Tonight Ryan Spann is scheduled to appear in his first ever UFC main event. There, at UFC Vegas 37, he will find former UFC light heavyweight title challenger Anthony Smith. Beating Smith would catapult Spann into the top ten of the division and potentially see him taking on the current crop of elites at 205 lbs.
This fight week Spann revealed that he once sparred with a former elite athlete from a different sport, pro basketball. With TMZ he described sparring with three-time NBA All-Star and two-time Olympic gold medallist Deron Williams.
“Deron whooped my ass one day. I’m dead serious. You can call him and ask him,” he said.
“I was training for a fight, and coach was like, ‘Deron, get in,’” further explained Spann. “And, I already knew he hooped, and I knew who he was, but I never got to go with him. I think it was my second or my third round with a fresh body, and you put Deron in, I was like, ‘Oh shit, nice, I get a round off.’ Little did I know Deron used to wrestle. And, he was about 230 at the time.”
It wasn’t until Deron was on top of me and me struggling to get up, and coach gonna look at me and say ‘I’ve been working with him for the last couple of years. You thought you were gonna get this round off?’ He got me, but the next round I hit him with the right hand and he hasn’t sparred me since.”
Spann also revealed that when this happened, in or around 2018, Williams was interested in taking a fight with disgraced former NFL player (and current UFC heavyweight) Greg Hardy. Spann believes a better match-up for Williams would be boxing disruptor Jake Paul, whose last fight with an NBA player ended in a sensational KO.
Williams, a 6’3” point guard, was drafted into the NBA by the Utah Jazz with the third overall pick in 2005. He spent six years with the Jazz, earning two selections to the All-NBA Second Team. In 2011 he was traded to the New Jersey Nets, who then became the Brooklyn Nets. After four years with the Nets he signed with the Dallas Mavericks as a free agent. In 2017 he signed a one year deal with Cleveland Cavaliers. Williams retired after that contract expired, at only 33 years old.
Before dedicating himself to basketball, Williams had a promising wrestling career. He won two Texas state championships in elementary and middle school. A long-time fan of MMA, Williams is a co-owner of Fortis MMA in Dallas, TX.