A frustrated Ryan Hall will fight nearly anyone, but insists on proper preparation

Elias Cepeda
Yahoo Sports Contributor
(R-L) Ryan Hall kicks Darren Elkins in their UFC featherweight bout at Golden 1 Center on July 13, 2019 in Sacramento, California. (Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Ryan Hall says he’s open to fighting just about anyone, but the one thing the UFC star says he won’t compromise on sets him apart from most of his peers. Hall has won eight straight bouts, including four in the UFC over the likes of former two-division champion BJ Penn and lightweight title-challenger Gray Maynard.

Hall’s last win came in July over Darren Elkins and he says that other than an injury blip in October, he’s been asking the UFC for another bout ever since then. Still, despite saying he’s expressed interest in several opponents, he has yet to be matched up.

"We will fight anyone high caliber. We want to face the absolute best opponents that there are,” he told Yahoo Sports.

To be sure, Hall would love to fight people above him in the UFC featherweight rankings in order to move up the ladder. He’s still willing to fight people ranked beneath him, so long as they’re great fighters.

MMA veteran Cub Swanson (26-11) is one such opponent Hall recently thought he’d get to fight, and felt confident that the game Swanson would also be willing, until he tore his knee in a grappling competition recently.

Hall says he was turned down by two other opponents, and yet two others he was interested in were matched up in other bouts.

“I’ve been looking to book a fight since my last one,” he continued. “We’re doing our best to be ready.”

Hall is largely magnanimous when discussing potential opponents as well as the UFC itself as a promotion, which has not booked him regularly since he signed with them, despite his winning “The Ultimate Fighter 22” and staying undefeated in their ranks.

“I appreciate that other people have a variety of issues they're managing and that they could turn us down for any number of them, but it's still frustrating. We came here to fight the best, period,” he said. "I feel for [UFC matchmaker] Sean Shelby, who has an exceedingly difficult job. Between event timing, injuries, people being unwilling to fight one another, and any number of other concerns … it seems like an unbelievable amount to juggle.”

Still, when it comes to his own interests, Hall is downright militant. The submission artist insists he’s willing to fight just about anyone at featherweight or lightweight, and his record thus far bears that claim out.

The one thing Hall won’t do, however, is fight without adequate time and resources to prepare for battle. In that way, Hall stands out from many of his peers in this still young sport of mixed martial arts.

“We had hoped to fight on the Norfolk card [Feb. 29] but we’re running up on that one and the one thing I cannot compromise on is having adequate time to prepare. I want to put my best foot forward for myself, my opponent, the UFC and the fans. Anything less is inappropriate,” he explained.

“My training camps happen in Los Angeles, Montreal and D.C. so there are a lot of logistical concerns, a lot of people who have to be contacted and coordinated with. This is not the sort of thing that is done in a few weeks … I’m always in the gym learning, but the argument that a fighter should be 100% ready for a short-notice bout at all times is absurd, particularly at this level. This is a serious game with serious consequences and I take it seriously. As many have observed in the past, you don’t ‘play’ fighting.”

Despite always wanting a couple months to prepare for a fight, Hall says he is willing to fight on short-notice if it is the right opportunity or he is paid accordingly.

“The only time it makes sense to truncate training and preparation is for a truly unique opportunity or situation,” he said. “But those only come along very rarely. We demonstrated our willingness to adjust accordingly for the ‘Korean Zombie’ [Chan Sung Jung] fight, offering to fly across the world on two weeks’ notice for a potential five-rounder. The juice needs to be worth the squeeze, though.”

Hall says he doesn’t know if the UFC hasn’t taken kindly to his relative pickiness when it comes to demanding adequate time to prepare or compensation or opportunity for the outsized risk of fighting without a proper training camp, but he doesn’t seem the least bit bitter about his long layoffs, just frustrated.

“The UFC has its own concerns and I understand that they might not always line up with mine,” he reasoned. “As with any aspect of life, when people can find common ground, a deal is made.”

For his part, Hall insists that he’s quite amenable to a deal for his next fight. He’ll keep on suggesting opponents in hopes that a match will get made, but that doesn’t mean he plans to fight them without preparation.

“I’m a reasonable guy and I want to compete very badly but that doesn’t mean I’ll hamstring myself to do it,” he said. “If other fighters elect to, they are more than welcome, but they’re also more than welcome to inject heroin into themselves, which is something I like to think I’m unlikely to do.”

Ryan Hall accepts Pedro Munhoz’s challenge

With seemingly no featherweights around him in the rankings available or willing to fight him, Hall recently went down the list to find two legends for whom he believes guts is never an issue: former champions Jose Aldo and Frankie Edgar.

Aldo recently moved down to fight at bantamweight for the first time after a long reign at featherweight. He lost his bantamweight debut in December, however, but the UFC has expressed interest in booking him to fight 135-pound champ Henry Cejudo, next. Edgar has announced his intention to fight at bantamweight and even accepted a fight there that was subsequently called off due to injuries he sustained in his first-round TKO loss to Jung that he accepted on short-notice. 

Both Aldo and Edgar are still ranked at featherweight, No. 9 and No. 6 respectively, so Hall targeted them.

“I’m not calling out bantamweights, I’m asking for ranked featherweights. If everyone between No. 9 and myself is unavailable, what can I do? If No. 9 is a legend, he’s still No. 9, which is not an unreasonable ask. If No. 9 is not available, No. 6 is the next best bet based on who’s left.

“I’m not cherry-picking. I have been consistently turned down. These fighters are legendary at lightweight or featherweight. I’m willing to fight at lightweight or featherweight.”

Hall may have found the next person willing to trade blows with him after bantamweight Pedro Munhoz called him out in a recent interview. Hall says he’s down for that fight, and that he respects the slugger’s skill and courage.

“After we asked for Frankie and Jose, Pedro Munhoz almost immediately said that he was happy to fight up at 145 against me. I respect that spirit and would love to face an opponent of his high caliber,” Hall said. “We’re looking at the end of March in Columbus or middle of April in Brooklyn. I’m not interested in short-changing anyone, whether it’s myself, my opponent, or the fans. These dates would give adequate time for everyone to prepare tactically and for Pedro to put on any extra size he feels necessary.”

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