Never before has a violent act of mother nature benefited a human being as much as Ryan Thomas. On April 15, 2010, Ryan Thomas made his Bellator debut at the welterweight tournament quarter-finals against 2008 Bejing Olympic wrestler, Ben Askren. With just four fights in his MMA career, Askren managed to catch Ryan in an incredibly snug guillotine at around the 2:30 mark of the first round. Here’s where it gets tricky. If you check out the video of the fight, at no point did Ryan Thomas tap. In fact, when the ref jumps in, Thomas looks completely coherent as he gives the referee a ‘Dude, wtf are you doing? look. Apparently when Ben Askren sunk the guillotine in deeper in the first round, Ryan closed his eyes as he struggled to get out of the submission. The ref interpreted this as a physical sign that Thomas was ‘out’ and prematurely jumped in to stop the fight. You’ve seen the footage and it’s safe to say that we can all agree the stoppage was dipped in whack-sauce.
Thomas went back to Charleston, Illinois, watched reruns of Golden Girls and totally pigged out on ice cream. Ryan would have fell down a spiral of depression and irresponsible eating if it weren’t for a volcano named Eyjafjallajökull. Just a day before Ryan Thomas’ April 15th debut at Bellator, Eyjafjallajökull erupted for the first time in nearly two-hundred years off the coast of Iceland. The volcanic ash that spewed from it’s orifice (hey, volcanoes have orifices too) was so thick that it sidelined all air traffic traveling to the US from Europe which meant Jim Wallhead was incapable of making his flight to Uncasville, Connecticut to compete in Bellator 15. Without an opponent for Jacob McClintock, Bellator CEO, Bjorn Rebney, called up the one guy that probably would have murdered a small-mammal just for a chance to re-enter the 2010 Bellator welterweight tournament. Ryan Thomas became the first (and only) person in Bellator history to compete in two consecutive fight cards within the organization. At Bellator 15, it took Ryan Thomas just under five minutes to dispose of Jacob McClintock which included a mind-blowing spinning drop punch. Ryan’s victory at Bellator 15 has set up a Ben Askren rematch that will go down in Bellator this Thursday (May 20th) on Fox Sports Net. The smack talk has been rampant, the feud has been ignited and we all owe it to a volcano in Iceland that you probably never knew existed. Check out our exclusive interview with Ryan Thomas conducted by our very own Jay, only at MiddleEasy.com – Because MMA is everything.
Three days away from the rematch against Askren at Bellator 19, how do you feel physically?Physically I feel great man, I’ve been training real hard, I think I’m peaking at the right time…long hard training camp but it’s motivation to be fighting Ben Askren, cause, you know, I’ve been wanting this fight real bad. Knowing that I’m fighting him makes me push through training when its grueling and hard…I feel good though.
Yeah, OK, I’m gonna throw out all my warm up questions then, lets just get right to it and talk about Ben Askren’s latest comments then. Have you heard them?Um, I’m not sure, are they the ones from today?
Yeah, “I’m going to do the same thing I did the last time: I’m going to go in there and choke him, only this time I’m gonna put him to sleep all the way so he can’t complain about it.”Yeah I’ve seen that one, well I wouldn’t be complaining if he put me to sleep the first time right? I didn’t tap. I think I have all the right in the world to complain. If he put me to sleep or made me tap out, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation right now so…the fact of the matter is, he didn’t beat me. I didn’t tap out, so I deserve the rematch, I trained real hard for that fight and I had that taken from me, I didn’t get beat, but I got cheated. I think I got all the right in the world to be a little upset.
How many times have you looked at that tape?I don’t even know…I watched it a lot. I don’t think I could even tell you a number. After a week I was to the point where I couldn’t even watch it anymore it was making me so mad. I haven’t watched it in a long time though.
I was at the show that night taking pictures and I got some crazy pictures of your corner-men going nuts, I gotta send you those pictures man they are pretty crazy.Yeah, you totally should, I think that was my corner-man, Chad Steinbaugh, who was ready to start a Strikeforce brawl on those guys. He was really fired up.
It seemed that you and Askren had words for each other all the way back at the Bellator 14 weigh-ins in Chicago, care to elaborate? At the weigh-ins it was the first time we ever exchanged words at all. It was kind of boring, everyone was saying that they just wanted a good fight and everything so I just wanted to make it exciting, kind of hype the fight. I walked out and said something like “he’s a good wrestler, let’s see if he can fight” or something. I was trying to spice it up a bit. Then he walks up there and says “the last guy who said that got choked out”. So that was good, I didn’t really have anything against him at that point. I was just trying to get some eyes on us. Then, after the fight, I told him he was a tough fighter and I respected his wrestling, just trying to be nice and settle the score and he said he knew I didn’t tap, so I thought we were being civil at that point. Then an hour later at the post fight press conference he was saying that I need to accept defeat and that I wouldn’t have gotten out and I’m out of his league anyways. As soon as he made those comments I was pretty fired up, so then at my next fight when I’m all happy about my victory he Twitters (twats?) trash-talk, pouring gasoline on the fire, making it so much more worse for himself for when we get in the cage.
Paint a picture of what was going on in The Tank Engine’s world the weekend after Bellator 14.Right after the fight I was kind of down in the dumps, I was pretty upset about the way things turned out…I don’t really remember the timeline now but I think it was Sunday, my manager told me I would possibly be getting back into the tournament but he wouldn’t tell me why. Then, the next day, I heard about the volcano in Iceland and it was just hard to believe that I was getting back into the tournament because of a volcano that was 1000 miles away. I was really happy.
So have you ever been so positively impacted by a natural disaster before?No, that’s the first one. In Illinois all we have is tornadoes and I never see those. Well, I guess I didn’t see the volcano either but, no, Ive never had a natural disaster impact my life directly.
So it all works out, you’re back into the tournament…explain the spinning fist drop at Bellator 15.I just kind of made it up on the spot. I couldn’t find much video on Jacob McClintock, I could find stuff of him grappling but I couldn’t find any fight videos and then finally on his Myspace page I found one fight where he was kind of getting beat up the whole fight getting ground and pounded, and the guy he was fighting stood up in his guard and McClintock up-kicked him in the face and it hurt the guy and he put him in an armbar and won. So I knew he had a good up-kick. So as I was ground and pounding McClintock, I stood up to get some more power in my punches and I saw him rearing back, looking to kick me so I just kind of spun around and I couldn’t even really see where I was punching but BAM and that was the beginning of the end for him. It was pretty cool.
It seems like week to week Bellator always has something exciting going down, how does it feel to be a part of it?Oh, I’m really, really happy to be a part of Bellator, the way they’ve built me up the fights themselves have been awesome, I haven’t missed a show on Thursdays, great fights, great people. They have been wonderful to work with, an excellent promotion, they are the best thing that’s ever happened to my career, ever. I wish they came along a few years ago.
What are your impressions of Bjorn Rebney as a boss compared to all the other promoters you’ve worked with throughout your career?Bjorn is awesome. He always is around, a lot of other promoters for other shows might be at the weigh-ins or something but you don’t get to meet them in person. I’ve been able to talk to Bjorn on a number of occasions and he’s a super nice guy, I’ve gotten to know him pretty well and he is a guy that definitely keeps his promise. When he told me I would be in the next tournament or the first replacement I went to bed not believing him but then it happened and he kept his promise. A wonderful boss.
Are you going to do anything different against Askren this time around? Has your gameplan changed?A couple small things, I got a feel for how he sets up his take-downs, he only shot once on me but I stopped moving my feet in the last fight trying to bait him into throwing with me a bit, but he shot on me, so I got to keep my feet moving and if he does take me down I just have to lock up the submission or sweep him and maybe incorporate a little more ground and pound into this next fight because that worked out pretty well against McClintock, my ground and pound is probably my biggest strength.
If you win this fight do you think a rubber match is warranted?I’m going to try to beat him up so bad in this fight that he doesn’t want anymore of me, I don’t know, we will have to see how this fight plays out. If I go out and smash him I don’t think there will be any need for a rubber match. I would love to fight him a third time, I don’t really like the guy that much anyway. I’d be up for a rubber match.