking for. That’s been a bit of a tough situation and that’s how we ended up with Lamas cause he was willing to step in and obviously he has a great resume, he’s a great athlete himself.
“Dan Ige, that ended up being ideal, but then again, because of some unfortunate bad luck, that didn’t really work out. All I can say is, I’ve been working hard and I’m ready to get back in and have the opportunity to let fly everything we’ve been working on.”
With Ilia Topuria now scheduled for his next fight, Hall will be facing off with a young gun in the UFC’s featherweight division who comes into their bout with a perfect 10-0 record, including a blistering knockout against Damon Jackson in his last outing.
As impressive as Topuria has been through the early part of his UFC career, Hall knows this was his chance to take a step forward in the division and that makes the risk that much easier to accept.
“Topuria will take the fight because he effectively has nothing to lose,” Hall explained. “For the other guys, I can’t speak to why [they don’t fight me]. I don’t like to speculate about why people do what they do. People do a variety of things, but all I can say is I’ve always been willing to face the toughest competition. That’s always been my stated goal, and I’ve done my best to stand behind that.
“That’s why when a fighter like Topuria was offered to me, I said, ‘Yeah, sure.’ Because even though he doesn’t have as much UFC experience, he’s obviously done very well, and he’s a very tough guy with a lot of skills, and in my opinion he’s as good as many in the top 15 in terms of what he brings to the table. I know that’s going to bring out my best.”
If Hall is successful in his fight this weekend, he obviously hopes that the UFC will slot him against a ranked featherweight next. But he also understands there are no guarantees.
As valid as his complaints might be, Hall has seen this kind of thing happen before, most notably when reigning UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman was rising up the ranks yet struggled to find ranked opponents to accept his challenge.
If that’s any sort of model, Hall would gladly follow that same path, because now Usman is recognized as the best welterweight in the sport. And with a title around his waist, there’s no way to avoid him now.
“I’ve been in the UFC more than five years now and I haven’t had a ton of fights, but I have really, really gained a lot of experience,” Hall said. “All I can say is my job is to fight and perform and at a certain point the people can’t run from you. That’s what I’m absolutely here to do. I can control what I can control. You mentioned somebody like Kamaru Usman, who’s a phenomenal champion and you just win and you win and you win and people can say what they want to say but they’re going to have to step in there with you. I’ve been doing my best to make good use of the time away. I’m always practicing, I’m always growing, I’m always improving
“That’s really why I got into this in the first place and eventually, if the stars align, you’ll have the opportunity but if you look at a lot of the fights that get made, they don’t make a lot of sense. But there’s plenty of people who could be champion given the opportunity. That’s really out of your hands. All you can do is fight the guy in front of you with everything you have and that’s what I’m going to do on July 10.”