Saturday, May 24, 2008

Fighter Interview: Rick “The Jet” Roufus of the Lions Den

Next Friday, former Wisconsin resident and six-time world champion kickboxer, Rick Roufus will return to the motherland and fight on the Combat USA show at the Radisson Grand Ball Room in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The fight will not be a kickboxing bout, instead it will be a MMA bout against BJ Lacy. This bout will mark Roufus’ third professional MMA bout in his newly transformed fighting career. He recently joined forces with the highly respected Lions Den as an athlete and instructor to work on his MMA and ground skills. I recently got the chance to speak with Roufus about his first two bouts in MMA, his future and goals in the sport, and comparisons of the growth of MMA to kickboxing.

Wisconsin Combat Sports: First, how did you become interested in fighting in MMA?

Rick Roufus: The sport of standup is dead and basically it was a new challenge for me. I’ll be honest, at first I didn’t like MMA and I didn’t want to do it but and I gave it some thought. I started working with a jiu-jitsu guy out of my gym. I ended up learning from him and after the Maurice Smith fight I found out that the Lions Den was here and I started working out with Edwin Dewees back in March until now. That’s basically how I got started. I’m going to the Lions Den everyday and training, it’s like a training camp. I’m working with an All-American wrestling coach, Kenny Lester, other wrestlers, good grapplers, all kinds of different guys. I’m getting different looks everyday.

WCS: Good to hear. Let’s take a look at that Maurice Smith fight. How did that come about? I know that you guys fought in kickboxing.

RR: You see, the problem with me is that I’ll fight anyone on any given day. I’m not afraid to get in the ring with anyone. But at this stage of my life, there were so many fights that were supposed to happen. I had actually gotten started in MMA last August right away and I was just anxious to get going. Mo wasn’t going to stand with me at all; he took me right to the ground. Of course, I knew one thing. Being in that sport for that short amount of time taught me one thing. I will never fight anyone above 205 again because the weight is such a difference and I will go in better prepared. That’s why I’m training at the Lions Den. In two minutes of being in there I learned a lot and it was only an experience but now I’m very optimistic about the future, which I haven’t been in a long time. I’m very hungry. I have that fire and that passion back. Kickboxing was so up and down, you didn’t know when you were going to fight, who you were going to fight, if they were going to call you, if they weren’t going to call you. It was just too many games, it affected one’s performance and mental psyche, it was tough.

WCS: So after the Maurice Smith fight you ended up fighting Mike Buell and it went to a three round decision. How did you feel in the cage? Were you fine going the distance or were you looking for a quick knock out?

RR: I know you guys had posted some stuff. First, Buell worked with me back in 2004-05 and then after the Musashi fight we had a bad falling out. There was a lot of stuff that had happened in the locker room with him and the strength and conditioning coach that I had. It literally went fist to fist in the locker room and I have never spoke to him again. So I get a call and Edwin (Dewees) asked if I wanted to fight in Oklahoma and I’m like yeah. So they found Buell and he jumped on the opportunity, he wanted to end it between him and I. As you know, Mike is a submission grappler, he went to Abu Dhabi, he’s definitely no slouch. Getting in the ring and being back I felt good. I just wish I would have knocked him out but that’s alright, he tried really hard to take me down, but my ground defense was getting better and I avoided any problems with that. Plus when I fought, it was outside and only like 40 degrees out there, it was freezing.

WCS: Yeah, you live in Phoenix so I’m sure 40 degrees feels brutal.

RR: Yeah, it was outside in Oklahoma at a casino, it was freezing. Actually, it’s like 112 out here today.

WCS: I heard that Mark Kerr had also fought on that card and you were originally supposed to have fought Kerr in January, although that fell through.

RR: Thank you, you know I look back and I was working with Machii Sports and Mike Van Arsdale and Jahani Curl. Mike had come to my gym on two different occasions when he fought in the UFC, before Babalu and before someone else. I called Mike when I got started and he thought it would be a great fight. Looking back, we don’t understand why fights don’t happen but now I understand why. That would have been a detriment, me fighting Kerr would have been real bad. Being an All-American wrestler, the guy is like 280lbs.

WCS: You recently got in touch with Combat USA’s Adam Sandoval. How did that happen?

RR: I’m just trying to stay busy, trying to get more experience. The goal is try to get to the UFC or one of the different organizations and try to do something. Try to win a title, that’s the basic goal right now.

WCS: In Combat USA they are doing some interesting things with the rules. Basically, instead of the three, five-minute rounds, they are changing it up to seven, two minute rounds. They are also going to instill some zero passivity on the ground rules, so if there is no action on the ground, the ref will give a five second count and the fight would get stood back up, assuming there was no action on the ground for that period of time.

RR: First, I know everyone is going to be worried and ask, can Roufus fight on the ground? I am working very hard, my top game is fine, it’s the bottom game that I am working. I have been working the submission grappling without a doubt, the sprawl, the takedown, you name it, everything. Day in, day out, I’m working very diligently. I may be older but I’m there with them young bucks and they’ll tell you, I work as hard as them. WCS: What can you tell me about your opponent? His name is BJ Lacy, I think he is (9-7-1) or (10-7-1), he’s primarily a stand up guy.

RR: I don’t know much about him, I was told he’s a stand up guy and he’s about one of the only guys that wanted to fight me. I don’t much about him at all, to tell you the truth.

WCS: Adam Sandoval just got a TV deal for Combat USA, so he’s looking to take the show national. Are you going to be doing multiple fights with Combat USA or is this a one shot deal?

RR: He called me yesterday and wants to sign me to a fight in June. I haven’t heard back from him. He asked me if I had Dewey Cooper’s contact info, so he wants to try and get Dewey Cooper.

WCS: So does that mean we’ll get to see more of you in Wisconsin?

RR: Hopefully, right now we’ll see. You get your wins and I’ve been in contact with Joe Silva, so we’ll see where it goes from there.

WCS: Yeah, it seems like that is your goal, to get into the bigger show, get in some fights, get a little bit more experience.

RR: At this stage, for me, there is a new goal. I’m not doing this to continue to fight on the small shows. I’m doing it to gain more practice, get used to the cage, getting myself used to getting taken down, guys trying to do this or that submission, so when I get into the big show I’m ready for anything and everything.

WCS: I know this is a little off track, but what comparisons do you see with MMA to kickboxing in let’s say the 80’s and 90’s? Do you see comparisons as the sport has grown?

RR: Oh my god, it’s apples and oranges. This sport has superseded what kickboxing has ever in it’s life has been, without a doubt. The sport in its twilight in the 80’s was on ESPN primetime every Wednesday. It was on CBS very sparingly but it is nothing, nothing like MMA is today.

MMA is so mainstream and there are so many different organizations besides the UFC. You have Affliction and IFL and so many others it’s ridiculous, and all these organizations are paying big dollar. I think the problem was back in the TK days, they were greedy and never wanted to work together. Everyone was cutting each other’s throat.

WCS: I was wondering what your view was and if you thought it was going to rise up and teeter back down similar to kickboxing.

RR: I thought at one time K-1 was going to but when K-1 came to America in 98. Most people if you asked them in Vegas at that time what K-1 was, they would say rock climbing, a videogame, nobody knew what it was. What they should have done was marquee the athletes and maybe it would be different. I think what changed the whole face of the entire sport was when the Gracie’s bought the UFC back in the 90’s, that changed it. Then when I fought Perrio in 1994, the sport died, that was the biggest the sport ever got. It bombed on the television ratings because they decided to do it the same weekend as the NCAA Final Four, which is a stupid idea to try and go up against, it’s the biggest weekend of betting and college sports. After that the sport bombed, I went home and then on came K-1.

Now, if your asking about stand up, you can be the greatest stand up fighter in the world but if you don’t have any MMA, you’re done, your like a fish in no water. You have to have your base, which may be stand up, but you have to have knowledge of wrestling, submissions, grappling, and jiu-jistsu. If you don’t you’re going to get eaten alive.

WCS: Have you had to change up your striking game to adapt to MMA at all?

RR: Yeah, I have had to make an adjustment, a little bit.

WCS: So you’re coming back to Wiscosnsin. Do you come back to Wisconsin on a regular basis?

RR: Yeah, I try to get back up there. My wife and I are from there, my in-laws live up by the Dells, Lake Camelot. We try to go and visit for at least for a week and spend time with the kids and just relax. I also have a 19 year old daughter who is going to be 20 in November that I go to visit or try to bring here down to visit. Wisconsin is great in the summer time, unfortunately the winters are very long.

WCS: Well, that’s about all I have for you right now Rick. Is there anything else I should know or anything you want to say to your fans.

RR: Well, I’m reinvented, I’m hungry, and there is going to be a new Rick Roufus. I appreciate all the support over the years that Wisconsin has given me. I’m going to come back in bigger and better fashion than I was before.

WCS: Thanks a lot Rick and good luck in your fight.

RR: Thank you for your time.

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