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Ryan Spann isn't fighting to be great, but rather for 'my family to have a different life'

·Combat columnist
·4 min read
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LAS VEGAS — Ryan Spann doesn’t much care if he’s recognized while walking down the street, or if he doubles his social media following in the next month.

The UFC light heavyweight isn’t fighting for fame or glory or anything other than cold, hard cash.

He and his wife live in a two-bedroom apartment with their three children. He just signed the paperwork on a new home that will upgrade the family to a three-bedroom.

But his real dream is to build a large enough home for all of his children to have their own bedrooms and to give the home he’s moving into next to his mother, so she has one of her own.

“The key is this right here,” Spann said, holding up his left hand to show his wedding ring. “She understands what I have to do. When I have to take a step back to focus on fighting, she does a lot of the work. That’s why I fight harder, because I’m trying to make her life as easy as possible.”

That goal is admirable, but his task on Saturday in the main event of UFC Vegas 37 at Apex is a big one. He’ll be facing veteran Anthony Smith in the five-round bout, by far the biggest test of his UFC career.

Smith is a -175 favorite at BetMGM, while Spann is +145.

Smith has more finishes — 19 wins by KO and 13 by submission in a 51-fight career to this point — than Spann has total fights. With the motivation to provide for his family, though, Spann believes he’ll be able to be successful.

“I’m working for something,” Spann said. “It’s not that I want to fight to be great because I want the glory and all that. I don’t care about all that. I want my family to have a different life. That’s what I’m fighting for.”

Spann noted that he doesn’t like to do interviews and he doesn’t spend much time on social media, promoting himself. If he’s not in the gym trying to better himself, he’s being a husband and a father.

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - MARCH 13: Ryan Spann reacts after his knockout victory over Misha Cirkunov of Latvia in a light heavyweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on March 13, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
Ryan Spann reacts after his knockout victory over Misha Cirkunov of Latvia in a light heavyweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at Apex on March 13, 2021 in Las Vegas. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

His efforts to improve, though, have paid off. He went 2-4 in a six-fight span from Nov. 13, 2015, through an appearance on "Dana White’s Contender Series" on July 13, 2017. Since then, though, he’s gone 9-1, with the only loss a defeat to Johnny Walker on Sept. 19, 2020.

He followed the loss to Walker with a first-round KO of Misha Cirkunov, getting himself the bout against the sixth-ranked Smith.

Spann is ranked 11th, so a victory over Smith would boost him into the top 10 where he’s then got plenty of big fights available.

Their career arcs are similar and Spann said he wants to get the big win like Smith once did to leap himself into the big-time.

“I’m trying to get up there,” Spann said. “He’s been where I want to go. He’s somewhere I want to be, and in order for me to get there, I’ve got to go through him.”

He showed the resiliency elite fighters need against Cirkunov, rebounding from the disheartening loss to Walker to get an important win.

He said he needed to understand why he lost to Walker and when he did that, he became a different fighter. But he feels he’s raised himself to another level in the camp since the Cirkunov fight.

“I’m better as a fighter and better in my personal life,” he said. “A lot of times [what was happening] in my personal life would affect my fight career. Now, we’ve made strides to alleviate some of that tension and the issue that existed between my two lives, so to speak. And now I’m happy. I don’t know why people keep saying I’m angry. I’m happy.”

He’ll be happier, though, with a win over Smith and potentially a performance bonus, which will further his dream of providing for the most important people in his life.

And a bonus or two could go a long way helping him to pay off those houses he’s dreaming about.

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