The Ultimate Fighter season 22 winner Ryan Hall hasn’t fought since winning an unanimous decision against Gray Maynard in December 2016. “The Wizard” gave his reasoning for the two-year lay off, and explained why he is looking forward to his fight with MMA legend B.J. Penn at UFC 232.
In his featherweight debut, Hall (6-1) frustrated Maynard with his willingness to keep the fight on the mat, something Maynard labelled him a “coward” for after their fight. Before that victory, Hall filled in for Saul Rogers at the final of TUF 22 to defeat Artem Lobov in a one-sided grappling affair.
The 33-year-old explained his long layoff, and his trouble in finding an opponent to fight when he spoke to Luke Thomas on The MMA Hour earlier this week.
“I’d say there was a series of things. After fighting Gray, which I felt very fortunate for that opportunity — that was good, and I felt it was unorthodox but most definitely, by any metric, a dominant performance, similar to the fight against Artem — I was definitely looking forward to the opportunity to facing somebody tougher.
“But what it’s turned out to be is that a lot of the guys that are a little higher up the chain — and I’m not talking about way, way, way up there where I have no business even asking to compete with them — were very reticent to get into the ring, and that was a problem.”
A multiple time jiu-jitsu world champion himself, Hall will welcome the fifth-degree BJJ black belt Penn (16-12) to the octagon on December 29th. “The Prodigy” has lost his last five fights in the UFC, recently returning to the sport last year after a three-year layoff to suffer defeats against Yair Rodriguez and Dennis Siver.
“I expressed the interest to the matchmaker in the UFC, who’s never been anything but a gentleman to me, that I wanted to face very difficult and challenging opposition, and he said okay. He said, ‘I’ll let you know when that comes around,’ that a lot of those guys have turned down the fight.
“So, no, I’ve not been spending my time turning down fights. Not a ton of offers have come in, but the ones that have, I’ve accepted wholeheartedly, and finally we got a good one. In B.J. Penn, you have someone who’s clearly not afraid of anyone. This guy fought up to heavyweight, he fought Lyoto Machida, so I don’t think bravery is an issue in his case, and I will try to match that myself.”
Hall will be making the move back up to 155 pounds to fight Penn, but it’s a weight “The Wizard” is used to, competing at that weight when he fought inside the TUF 22 house in 2015.
“I feel very, very fortunate for the opponent that I have. And I’m glad that, it took awhile and it took a lot of waiting, but I’ve done my best to make good use of the time, so all things considered, I couldn’t be happier. I have a great fight.”
UFC 232 takes place at the T-Mobile Arena on December 29th. A women’s featherweight title fight between current champion Cris Cyborg, and bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes will headline the card.