By Caoilte de Barra
This weekend will mark the pro debut of one of the brightest prospects in MMA, Ryan Spillane. The Irish fighter was one of the most talked-about amateurs in MMA due to his high-level ability and multiple accolades, the most notable coming from IMMAF Competitions.
His IMMAF journey began in 2015 but it was in 2018 where he cemented his place as one of the elites, winning a European Open and World Gold medal. This flawless year saw his wins come all by way of finish with only one going past the first round.
The following year he followed it up with the Oceania Open Gold medal to round off his IMMAF career with sights firmly set on the pro ranks. The Heavyweight talent was quickly snapped up by Bellator MMA upon his decision to turn pro but unfortunately never got to feature for the promotion before being released. Speaking with IMMAF, Spillane explained how it played out and expected the release to come.
“I found out about that news about 2 to 3 weeks ago before I went up to Dublin.” He began, “I expected it to come, I knew there were a lot of fighters being released with the whole Showtime stuff and with them not being able to have a show in Europe. It doesn’t make sense for them to have a roster of fighters in Europe and not have shows in Europe.”
The release was not on bad terms; he shared a positive viewpoint of the situation that one can only admire.
“I left on very good terms, they released me, that was it. They just said my contract has run up, I thought that would not start until my first fight, they just explained that once I signed the contract it was in effect. That was all it was and I’ve got no issue with that”
“I’m fully confident that when Bellator comes back to Europe that I’ll be on the cards. It wasn’t great news but for me now it opens way more opportunities like this opportunity to fight in Amsterdam. To get the fight in Battle Arena I had to get releases. Now being released is like a weight off my shoulders because I get to go off now and have loads of fights.”
His debut was originally supposed to be on Battle Arena 62, however, due to Romek Sim being forced out of the bout he was left without an opponent. This was until rising Dutch promotion, Levels Fight League came knocking with the offer of a Co-Main Event slot in Amsterdam on the same weekend.
“It’s on the same weekend but it changes from being a Saturday to Sunday so it changes nothing for me.”
“I was very positive I was going to get an opponent somewhere, be it on that show or if I was going to have to change to, let’s say, a couple of weeks later on, I was ready to go.”
Standing at 6’5 and only 23 years of age, the sky’s the limit for the Heavyweight fighter as he looks to kickstart his pro career with a bang. Hoping to spoil that from happening will be an Olympic Calibre wrestler in Slim Trabelsi (1-0), who trains out MMA Factory in Paris and is a training partner of UFC Heavyweight Contender, Cyril Gane.
Spillane believes he will be a calibre above his opponent though. Having fought approximately 20 times as an amateur against fighters from across the world. He feels that this experience means that nothing will surprise him come fight night.
“I’m very happy to have all my amateur experience and it will show in my first 10 pro fights how I’m levels above these guys.”
“When I’m fighting these guys, it will look like I’m fighting nobody but they’re not. The guy I’m fighting at LFL is 1-0 as a pro, so he’s a fairly decent pro. He’s won one fight he’s won more than me but I’ll make him look like nothing just because I have countless more fights than him. If I fought Romek Sim it would’ve been the same, I would’ve embarrassed him, I would have been on a different level.”
Without looking past his opponent, the 2018 IMMAF World Champion is hoping to keep active this year and has his sights set on avenging a loss from his early IMMAF days against Irman Smajic, who is Chair of the IMMAF Athletes Commission as well as being a top fighter.
“BRAVE are coming back in November, I’d love to fight Irman, I’d love to have that fight”
“When I got my release from Bellator back in March, I wanted to fight him but we couldn’t agree with BRAVE. They were not running that many shows at the time then. Battle Arena came up and I just jumped on that then.”
“Me and Irman are very good friends, we text the whole time, he’ll be on to send a text before the fight now wishing me good luck. But I’d love to have that fight again to get rid of that doubt on my record. I lost to him when I was very young, I’m a completely different athlete right now and he is as well. I became a world champion after he passed onto the pro scene, that what-if never happened of us fighting at the worlds so it’ll be a great story I think.”
Before wrapping up the interview the cork-based fighter emphasized the growth of his home gym, SBG Cork City, where Liam-Og Griffin is the head coach. The gym has two IMMAF alumni turning pro in the coming weeks, Pa Lehane being the other. He believes that the next few years will be huge for them listing off the likes of Fionn O’Rourke, the McCarthy twins, the Fares brothers, Aelish O’Hanlon and Kerry-Ann Vernan as ones to watch. Many of whom will be in action in the upcoming IMMAF competitions.
His loyalty to Cork is clear and one day he aspires to bring a major show to his home county.
“The next two or three years are going to be huge for our gym but also Cork. My whole thing is that I would love to have, I still want it and I’m going to have it, is a Bellator show in Cork. I want a Bellator in Cork, I fully believe I can do that. After a few fights in Bellator that will be the goal for me.”
“Bellator or UFC, I can’t predict the future, whether I’m with Bellator or with the UFC, I could be with PFL or KSW too. There are massive shows around now especially for a Heavyweight and since I am a free agent now 5 or 6 fights and who knows, I could be on the Contender Series.”