The Savage Truth: Remembering a Friend

By Greg Savage Jun 2, 2006
You know how it feels when you get that phone call in the middle of the night? When the news can only be bad or really bad? That was how it was for me early Thursday morning.

Everyone who knows me knows not to call before 10 a.m. So when my cell phone started ringing off the hook I figured something was up. After listening to a message, then another, and yet another informing me of the tragic passing of my friend and colleague Ryan Bennett, I really couldn’t believe it.

I had always figured I would have to write something like this after a fighter died in the ring or cage (let’s hope that is still a long way off), but I never figured it would be about a 35-year-old member of the MMA media fraternity.

As a lot of fans know, there have been some spats between media outlets in the past but there is a true bond between the people who have covered this sport through the tough times, keeping it on life-support, and enabling the kind of meteoric rise we have seen over the past year-and-a-half.

I was working on a post-UFC 60 column that is now in my recycle bin because I think MMA fans need to know a little more about the man behind the microphone. So with a heavy heart and tears in my eyes I hope I can paint a portrait of a dedicated soldier in the struggle for legitimacy for the sport we all love.

I first met Ryan back in 1999 or 2000 at an IFC event near Fresno. He was calling the play-by-play with Eddie Goldman and Helen Miller. Helen told me he was a sportscaster for NBC and was trying to break into MMA. She later introduced us and a friendship was born.

I think the shared love of sports was probably a big reason Ryan and I got along as well as we did. To tell the truth, MMA was one of the last things we talked about most of the time. From fantasy football with the rest of the MMA media knuckleheads to current rumblings in baseball or basketball, Ryan was always on top of things.

Same goes for our sport of mixed martial arts. With his daily radio show, Bennett kept the fans up to date and provided a forum for interaction between fans and the stars of the sport. He was a pioneer who blazed the trail many have recently chosen to follow.

I know most of you got an idea from his ramblings on the radio show of the kind of humor Ryan possessed, but let me tell you, it was only the tip of the iceberg. The guy had a keen, quick wit that was as sharp as a Tito Ortiz (Pictures) elbow. Having felt the brunt of said wit, I can tell you there was never anything malicious about it. And when the fire was returned Ryan would just smile and roll with it.

As a professional, Mr. Bennett was all class. He handled some tough setbacks but never stopped pushing forward. He, unlike me, never wavered in his belief that this sport could breakthrough into the mainstream. And his hard work, along with numerous others, helped to facilitate the current success being enjoyed by the sport.

The last time I saw Ryan was at UFC 59 in Anaheim. He told me how excited he was move back to Utah, close to family. He had just built a home in Ogden and was thrilled about raising his kids there. You could just see the contentment in his face.

It just makes it that much harder to believe that he is gone.

I am sure there are many more stories like mine; Ryan was just that kind of guy. The outpouring of support from the tight-knit MMA community for the man and his family in these darkest of days speaks volumes about Ryan the person as well as Ryan the professional.

My sincerest condolences go out to the Bennett family as well as his extended family at MMAWeekly, most notably Scotty and Trigg; I know how close both of you guys were with Ryan. Our small brotherhood has lost a giant piece of its heart and your pain is shared by all of us who knew Ryan.

Let’s all keep Ryan’s wife Tonya and his kids — Allison, Jada, Ashley and Braden — in our thoughts during these trying times. The MMA community has never failed to rally around its own and I am sure it will come through once again for our fallen comrade and his family.

Tragedies like these always remind us to hold the ones we keep close to our hearts a little closer and realize how fragile our existence is. With that in mind, I bid adieu to you my friend.

Rest in peace my friend knowing your life touched so many and that I, for one, will always remember you with your microphone in hand wearing that smile that always said everything that needed to be said.

As always, feel free to drop Savage a line at greg@sherdog.com. All comments and questions are welcome
<h2>Fight Finder</h2>