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Ryan Spann says he should have taken MMA more seriously sooner: ‘I feel like I wasted a lot of my 20s’

Ryan Spann on The MMA Hour

At UFC 281, Ryan Spann secured the biggest win of his career, knocking out former light heavyweight title challenger Dominick Reyes in just 80 seconds. But the knockout was only half the story of the night, because after the win, Spann revealed that his performance came in large part thanks to this being the first time he truly trained for a fight.

For a 28-fight veteran, who’s fought nine times inside the octagon, that seemed highly improbable to many. But Spann insists it’s true.

“[My coaches] want me to take it back,” Spann laughed to Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour. “The truth is, it was my first full camp, really. I’ve trained before, against [Antonio Rogerio] Nogueira, I think I trained for that fight. There’s been a handful of fights that I may have trained for. My first amateur title fight, I think I trained for that one, but that was still for about four weeks. But for the most part, it’s fat training. I’m just trying to cut weight because I get big.”

Spann joined the UFC in 2019 and has since amassed a 7-2 record with five stoppage wins. More notably, though, six of his nine fights have ended in the first round. He said some of that is by design because he wasn’t training properly and thus focused on getting quick finishes, a decision which occasionally backfired.

Now, though, “Superman” believes he’s ready to make a real run up the division.

“I feel like I wasted a lot of my 20s,” Spann said. “I did, athletically, because I didn’t really take it seriously enough. I knew how good I am, I knew how good I was. Everything always came so easy. I was just too immature to realize.

“My brother would always tell me, ‘You need to be able to back your skills up with strength and conditioning,’ and I was like, ‘Why? I can kick people in the head. Why stretch?’ And it just kind of snowballed from there. We’ve got it under control now, though.”

One thing Spann didn’t have under control for UFC 281 was his weight; he came in .6 pounds over the 206-pound limit for his fight with Reyes, which he said was a result of an illness that ruined the final stages of his weight cut.

“I’ve been sick basically the past two weeks now. I’m just now coming out better. I even sound better now. If you listen to me talk after the fight in there, I was nasally. I was trying to breathe the entire time. So I was just sick. I don’t know what was going around. I had some kind of upper respiratory infection or sinus infection something, mixed with flu or something. I don’t know what I had, but I was all jacked up. I couldn’t sit in the sauna... I had three or four pounds [to go] when I woke up and I just couldn’t tolerate staying in there without throwing up. Mucus and all that stuff. Everything was so dry or whatever, every time I got in there, I was probably in there for five or six minutes and then all of a sudden I’d start hacking it. It was bad.”

Spann went on to say that it still may have been possible for him to make weight, despite the failed sauna sessions, had he simply cut his hair; however, when his coaches suggested it, Spann rebuffed the notion. In the end, that decision cost him as upon missing weight, Spann was fined 20 percent of his fight purse and was ineligible to win a Performance Bonus, which given his spectacular knockout, could have earned him an additional $50,000. But Spann says that was never even a thought for him.

“F*** that. My kids have never seen me without my hair, and I’m not about to cut it like that, especially after I did all that work in camp,” Spann said. “I knew I wouldn’t have missed weight, so it was easier for me to accept why I missed it. So I just had to bite that bullet, because I was never cutting it. It was never an option in my mind.

“It’s worth a lot more than [$50,000]. I never changed. I’ve had it for, I think I cut it one time, when my oldest who is now 10 was a baby. That’s the last time I cut my hair. So my kids, I have three now, have never seen daddy without hair, so I wasn’t about to pop up on them. ‘Hey, surprise!’ It’s going to be a thing if I decide to do it, which I doubt I will.”

UFC 281 was the first time Spann has missed weight in his career and the light heavyweight contender says it’s not likely to happen again, as moving forward he intends to stay in fight shape year round, instead of ballooning up between camps. This, Spann says, will not only be better for his training and preparation, but will also allow him to be even more active, which is why Spann says he and the UFC are already looking ahead to a fight with the No. 7-ranked light heavyweight in the UFC rankings, Nikita Krylov.

“It’s going to keep rolling,” Spann said. “We’re going to keep going. We’re actually working on something right now. We’re trying to [No.] 7. I’ve got to fight two times just to get to seven, I guess, since they only moved me up two after putting the previous seven where I was. So we’re trying for seven.”

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