He calls himself “The Kid,” but Ryan McGillivray fought a man’s fight and then some on last week’s episode of The Ultimate Fighter: Team Lesnar vs. Team Dos Santos.
After two weeks of somewhat conservative, grappling-based affairs, McGillivray and Team Lesnar top pick, Len Bentley, went at it tooth and nail on Wednesday’s episode in the third preliminary fight. After a closely contested 10 minutes, McGillivray was declared the winner by majority decision, giving Team Dos Santos control of fight selection in the preliminary round.
Recently, McGillivray took time to speak to UltimateFighter.com and BleacherReport.
Just for starters, were you surprised when Brock picked you to fight Len right out of the gate?
We had gone through some scenarios, because it was the first time that we hadn’t been in control of the pick, the first time we had to analyze it and most of our team didn’t think I was going to get picked. I didn’t think that they would have picked – not saying that I was one of the best guys on our team—the next highest pick, anyway. So, I was a little surprised, but at the same, I didn’t have any wrestling on paper, so I knew that Brock saw that as a weakness, and might come after me.
So you were expecting something like what Junior was doing, that Brock would send one of his top picks in against someone who’d been picked close to the end.
One thing that came out this week, was that it seemed like a lot of the guys on Brock’s team didn’t trust Chris Cope, because Chris was hanging around with you guys a lot. Was there anything to that, or was that just them being paranoid?
He was trying to get information from us, but he was honestly so bad at it that it was so obvious to us. He was trying to get more information from us, and it might have been more for his personal gain—which made it look it was look like he was playing both sides—but he was so bad at it that we were giving him information that wasn’t true, just to have a little bit of fun with him.
So you guys were more entertained by it than anything else.
Yeah, we saw it right out of the gate. It was kind of fun for us.
One of the other things that I noticed was the little conversation between you and Junior, where Junior was talking about how important it is to be nice, and you said, “I’m Canadian. We’re always nice.” How do you explain Sean Avery, then?
[laughs] Well, there’s always exceptions to the rule, for sure, but as a general theory, Canadians are pretty nice. As much as people have stereotypes of other people, there’s always exceptions to the rule. I guess we’re not all nice, but the vast majority of us are pretty even-keeled and do our own thing, and aren’t much for s***-talking or what have you.
With the number of different Canadian fighters who’ve been on the show, it’s a pretty wide range. On the one hand, you have someone like Patrick Cotê, who made it to the finals and wound up getting a title shot down the road, and then on the other hand, you’ve had Jason Thacker. What’s the reaction like for the show in the Canadian MMA community?
To me, it’s been a little shocking that the Canadian media hasn’t been covering what’s been going on more. There’s local radio stations and newspapers that don’t even know I’m on the show, and I’m getting calls from a lot of places in the States wanting to do blogs or coverage. I’m a little shocked that Canada hasn’t jumped on the bandwagon as much in terms of following its own fighters, but from those who have responded, it’s been really positive, with a lot of support from guys like Showdown Joe. The guys who matter in the Canadian MMA community have been really responsive.
When you were watching the show in past seasons, did you have any favorites among the Canadians who were on the show?
I’ve known Nick Ring a little bit, and as eccentric as he was, I was pulling for him. Patrick, I’d also met a couple of times, because he’d fought in my hometown. He’s a really fantastic guy. Those were two of the guys I knew who I was really hoping would do well on the show.
So did you talk with either of them before you went on the show and ask what to expect? Did you get any advice from them?
I’m not that close with Patrick. I’ve met him a few times in passing. Nick, I’ve talked to a little bit more. He wasn’t allowed to talk about it a whole bunch. He helped me out as much as he could. I got some pretty good advice about keeping a level head in there, not letting the games get to me and understanding not to be prepared for any particular situation, because there’s so many variables at any moment. He said to be prepared for anything and to take everything in stride as best I could. I kept that in my mind the whole time I was there.
So, moving on to the fight with Len, when he caught you in the first round with that left hook, how much trouble were you in at that point?
I was in a little bit of trouble. I woke up once I hit the mat and luckily, over the hours and hours of training, the autopilot gets a bit better every time. Until I got my guard back, I was just kind of on autopilot, trying to get my wits back about me and trying to move on from there. He rocked me pretty good.
Eventually, you were able to knock Len down. Did you feel like you were getting close to a finish there, or did he get guard so fast that you never really had a shot to finish him?
I think it was more that I just knocked him off his feet. He seemed to regain his wits pretty well, and I made the mistake of jumping right into his guard, and gave him an opportunity to bounce back quicker than he should have. He bounced back pretty quick, and I also made a mistake.
Now you got a choke toward the end of the round…
That’s my favorite choke, a gator roll choke.
Did you feel like if you had 10 more seconds, that was over?
Absolutely. He was gurgling pretty bad, and we talked about it in the house later, and it was in pretty tight. That’s one of my finishers. Once I get it on there, it’s really tough to get out. It’s one of my favorites. Once I had that on, I was praying to God to give me a little bit more time, or for Len to maybe be trying to find a way out, but he was a tough guy. He battled through it. It was close, though.
So when that round did end, did you have a sense of how it went on the judges’ scorecards?
I felt like I got the better of it, but in this sport, not knowing who the judges are, not knowing how they’re looking at things, you can never take anything for granted. I was just trying to take the next round as it was and move forward. In my mind, I thought I might have been able to squeak it out because I finished stronger, and I was able to escape from his submission, and he wasn’t able to. He kind of got more saved by the bell. I also felt like I got the better of the stand-up, so I thought that I had a little bit of an edge going into the second.
What were the things that jumped out at you most from the second round? There was a lot of moving around, and only a few spots where things really started to happen.
I was just trying to stick and move as best I could. I’m more of a smart fighter, and I realized that every time he moved forward, he couldn’t really catch me. He might have thrown five times more punches, but I think he only landed two or three. I felt like I connected close to 90 percent of my strikes. With my effective striking, I thought I was landing a lot more, and I also got a takedown, which lands well in the judges’ eyes. And any time I hear that clapper in the last 10 seconds, I throw everything I have left, which always finishes a round pretty good. So, even though it wasn’t as action-packed as the first round, I felt I did enough to pull out the second round.
So you weren’t surprised when Dana said it was a decision?
I was trying not to think about it. I was trying to make sure that I was mentally ready for a third round. If they made the decision, then great, but at that point, I was just trying to make sure I got my wind back in me, and I was ready for a third round. Whatever the decision was, it was. I was trying to keep that part out of my mind as best I could.
Shamar Bailey talked about getting a game plan from Junior that was position first and striking second, and Chris said that he and Javier Torres had essentially gotten the same game plan from their respective coaches. Was there a game plan from Junior that you were following, or was it just a matter of going out and fighting?
My game plan was to keep it standing as best I could. We knew that Len was going to have a wrestling advantage on me. If I saw a takedown opportunity, I’d take it, but it was just basically to stick and move. Don’t stand right in front of him. We knew, because I had the reach advantage, that I just had to stay on the outside and use my reach, throw two or three punches and then get out. I thought the game plan worked really well. They gauged my style and how I move.
Why do you think they were more conservative with Shamar and Javier, where they let you really move around and spend more time in the stand-up?
I think Junior and the other coaches gave me a lot of confidence in my stand-up in working with me. They saw that I did have some pretty solid stand-up and heavy hands. They were a lot more confident with me in my stand-up than, maybe, some of the other guys. I don’t know what their mindset was with the other guys, but from talking with the coaches, they really felt that my hands would be the deciding factor, and that I could beat Len. They thought that that was my chance at winning.