After years of hard work and struggling to find the consistency that becomes a top level fighter, Team Quest lightweight Ryan "The Lion" Schultz put everything together this past year and became a champion for his efforts.
Once struggling to find a home, Schultz found a much needed solid footing in the International Fight League, and, with it, he helped lead the Portland Wolfpack to an IFL Team Tournament Finals appearance, and eventually an individual 155-pound title belt.
Wins over fighters such as Aaron Riley, John Gunderson and Chris Horodecki have helped solidify Ryan's status as a top-flight competitor in the lightweight division.
It is with his recent six-fight winning streak that when the IFL began to cease operations this year and allow their fighters to go elsewhere, that it didn't take long for Schultz to be picked up, and in a big way.
Ryan was one of eight fighters chosen to compete in the upcoming World Victory Road "Sengoku 4" event as part of a lightweight grand prix, where he will face a fellow champion from another organization, Cage Rage title holder Mizuto Hirota on August 24.
"It's a new challenge and I'm excited about it," said Schultz of heading to Sengoku. "I think I'm going to do well, and I think some guys are in trouble."
In order for Ryan to get a chance of a lifetime in Japan, his schedule in the US had to open up, which it did with the IFL shutting down operations.
According to Schultz, his time with the promotion was well spent and he has nothing but positive things to say about it.
"I think it was a good platform to show my skills, get some notoriety and fight some solid guys," he commented. "I think it got my name out there, being on TV and all that; I think it was great for me and I liked it."
"I liked the (original team) format and I thought it was a great organization, so I feel it was all good for me."
Since the company began to falter earlier this year, many fighters have had their futures up in the air, but for Schultz, he knew he would land somewhere good and soon.
"We had calls coming in pretty much instantly," he stated. "I knew there were some organizations looking at me pretty hard, so (the offer from WVR) didn't come completely out of the blue."
"I thought they'd be foolish not to (sign me), to be honest with you. I'm an exciting fighter and I'm going to bring something to their show, I really will."
At Sengoku, Schultz will be faced with a difficult task in Mizuto Hirota, a fighter that stylistically matches up well with Ryan.
"He looks to me like he likes to wrestle; he's got a good shot and he likes to bang," said Schultz of Hirota. "I think he's fairly well-rounded, and he's going to bring a good fight."
"I don't think he wants me to come over there and beat him up, so I'm looking for a war from him. I'm going to bring some aggression on him and I'm pretty sure I'm going to get my hand raised. He should be ready -- because I'm coming."
From the tournament throughout the remainder of his contract, Ryan has one thing in mind, the competition he'll face in his new home.
"The money's nice, you need money to live in this world, but I want to fight the best guys in the world," he explained. "I know they have (Takanori) Gomi over in that organization, and he's one of them."
"That's one of the guys I've got to get after and get my hands on. If I have an opportunity to get to him, that's great."
With a solid deal to keep him busy for the next several months, Schultz has landed on his feet amidst tumultuous times and looks to keep moving upward and onward in his steadily peaking career.
"I feel lucky in that sense and I'll always be ready to fight. You all have got to look for (my Sengoku debut), because it's going to be fun."