When the UFC returns to action on Saturday, it will be one of the first live sporting events that the world has seen since the widespread cancellations and postponements caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
UFC 249 is loaded with big names from top to bottom and leading the charge will be UFC light heavyweight Ryan Spann, who will be one of the first two fighters to make their way from the tunnel to the Octagon on Saturday.
Spann’s bout with Sam Alvey will likely draw the largest number of people that have ever tuned in to see “Superman” do what he does best. And while he understands the significance surrounding his return to work, Spann expects to be unfazed by the moment.
“I haven’t even thought about that. People have mentioned it and I’ve jokingly said, ‘No pressure,’ but the truth is I don’t care if anyone is watching,” Spann said. “I’m on a mission and it’s cool and all to be a part of something that people are going to remember, but I got to get money and support my family. That’s it.”
Spann’s mental fortitude has been a major ingredient of his success since joining the UFC through Dana White’s Contender Series. It helped him bounce back from a defeat on the same show that put him into the UFC, it helped him win the LFA title and it’s helped him rack up three straight victories in the Octagon.
Not even the uncertainty presented by the pandemic has been able to throw Spann off his game. First, he was scheduled to take the biggest fight of his career against Ovince Saint Preux at UFC 247 and when that didn’t happen, he switched gears to facing Paul Craig at UFC London. Then Spann was ready to fight at UFC 249 on its original date on April 18 when the event was pushed back another three weeks.
Yet despite dealing with events out of his control, Spann remains steadfast with that same impenetrable focus.
“I’m not trying to think about a single thing other than what my job is,” Spann said. “My social media will be off; I will be heading in there to make as much bread as possible. I will smash who is in front of me and I will do it as fast as I can. My mom is watching me, so I’m not trying to stand in there and bang to get Fight of the Night. That s*** isn’t for me; I’m going to knock him out or choke him out as fast as possible and go home.”
The Fortis MMA product is true to his word. Since his Contender Series loss in July of 2017, he has only allowed one of his fights to make it out of the second round. He believes that these types of performances will not only earn him the money he deserves but also move him closer to the UFC light heavyweight title.
Working your way into and up the UFC rankings is tough enough, let alone seeing a pandemic halt all operations, but Spann isn’t concerned with the timeline one bit.
“I’m after bread, but rank wise, people seem to question who I fight and what I’m doing but the truth is am just doing the best with what the UFC gives me,” Spann said. “I would love a top ten guy. If I take care of business against Alvey and, God willing, I’m healthy and they need me for one of these other cards or if something happened with Anthony Smith and Glover Teixeira, I would do it. Same goes for Donald Cerrone; if he wants to come up to 205 pounds and make some extra money, he can get it, too.”
The path is still clear for “Superman,” who has concrete goals for himself. For him, it isn’t a matter of how, it’s a matter of when he will achieve them.
“It’s weird because three years ago I said I was going to win the LFA title and I told my brother that the culmination of my UFC three-year plan would be in 2020,” Spann said. “Obviously I haven’t made it to the title yet, but nothing can set me back because I’m just focused on the title. Without that, nothing else matters.”
I don’t care who has it or where it’s at, I’m coming for it.”
Tune in to UFC 249 at 6pm ET/3pm PT to watch Spann take on Alvey on UFC Fight Pass, ESPN or ESPN+.