By Harold E. Kemp
Ryan LaFlare’s comeback just keeps getting better. Just days after he stormed back from a 2½ year layoff with a submission win on Jan. 25, the Long Island native announced he had signed a four-fight deal with the new World Series of Fighting promotion. His first fight will be against Josh Burkman at WSOF 2 on March 23 at the Revel Resort and Casino in Atlantic City. “I plan on being one of the faces for the organization and we’ll take it from there,” LaFlare said. “I think my time has come and it’s time for the world to find out what Ryan LaFlare’s all about.”
The East Coast regional MMA circuit has known about LaFlare’s prowess in the cage for many years. The current Ring of Combat welterweight champion has won all seven of his MMA fights as a professional and has never gone the distance. In his last fight, LaFlare used an arm bar to submit Andrew Osborne in the third round at ROC 43. That fight marked the end of an extended layoff for LaFlare, who had battled knee and wrist injuries. Once healthy, he signed with Strikeforce, only to see the organization fold before he could get a fight. LaFlare said the WSOF deal came about quickly. In fact, promoters from the organization sent him a text as he was warming up for his bout with Osborne. He ignored it then, but within days his manager had worked out a multi-fight deal. LaFlare called the competition in the WSOF a “big step up” from the regional circuit.
Burkman, a UFC veteran with a 24-9 record, was a contestant on season two of The Ultimate Fighter. He went 5-5 with the organization before being cut in 2008 following three consecutive losses. In that time, he fought standouts such as Mike Swick, Jon Fitch, and Jeremy Horn. The Salt Lake City native then fought mostly on the Utah regional circuit where he won six of seven contests. He defeated Gerald Harris by decision at WSOF 1 on Nov. 3. LaFlare said he would continue to train at the Long Island gym he owns and occasionally with the Blackzillions in Florida. Little else would change, he said, especially his success in the cage. “It’s not going to be a walk in the park,” he said. “But if I fight the way I can fight and train right, I can’t see anybody beating me at all, period.” WSOF 2 will be headlined by a bout between heavyweights Andrei Arlovski and Anthony Johnson. The organization announced this week that it had signed a three-year deal with NBC Sports Network to broadcast six to seven events a year. The network is available in nearly 80 million homes.