The notion of competing inside Nassau Coliseum brings a smile to the face of Ryan LaFlare, a 33-year-old UFC fighter with a fully stacked Long Island resume.
He was an All-County wrestler at Lindenhurst High School, wrestled at Nassau Community College and still holds the Farmingdale State men’s lacrosse record with 131 career goals. He’s raising his family in West Islip and co-owns Long Island MMA in Farmingdale.
“To me, fighting in Long Island is the epitome,” LaFlare said. “This is where I grew up. I grew up going to shows at the Coliseum.
“I used to pass it every day and be like, ‘One day I want to be in there.’ Even going to Disney on Ice with my kids there, it’s crazy that I’m going to be able to put on for my city over there.”
That excitement will go away soon. But don’t be offended, Long Islanders, it’s not about you. There’s work to be done on fight night, namely getting by welterweight Alex Oliveira on July 22 on the UFC’s first card ever on Long Island.
“At the end of the day, the octagon has eight sides, there’s still gonna be three people once that cage door shuts: you, your opponent, the referee,” LaFlare said. “It doesn’t really matter where you are once the fight starts. I think the buildup is one thing, but the fight is something totally different.”
LaFlare (13-1, 6-1 UFC) has the traveling resume to back up that point as well. He’s fought for the UFC in Sweden and the United Arab Emirates and twice in Brazil.
He last fought in February at UFC 208 — at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. At the time, it was the closest he’d ever fought to his home in Long Island. Technically, it’s the same body of land. No bridges or tunnels are needed to get from Suffolk to Brooklyn. But that geographic distinction long ago was engulfed by Big Town. In 1898, Brooklyn became one of the five boroughs of New York City.
“They kind of teased me with the Brooklyn card. I’m like, finally I’m home,” LaFlare said. “I’m not saying it wasn’t amazing to fight there. But the Coliseum …”
Yes, the Coliseum. For Long Islanders, that’s the big time. It’s where they watched Islanders games for so many years. It’s where they went to their first concert. The circus, pro wrestling, the Harlem Globetrotters, Ice Capades, expos. Nearly every major artist or band played the Coliseum, from Paul McCartney to Prince, from Led Zeppelin to U2, and, of course, Billy Joel.
LaFlare is one of six local fighters on the UFC Long Island card, the promotion’s first here and fifth in New York since the state legalized mixed martial arts in March 2016. He’ll be joined by Chris Weidman, Dennis Bermudez, Gian Villante, Chris Wade and Brian Kelleher.
“The reason why I fight, it’s something different every fight,” LaFlare said. “Sometimes I wake up, I love being competitive, I love testing myself and seeing how far I can take this. Sometimes I wake up and say, ‘Man, all these people are counting on me, everyone looks up to me, I have to put on a show.’ Another thing is financially for my kids. Every day is something different. You have to keep digging deep and finding different reasons why you’re doing what you’re doing.”
|RYAN LAFLARE’S UFC FIGHT HISTORY|
|April 6, 2013||UFC on Fuel TV||Benny Alloway||Won by unanimous decision|
|Nov. 9, 2013||UFC Goiania||Santiago Ponzinibbio||Won by unanimous decision|
|Dec. 14, 2013||UFC on Fox 9||Court McGee||Won by unanimous decision|
|April 11, 2014||UFC Abu Dhabi||John Howard||Won by unanimous decision|
|May 21, 2015||UFC Rio de Janeiro||Demian Maia||Lost by unanimous decision|
|Dec. 11, 2015||Ultimate Fighter Finale 22||Mike Pierce||Won by unanimous decision|
|Feb. 11, 2017||UFC 208||Roan Carneiro||Won by unanimous decision|
|July 22, 2017||UFC Long Island||Alex Oliveira|
Photographer: Chris Ware
Video editor: Greg Inserillo