On an overcast morning in Concord, California, Ryan Bastianelli paces back and forth trying to warm up in the chilly December weather. He stops for a minute to take a sip from his protein shake while standing out in front of Combat Fitness.
“Relentless” Ryan has honed his craft at the northern California gym, helping him break into the world of professional MMA in 2008.
The 135 pounder hopes the impending new year will present challenging opportunities in his young career. While ’08 marked his first year as a professional, ’09 could be the year in which the Oklahoma native starts to make a name for himself in the Bantamweight division.
PRO MMA: Thank you for allowing us to come to your gym today Ryan.
Bastianelli: Hey, no problem man
PRO MMA: 2008 marked your first year as a professional MMA fighter. How would you evaluate it?
Bastianelli: I think it was a successful year. I had three fights, won all three. As far as wanting to get another fight in, I wanted to get one more in before the year ended. Unfortunately, the guy who I was supposed to fight broke his hand a week out, so I couldn’t get that fourth W. As far as getting better, I think I’ve improved my stand up and Jiu-Jitsu game a lot….’08 was a good year.
PRO MMA: How has the transition from being a pure wrestler to mixed martial artist gone for you?
Bastianelli: For me to transition to the Jiu-Jitsu game, I don’t want to say it’s been easy….but I’ve adapted more to the Jiu-JItsu game just because my ground game has been so strong from wrestling. Basically, I’ve been learning the ways to position my body to get my subs and defend. Transitioning to stand up was very difficult at first, I struggled for months. It was very frustrating, but it’s been about a year now and I’ve gone from not being able to throw a proper leg kick to throwing proper head kicks. I’m throwing my combinations and my three-four-fives with speed. The soft jabs and hooks are what set up for my knock out punches.
PRO MMA: Has the mentality of being a wrestler also helped you make that transition?
Bastianelli: All the experience of all the mat time I’ve had in my life, I’ve had hundreds of matches, all the matches I’ve been in has helped me stay calm in my fights and not get too excited. Having my teammate Eric Lawson around cornering me helps because he helps me stay loose before a fight. When I come out to fight I’m relaxed and all smiles and that comes from wrestling in a lot of big tournaments as a kid. I learned to deal with those big crowds as a youngster and that helped set me up for MMA.
PRO MMA: What has training with Gil Castillo and George Tsutsui done for your game.
Bastianelli: Wow…man…just training with Gil, my ground game and learning positions…it just doesn’t get any better than training with him. He’s fought in the UFC against Matt Hughes and Dave Menne. It just doesn’t get any better on the ground. Gil’s been there, he’s been in the MMA game for a long time and he knows what it takes. He knows the certain positions you need to get in to be successful. As far as my striking goes with George, I fight at 135 and he walks around at 160-165, so he’s a smaller guy like myself. Just to have him to spar with and help work my strikes is just a huge confidence booster for myself. It’s amazing working with that guy. I’ve never seen a guy more technically sound in the stand up game then George Tsutsui.
PRO MMA: How many fights would you like to have in 2009?
Bastianelli: I see ’09 as being awesome. I think it’s gonna explode for me. Being an up and coming fighter is a difficult thing to do. Its hard because you see guys on TV that you think you’re able to beat but you haven’t got your time in yet. I’m hoping to get at least five fights in, minimum of four. I’m hoping to bring my record up to seven or eight. I’m going to be fighting for Gladiator Challenge and Strikeforce, it’s going to be a good year. This is going to be, I think, my last year of hard times until I get a couple more wins under my belt to take it to the next level and get my name out there.
PRO MMA: There is some discrepancy about your record. Sherdog has you as two and one as a pro. Mixedmartialarts.com has you as two wins as a pro but zero and one as an amateur. What is your official professional record?
Bastianelli: Officially it is 3-0 as a pro. I fought Gladiator Challenge twice and Strikeforce once so I am 3-0. My last Gladiator Challenge fight in July for some reason, Sherdog only has six fights from that card on their site. There were eleven fights and I fought as the co-main event and they don’t have me on that card. I fought against Gigo Jara and beat him for a unanimous decision. The one loss on my record, from Sherdog, is an amateur fight in Arizona. It was an amateur fight for Rage in the Cage, all open hand strikes. I lost by a gogoplata at the end of the second. So officially it’s 3-0.
PRO MMA: Talking about Strikeforce and Gladiator Challenge. What is your contract status with those promotions?
Bastianelli: Right now I’m on a fight to fight basis with both of those promotions. There has been some talk of Gladiator Challenge signing me in the next three or four months, which would opt me out from fighting with Strikeforce. As of right now, I am open to different organizations. I’ll fight for whoever, whenever. If the situation is right, if the money is right…as of right now I am kind of freelancing.
PRO MMA: Do you have any fights lined up for the first quarter of 2009?
Bastianelli: Right now we are kind of in negotiations with a venue down in Mexico City. It’s an American run venue; but that’s in the works. I have my manager working on that. So if the money is right and things work out that will be happening in January.
PRO MMA: You mentioned fighters on TV making a name for themselves. C.B Dolloway, Cain Velasquez and Ryan Bader are fellow Arizona State wrestlers that have done well with their TV exposure. What is it about ASU wrestlers that allows you to achieve the success many of you have had in MMA?
Bastianelli: Just competing at that next level and being at that level of having the workout partners in college and the intensity of practice. I think it makes wrestlers in general, to be more successful because we know how to get our cardio up and train hard. We’ve been there before. We know how to do things on our own when we don’t have to be pushed. I think that is what separates the great wrestlers and fighters from the good wrestlers and fighters. We know how to push ourselves. That is why I think Ryan and CB have had such success. Cain…he’s a phenomenon. I think that is what separates us pretty much.
PRO MMA: How do you think Ryan’s TUF finale will go down?
Bastianelli: If Ryan just stands up and bangs with him, I don’t think Vinny can stand with him. Ryan is just so strong. I think he is going to overwhelm Vinny. He’s going to win a unanimous decision or knock him out.
PRO MMA: It’s been rumored that your coach Gil Castillo may come out of retirement. What are your thoughts on that?
Bastianelli: I think it’s great. Gil is a true pioneer of the sport. He’s been in some tough fights, fought Matt Hughes. He is a great fighter and a great coach. I think it would be awesome for the sport and awesome for Gil. It’s been a few years since he has been in the game. I think he truly misses it. He still has it. He is in great shape and his submissions are out of this world. He’s got great stand up and is a great southpaw fighter. He’ll be awesome; it would be great for him to come out.
PRO MMA: What are we going to see, not just from Ryan Bastianelli, but from the Combat Fitness Gym in 2009?
Bastianelli:A lot of up and comers. My training partner Taylor Mortensen is a 135 pounder but he will probably drop down to 125 eventually. He’s a junior college All-American like myself, just a stud. Stefan Solomon, my roommate is a brown belt in Jiu-Jitsu under Arthur Ruff. Eric and I are doing our thing. Brandon Banda is 1-1 and a phenomenal Muay Thai guy. You can see him in the World Combat League, a Chuck Norris promotion. He was on that last year and he will be on that this year. For the most part that’s a majority of what is coming out of this camp in the next year.
PRO MMA: Anything you would like to say as we wrap things up?
Bastianelli: Thank you for everyone’s support. You’re definitely in for a good year in 2009. I’ll be all over the Bay Area and California putting on fights. So come out, enjoy the good times. We’ll go out and party afterwords and enjoy the victories
PRO MMA: Thanks for joining us today Ryan.
Bastianelli: Thanks a lot Matt, I appreciate it.
-Matt De La Rosa