07 Dec - 
At 17, Nicky Ryan has a simple goal: go down as the best no-gi grappler of all time

At just 17 years old, Nicky Ryan knows exactly what he wants out of life, and himself – absolute greatness.

“My ultimate goal is to go down as the best no-gi grappler of all time – possibly the gi, too,” Ryan told MMAjunkie. “I’m not exactly sure if I’m going to want to transition into the gi or not, but as of right now, the ultimate goal is to go down as the best no-gi grappler of all time.”

The younger brother of fellow grappling wizard Gordon Ryan, Nicky is certainly well on his way to achieving is goal. A member of the famed Danaher Death Squad, Ryan trains with John Danaher and Garry Tonon, as well as his brother, Gordon. Ryan does so full-time, having dropped out school to chase his dream full-time.

“I was 13 years old, and I entered a NAGA novice division,” Ryan recalled. “I heel-hooked three of my opponents. It was the adult division. Being that young and being able to submit adults with only two months of training, I was like, ‘I really think I could be something big in this sport.’

Nicky Ryan

“Right then and there, I was ready to drop out of school and do it full-time, but obviously my parents weren’t willing to let me drop out at the age of 13, especially since I hadn’t won anything big, and Gordon wasn’t a big name yet. Eventually, Gordon started to build up his name. He started to make some real money, and my mom saw it as more of a career than a hobby. At around 15, my mom said, ‘OK, you can drop out and pursue it full time.’ It wasn’t really that scary for me. I’m so young, that even if this doesn’t work out, it’s not like I wasted my entire life. I can always transition to something else.”

It doesn’t seem like that will be necessary. Ryan picked up an impressive submission win over Phil Harris at July’s Polaris 7, and his coaches have predicted great things for his future.

Ryan said his self-belief is quickly growing, as well, and he believes it’s time to fulfill the potential that others see in him, as well.

“I’m definitely talented at jiu-jitsu,” Ryan said. “I pick up things quicker than the average person, but it really all comes down to how much time you’re putting in and making sure you’re there every single day, training. Not only that, you have to be training smart. You can’t just go in and do the same thing eery day. I also think it’s very important to have good instructors. I have John, Gordon, Garry – what I believe to be the best coaches in the world.”

On Sunday, Ryan returns to action at Polaris 8, where he takes on grappling legend Masakazu Imanari, a man 25 years his senior. The contest streams live on UFC Fight Pass from the Ice Arena in Cardiff, Wales.

Ryan believes Imanari’s creative style will prove for a fun matchup, one that doesn’t go to full time.

“It’s going to be a really exciting match,” Ryan said. “I’m excited to compete against a legend like himself. I don’t see the match going to a decision. I see one of us getting a finish. Obviously I think I’m going to win.”

Polaris 8 also includes MMA notables such as Benson Henderson, Satoshi Ishii, Brett Johns, Paul Redmond and Vagner Rocha, among others. But all eyes will certainly be on Ryan, who some believe could be the future of grappling.

That’s certainly Ryan’s plan, anyway, and he welcomes the attention on him that’s quickly mounting.

Nicky Ryan

“It’s definitely a great feeling,” Ryan said. “I’m constantly working towards getting better, and I really appreciate the face that people see the level that I’m at and everyone is giving me so much attention. I really, really appreciate it.”

To see Ryan in action, check out the video above, courtesy of UFC Fight Pass.

Fight footage courtesy of UFC Fight Pass, the UFC’s official digital subscription service, which is currently offering a seven-day free trial. UFC Fight Pass gives fans access to exclusive live UFC events and fights, exclusive live MMA and combat sports events from around the world, exclusive original and behind the scenes content and unprecedented 24-7 access to the world’s biggest fight library.