Anyone who accused Gordon Ryan of being soft after his tum-tum pains took him out of commission has egg on their face now after Ryan battled through the emotional challenges of facing an opponent whose close friend was murdered earlier that day to score a victory over Felipe Pena. Left staring down the potential of not getting to grapple at all just because his opponent was emotionally reeling, Ryan worked with Flo to ensure the match went forward as planned, rebuffing efforts by Pena to withdraw from the bout or alter its format to one which presented a more mentally healthy construct for competition so soon after the execution of famed Black Belt Leandro Lo by an off duty cop. After surviving Pena’s attempts to end the match by understandable-disinterest at the 30 minute mark, Ryan pushed forward and even almost got a guard pass before Pena brought a verbal end to the bout, drawing a celebration exactly as appropriate and classy in your mind as you would expect.
Pena, perhaps still steaming from the match, was hesitant to congratulate Ryan for his heroics in the face of adversity. He chose instead to spend his post-match interview discussing how crushing and disorienting it was to learn about Lo’s murder that morning and sharing heartfelt stories about the eight-time world champion in between tears.