Schultz Finds Security with Sengoku

By Brian Knapp Jul 28, 2008
International Fight League lightweight champion Ryan Schultz (Pictures) ended his search for professional stability in the open arms of the Japan-based Sengoku promotion.

Schultz has agreed to a five-event deal with Sengoku that begins with his participation in an eight-man lightweight grand prix on Aug. 24 at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan. The deal could span six fights if Schultz reaches the final of the tournament. Financial terms were not disclosed.

The married 31-year-old father of one has not competed in the Land of the Rising Sun in more than two years but cited the need for financial security as a pivotal factor in his decision to sign on Sengoku’s dotted line.

“It’s huge; I have a family,” Schultz said. “I have a kid who’s relying on me. Plus, [Sengoku] made it worth my time. Knowing I’m guaranteed money over a certain amount of time … I really like that. It’s all laid out for me.”

Schultz (20-9-1) will square off with Mizuto Hirota (Pictures) in the opening round of the grand prix next month. A protégé of 2000 Olympic silver medalist Matt Lindland (Pictures), Schultz will enter the draw with six consecutive wins, a streak that includes his memorable TKO victory over then undefeated Chris Horodecki (Pictures) in December. Hirota, a veteran of the Cage Force and Shooto promotions, has never been finished in 11 career bouts. He has knocked out his last three opponents.

“I don’t really know too much about him,” Schultz said. “I looked him up a little. It sounds like he comes to throw, and I kind of like that matchup.”

Still the only man to defeat streaking UFC lightweight contender Roger Huerta (Pictures), Schultz likes his chances in the tournament, which includes former Deep champion Kazunori Yokota (Pictures), Pride Fighting Championships veteran Eiji Mitsuoka (Pictures), King of the Cage mainstay Clay French (Pictures) and the fast-rising Rodrigo Damm (Pictures).

“I think it’s going to be tough, but I definitely think I have a chance of winning it,” Schultz said. “I’m coming to win. I respect the guys who are in it, but I think I can beat anybody in the world.”

Schultz’s departure -- along with other notable fighters and top executives, Senior Vice President of Communications Joe Favorito among them -- provides further evidence of the IFL’s imminent demise. Schultz has not competed since he successfully defended his belt with a unanimous decision victory against Lithuanian Deividas Taurosevicius (Pictures) in May.

“The IFL did the best they could with what they had,” Schultz said. “Unfortunately, they went under. It’s part of the game. A lot of shows start up and go under.”

The team-based promotion injected new life into Schultz’s career, as he entered the IFL with losses in four of his previous five bouts. Television exposure on MyNetworkTV, Fox Sports Net and HDNet proved invaluable for the Nebraskan, who has followed knockout losses to Horodecki and Bart Palaszewski (Pictures) in 2006 with six consecutive wins. When the IFL started its sink, suitors were not hard to find.

“The IFL put me on the map again,” Schultz said. “They gave me huge exposure and allowed me to fight for the belt. As soon as it went out that I had been freed up from the IFL, I started getting calls, and it kind of went from there.”
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