Recently, Ron Stallings was helping to train a young man, when the youngster pulled an armbar that took Stallings by surprise.
“I asked him where he got that from, and he said, ‘From the UFC video game!’” Stallings told Combat Press. “When I started doing this in college, MMA has gone from being something that people said Ken Shamrock and Kimbo Slice did to being on Fox.”
Needless to say, Stallings, at 33 years old and holding a 14-8 record, has seen quite a bit in MMA since he started his fighting career in 2003. He has also had a front-row seat to the sport’s growth in his native Maryland, thanks to the emergence of the Baltimore-based Shogun Fights promotion.
“Shogun Fights is the bomb,” Stallings said. “They have the best production I’ve seen, and the crowd is great. Maryland fans are excited and they support their fighters, and I’ve seen people in Baltimore wearing Tapout shirts.”
Like many other fighters and fans, Stallings was tuned in to UFC 205 earlier this month. He was very impressed with what he saw, particularly in the bouts between Frankie Edgar and Jeremy Stephens, Yoel Romero and Chris Weidman, UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley and Stephen Thompson and UFC featherweight champ Conor McGregor’s victory over former UFC lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez.
“I thought Jeremy was the favorite against Frankie, but Frankie just gets the job done, besides that one kick,” Stallings said. “With Yoel and that knee, man, you just don’t know. [Michael] Bisping is a lot like Edgar — he just gets the job done. His skill set doesn’t really stand out, but it does the job.”
Stallings, who trains with Top Flight MMA and Team Lloyd Irvin in Maryland, is coming off a split-decision victory in Titan Fighting Championships, which followed a three-fight stint in the UFC. Stallings’ UFC debut came against current top-10 middleweight Uriah Hall in January 2015 in a fight that Stallings took on short notice.
“My manager and I were looking at different MMA sites, and we saw that Uriah’s opponent had dropped out,” Stallings said. “I wanted that fight, so my manager contacted the UFC and Master Lloyd [Irvin] received a text saying I was stepping. I was like, ‘Oh snap, this is really happening!’ I previously tried to step in on short for the UFC, but it didn’t work out.”
Stallings’ UFC debut against Hall came to an early end when Stallings suffered a cut above his eye in the first round that the cageside doctor declared made Stallings unable to continue.
“I could have kept fighting — I have the dog in me to keep fighting,” he said, adding that suffering an injury like that “makes you just have to go and try to end it with time left.”
Stallings received two more fights in the UFC after his doctor’s stoppage loss to Hall, but was released after suffering a controversial disqualification loss to Joe Riggs at UFC 191. An upkick by Stallings was deemed illegal after Riggs alleged to the doctor that he was unable to see after the blow.
Stallings described the Riggs fight as a “raw deal” and expressed surprise that he received a pink slip afterwards.
“I want to prove myself, but that chapter is closed and I’m writing the next chapter,” Stallings said. “I know we’ll get back.”
The next chapter for Stallings is being written in Victory FC, where Stallings will face the 10-4 Mike Rhodes for the organization’s middleweight title on Wednesday, Nov. 23. Stallings credits his manager once again with having his Victory FC debut be a title fight, which Stallings expects to be “another day at the office, with the cherry on top that I’m getting that strap.
“Mike’s been through a top notch camp, and if they can thrive in a camp like that, then they can fight.”
While Stallings always pictures himself going back to the UFC, he’s keeping his options open as his career soldiers on.
“I never say never, but especially when it comes to compensation,” Stallings said. “I love to compete, but I also need to take care of my family.”