How is it possible that a guy who has fought the likes of Mark Munoz, Demian Maia, Thales Leites and Court McGee has managed to fly under the radar for so long? In addition to this well-known cast of opponents, this fighter has stepped into the UFC’s trademark Octagon eight times, holds a total of 11 submissions in 17 wins, and has never, not one time, been to a decision in his 25-fight career.

“Most fans probably don’t know that I started back in 1993 with Steve Jennum, when he won UFC 3, and I was at Ultimate Ultimate in 1995 when he fought ‘Tank’ Abbott,” said Ryan Jensen in an exclusive interview with The MMA Corner. “I was there, you know, like 16 or 17 years old. I’ve been in this game a long, long time.

“I trained at Pat Miletich’s when they had all the champions out there. We all traveled out there on the weekends, and I ended up moving out there for a short time. I got to meet all those guys, like Spencer Fisher before he made it to the UFC and stuff. We trained together. Then, traveling out to Team Quest—I followed Jake Ellenberger out there—and meeting all those guys, when the IFL was one of the big things back then with the UFC. Just like Nate Quarry, Chael Sonnen, a lot of the guys I’ve trained with out there. People don’t know that about me. I don’t really talk about it that much.

“I’m not here to say, ‘Oh, I’ve trained with the best, blah, blah, blah.’ It’s something I just love to do—travel, train and meet new people. That’s what I’ve done the last 20 years.”

At 35 years old, the middleweight has been training in MMA for two decades. He first stepped foot into the pro MMA ring in 1997, winning by a quick first-round submission, before taking a five-year break from competition. Upon entering the ring once again in 2002, Jensen continued his winning ways, growing his record to 11-1 over the next five years with only one fight making it past the first round. Then came his shot at the big show and the only real rough patch of his career.

Jensen (R) (Jade Kimmel/The MMA Corner)

In August 2007, the native of Omaha, Neb., was put in the cage with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt Thales Leites. Jensen was submitted in the first round. Only two months later, he entered the Octagon for the second time, facing an even tougher BJJ competitor in Demian Maia, who also submitted him in the first round. His next fight was a tough loss by knockout in his sole Strikeforce appearance.

After his third loss in a row, Jensen made the move back to the regional circuit, where he had experienced his early success, and strung together a couple of nice first-round TKO wins. This streak earned him another shot at the UFC.

In his return to the Octagon, Jensen had mixed success, going 2-2 over the next two years, before dropping two submissions in a row and getting released for the second time. Obviously, there is a theme emerging here.

With 11 wins and seven losses by submission—and no decisions on his record—it’s readily apparent that this MMA veteran lives by the sword and dies by the sword. He’s not afraid to bring the fight to any opponent, and if he loses by stoppage, that’s a lot more respectable than losing by decision. Jensen leaves it all out there, every time. In his last two fights since leaving the UFC, he has strung together a couple more first-round victories and is ready for a career renaissance.

“Third time’s a charm,” stated Jensen. “I’ve been saying that on all my tweets and different social media sites. I want to make one more run at the UFC and show that I belong there with the best. I think the 170[-pound] weight class is a better weight class for me. I only walk around at 190, 195, and that’s pretty small for the 185 class, but I’m huge at 170. I feel like I can compete with those guys a lot better. It’s a stacked weight class, but I feel good at that weight. My last couple fights were at 175 and I felt really good, strong and powerful.”

The next step is to keep winning, and keep winning big, which is the only way Jensen does it. This weekend, at Victory Fighting Championship 40, he will get the chance to earn a third win in a row for the first time in six years. Fighting in front of his hometown crowd, Jensen will be facing another longtime MMA veteran, Victor Moreno.

Moreno, who fights out of the Des Moines Jiu-Jitsu Academy across the river in Iowa, hasn’t been fighting as long as Jensen, but he has a lot more fights under his belt. Although he has never fought in anything other than regional circuits, he has locked horns with some big names, including UFC fighters Chris Camozzi, Bristol Marunde and Jeremy Horn. Since 2003, he has built up a long record of 32-17, with 14 of his losses coming by submission. That plays right into Jensen’s wheelhouse.

“I think it’s a good match-up,” Jensen said. “I’m trying to build my way back into the big show, and this dude’s a quality win. He hasn’t fought in the big show, but he’s been around a lot of the seasoned vets. I mean, Josh Neer is one of his good buddies, and Josh is a solid, solid fighter, you know? Been around the block and then some. This guy has a ton of fights rather than the 60 that are listed. Back in the day, they just weren’t recording these fights when these guys were fighting every weekend.

“He has experience with some top-level guys. I know he’s going to come in strong. I know this is a big name for him to put a little notch on his belt. You know, he might get into another show, a bigger payday and whatnot, so I’m not taking him lightly at all.”

Jensen has trained in a lot of top-level camps with some of the biggest names in the sport. When he’s fighting at the UFC level, his current camp is Jackson’s MMA in Albuquerque, but his home gym is in Omaha.

“Most of my training is at Premier Combat Center, which is a gym that me and my partner, Kurt Podany, own,” Jensen explained. “I’ve brought in some really good guys. I’ve got Riley Ross doing our strength and conditioning, which is the same guy that does Jake Ellenberger’s strength and conditioning. He helped out Mark Munoz in his last fight with that last weight cut, which was extreme.

“I also brought in Jack Stark. He’s a sports psychologist who was with the Nebraska Huskers [football team], Jimmie Johnson, Dale [Earnhardt] Jr., Jeff Gordon and all those guys. He comes in and puts us in the right frame of mind and kind of helps out. He’s a local guy from Omaha.”

Moreno will have a five-inch height advantage, so the Nebraska native has been preparing accordingly.

“He’s tall, he’s long, and he has a lot of leverage, so he uses his distance real well,” admitted Jensen. “It’s just distance management. I’m not really worried about jiu-jitsu or wrestling. I think mine’s better. We train with a lot of different wrestlers at our place. We’ve got Jason Brilz, Joe Ellenberger, Zac Dominguez. We’ve got a lot of good wrestlers at our gym. He’s a longer guy, so he’s going to have some reach on me. My main goal is to stay after it and push the pace. He is a seasoned vet and he’s been in there with some tough guys, but he does have a lot of losses due to submissions.”

Jensen (R) (Jade Kimmel/The MMA Corner)

So, regardless of the size difference, Jensen knows exactly what he needs to pull off a much-needed win. This is the perfect time for him to be training for a tough fight, because there is a lot of activity going on at Premier Combat Center this month.

“We’re training really hard,” explained Jensen. “We’ve got nine guys on that card from my gym, and we’ve got two or three guys fighting the night before for a Disorderly Conduct show. We’ve got about 13 or 14 guys fighting in the next two weeks. Everybody’s training hard and the camp is going really well. I’m going at it like he’s my shot to get back into the UFC. We’re not going to let him dismantle that.”

Jensen is a busy guy, but he needs this win if he wants to stay on track with his plan to reinvent himself in the UFC. With the recent mergers and additions, the promotion is packed with talent. Jensen has the skills, the camp, and the experience to make his dreams happen. He knows where he stands as a fighter and knows that he can redeem some of those UFC losses by making a run at the welterweight division.

“The best is yet to come. I’m the type of guy that will fight anybody, anywhere, anytime. [UFC matchmaker] Joe Silva calls me up and tells me who the opponent is, and I agree to it. They’re the boss, and I’m not really scared about fighting anybody. I’ve been in martial arts for the last 20 years and I’ve trained with three of the dynasties of mixed martial arts at the time that they were dynasties. That would be Pat Miletich’s team, Team Quest and Greg Jackson’s team. I’ve been able to train with the best guys in the world. I feel like I still have something to prove to myself, and we’re going for third time’s a charm.”

Ryan would like to thank Premier Combat Center, Gracie Barra Piaui, Scott Morton, Zac Dominguez, Kurt Podany, Danny Molina, Animal Instinct, Victory FC, and Follow Jensen on Twitter: @RyanJensenUFC

Top Photo: Ryan Jensen (Jade Kimmel/The MMA Corner)