By IMMAF.org lead writer, Jorden Curran
Ryan Spillane embodies all that the IMMAF platform aims to provide for developing mixed martial artists from a young age. He will be Ireland’s one to watch this year at the 2018 IMMAF-WMMAA Unified World Championships.
From an 18-year-old with a patchy record to being crowned European Open gold medalist at age 21, the heavyweight standout is on a compelling journey to master the heavyweight ranks and prove the extent of his evolution on the premier stage for amateur MMA.
A matured Spillane was showcased this year at the 2018 Senior European Open Championships in Bucharest. The once inexperienced hopeful displayed his best form to date with speed and technical awareness to stop both Matias Antilla (Finland) and 2017 European finalist Daniel Yankov (Bulgaria), each in under 90 seconds.
Spillane’s initial response was that his first IMMAF title is a sign to make the professional jump, but after a sit down with coach Liam-Ogg Griffin, his aspirations are not over, the amateur pinnacle is yet to be conquered.
“It made more sense to finish this year with a world gold then smash the pro ranks in 2018,” Spillane told IMMAF.org. “It was always my plan to turn pro fairly soon. It was always the plan to turn pro after winning a gold, as it would skyrocket me. After having a sit down with Liam it made more sense to finish it with these tournaments, I’m still very young in this game and I’m in no rush.”
Spillane’s last three wins on the IMMAF platform have come via first round stoppages and with notable submission talents. For Coach Griffin, the ability of Spillane has made itself known. However, the mission now is to grasp the reigns for controlled momentum before an eventual pro debut.
“Ryan has had some ups and downs over the last couple of years,” he said.
“In the last 12 months Ryan has worked really hard on sports psychology, his strength and conditioning and getting to fight form, and he’s managed to do that. I want him to maintain that consistent form for 6, 8, even 12 months; I don’t want him to have any doubts that where he’s competing now is the real Ryan. I want him to go into his pro debut on a surge of confidence.
As one of the Republic of Ireland’s national team coaches, Griffin hopes for athletes to maximize the potential of IMMAF championships on offer, using the platform as an accurate measurement of progress and ability with up to five opponents in the space of a week long tournament.
“With IMMAF particularly, Ryan is always guaranteed multiple opponents. On the domestic scene, he had three fights cancelled in the first half of 2018 in January, February and March.
“I want him to have at least 20 fights as an amateur before turning pro. That’s a figure that I have in my head for all ammy athletes here with aspirations of turning pro, from watching some guys who have turned pro early and are losing fights and quitting [the sport].”
For amateur competitors, defeats are merely lessons that are to be faced sooner, rather than risking exposure as professionals. Upon the transition, the slate is wiped clean and the medals earned become the stepping stone to early prominence.
“For the longevity of Ryan’s career, if he gets all his learning phase done now, we’ll attack pro as a seasoned veteran. There are still a few technical things that I want to fix and it’s at the amateur stage where you do that tweaking, not as pro.”
The 2018 World Championships take place in Manama, Bahrain from from 11-18 November. Spillane will be one of the fastest rising athletes in attendance and will return to take a second shot at the gold, this time entering with the title of European Champion and as the most accomplished heavyweight of the year thus far.