In terms of diverse athletic backgrounds, few in MMA can match that of undefeated Ring of Combat welterweight champion Ryan LaFlare (Pictured).
He wrestled collegiately at Nassau Community College but turned his attention to a burgeoning lacrosse career after a snowboarding accident in 2002 left him with broken ribs and a ruptured spleen. LaFlare later attended the State University of New York at Farmingdale, a Div. III school where he became the all-time leading goal scorer. Upon graduation, he picked up Brazilian jiu-jitsu, entered the MMA world and has since emerged as one of the top prospects on the East Coast.
Wielding a potent and well-rounded skill set, LaFlare has finished all six of his opponents, four of them inside one round.
“I’m dynamic,” he told Sherdog.com. “You never really know what you’re going to get. Stand-up wise, I’m very aggressive and pretty technical. When it comes to the ground, I have strengths on the ground.”
LaFlare has enjoyed a rapid ascent on the regional circuit. The 27-year-old Lindenhurst, N.Y., native captured the Ring of Combat welterweight crown with a second-round knockout against WEC veteran Justin Haskins in February. It was a turning point for LaFlare, who had put himself on the map in only his fifth professional appearance.
“The first round could have gone either way,” he said. “He had a little bit better wrestling. I had a little more wind. My stand-up was a little more diverse than his. Our grappling was pretty similar. It came down to will.”
Trained by Keith Trimble at the Bellmore Kickboxing Academy, LaFlare defended his title in a first-round technical knockout over Mike Medrano in June despite a nagging wrist injury suffered in a car accident a month earlier. However, as he set out to prepare for his next bout, LaFlare knew something was wrong.
“It popped [in the car accident],” he said. “I knew it was bad, but I didn’t know how bad it was. I ended up fighting, and then after the fight, I was going to try to train for another fight. There was nothing left in my wrist, no strength at all.”
“I do feel like I’m ready for the jump, but you can never say you’re where you want to be,” he said. “You always want to get better. You always want your jiu-jitsu a little better, wrestling a little better, striking a little better. There’s always room for improvement, but I feel like if I was at the next level, I wouldn’t be scared. I’m in the right place.”
A 6-foot-1 southpaw, LaFlare has already drawn interest from Bellator Fighting Championships but seems content to bide his time, sharpen his skills and wait for the right opportunity to present itself.
“I don’t really like to fall into that stuff,” he said. “I focus on one thing at a time. I’m going to focus on getting better, and we’ll see where it takes me.”
In his spare time, LaFlare works as an operator for CompuStrike, a CompuBox Inc. subsidiary which developed a statistic-compiling program for mixed martial arts in 2007.
“Believe it or not, a friend of mine from high school -- his father invented it,” he said. “He asked me to help him out as far as teaching his guys the rules to MMA. I met up with this guy a few times, showed him what a dominant position was, what strikes are efficient and he asked me if I wanted a job. And I said, ‘Why not?’ I’ve been working there for about three years.
“I do all the Strikeforce events and all the HDNet events,” LaFlare added. “It’s great. I love it. You meet a lot of great people, and I get to see a lot of great fights.”
Engaged to be married in November, LaFlare supplements his MMA income by working side jobs with his uncle in the air conditioning industry. He has a 1-year-old daughter who has become the center of his life.
“It’s only motivated me, only helped me,” LaFlare said. “Ever since she was born, it’s opened up my eyes. I never thought of fighting as a set career. Once I had my daughter, I had to make up my mind. It opened up my life. I said, ‘This is what I have to do. This is my goal.’ Family’s first, fighting’s second and all that other bulls--t comes after.”