A veteran of over 13 years in the fight game, Ryan Jensen’s last fight at UFC 114 in May saw him matched against a younger, faster, maybe even stronger opponent in Jesse Forbes. Yet it was during the first round of the bout in Las Vegas that he was able to turn a dicey situation into his favor thanks to a handy little weapon called experience.
“I didn’t really have a game plan (with Forbes); he was a lefty so we were just trying to make sure that I stayed on the outside of his foot, and shoot left,” said Jensen. “I hit him pretty easy in the beginning, caught him a little bit, and then I kind of pulled a rookie mistake and went straight in on him and he ended up catching me. When you get popped like that you’re just kind of fighting off of instinct and all your training comes into place. With all the hard training we did at Jackson’s and all the hard training I did back home at that camp, instinct took over and I wound up getting on top and catching him.”
Instinct is a trait inherent to fighters with Jensen’s level of experience and one that made way for a first round submission over Forbes at UFC 114. It is also this experience that he believes will take him over the top against his next opponent, TUF 11 winner Court McGee. This fight will be McGee’s first since winning the Spike TV reality show, and Jensen is primed for the next challenge.
“I think it’s a great matchup. He’s coming in with a lot of hype behind him, which is great for me,” said Jensen. “I just think I’m technically more sound than him, I think that I’m a more seasoned veteran than he is and I’m really excited for this fight. I trained really hard - we had a great training camp down at Jackson’s and then out at Premier Combat Center in Omaha and I’m just ready to get in there and fight. I don’t think he has anything that I should be worried about that I haven’t seen anyway.”
Having started his career in 1997, Jensen has run the gamut of all types of opponents throughout his career. His professional beginning in the game was favorable with a four-fight win streak consisting mostly of submissions with a little striking thrown in.
“In the beginning it was just kind of a hobby, as there wasn’t really a lot of money to be made,” Jensen remembers. “Back in the day in my area we didn’t even have amateur fights; they just kind of threw you in there and said, ‘hey, time to go fight and you’re going to get paid pennies. Now let’s go fight.’ It was a cool experience and it’s been neat to watch the evolution of the martial arts go from certain styles fighting certain styles all the way to some of the top guys that we have out there now.”
Jensen’s first loss was to UFC veteran Brock Larson in 2005 before going on a six-fight win streak over competitors like UFC veteran Rob Kimmons. Jensen rode this hot spell straight into the UFC, where he faced two Brazilian jiu-jitsu aces, Thales Leites and Demian Maia. What resulted were two first round submission losses and a temporary exit from the organization. After two consecutive wins, Jensen returned, continuing a pattern of tumultuous Octagon performances with a loss to Wilson Gouveia, a win against Steve Steinbeiss, a loss to Mark Munoz and his last fight, a win over Forbes. Still, the veteran is uber confident in his ability to take out the latest TUF winner, and although McGee is 2-0 as a professional boxer, Jensen sees his standup as his gaping hole.
“I just don’t (see any strengths); he has a lot of hype and he won The Ultimate Fighter and stuff but he’s pretty decent at everything but he’s not outstanding at anything,” said Jensen. “I don’t think his standup’s that good, and he doesn’t use a lot of movement; he’s a big strong dude, he’s a rock, he’s a grinder and that’s his benefit, but I’ve been in this game a lot longer than most of the guys around and I’ve trained with some of the best guys in the world, so nothing really surprises me about him at all.”
Training for Jensen has been with the same usual suspects as his last couple of fights. His home base is still his childhood home of Omaha, Nebraska and home gym at Premier Combat Center, in addition to his adoption of Jackson’s gym down in New Mexico.
“Keith Jardine, Joey Villasenor, Rich Chavez helped me and Diego (Sanchez) was getting ready for his fight on the same card so we just had a great camp back at Jackson’s,” said Jensen. “A lot of good dudes out there and guys coming in and out all the time. Carlos Condit was a great one too; me and Carlos had a lot of fun training for this fight and I helped him train for Dan Hardy earlier. I was supposed to fight Steve Steinbeiss way before and that fight ended up getting cancelled but it was during that fight that I started with Jackson’s. I went out there for about a month and now I’ve been training there for most of my fights.”
As the veteran gets ready to take on his next challenge, his thoughts stay on the fans who he fights for every time.
“I’m just out to push the pace, to be exciting and I’m not just going to sit there and lay and pray; I’m looking for the win every time and hopefully it’s exciting for everybody,” said Jensen. “I lay it all out on the line so in my heart I know I did the best. I’ll show up to fight anytime, anywhere. I’m a fighter and I hope they like me for it. I’m a good dude, a hard worker and I’m out there to just keep getting better and better.”