Former UFC Heavyweight Champion Ricco “Suave” Rodriguez was on Arthur Knoqout’s Podcast Radio last week, to discuss his upcoming fight in Israel on November 9th, and Tito Ortiz’s fight against Matt Hamill at UFC 121. Rodriguez was in the corner on Tito Ortiz for the fight against Matt Hamill at UFC 121, which ended in favour of “The Hammer” via a Unanimous Decision.
Ricco Rodriguez is currently 44-11 in his MMA career, currently enjoying an impressive 9-fight winning streak. He defeated Randy Couture eight years ago via TKO, to become a UFC Heavyweight Champion. In Israel, Rodriguez will square off against the 16-3 Spaniard Daniel Tabera. You can watch the event LIVE on GOFightlive.com.
Here’s what Ricco Rodriguez had to say to me and Arthur during the Podcast (MP3 Download Here!):
You were in Tito’s corner at UFC 121, what do you think about his performance?
I wasn’t overall happy but in the end it was a great phenomenal. He’s always puts a 100 percent in, he’s a great competitor and a great entertainer. I would’ve liked to see him execute more. But he was just off a little bit timing-wise and it was a tough one.
Now Tito lost 4 in a row, do you think that it may be a time for him to retire?
The reality is that you’re asking a fighter to retire. That’s like saying stop breathing air. It’s what we choose to do. Some people will do this for the rest of their lives until the commission or you simply can’t continue. look at randy couture, look at what he’s done and how much success he’s had and look at the failures and obstacles he went through, if you look at the guy’s record it’s not great at all but if you look at the accomplishments he’s gone and done it’s even greater. So who knows, Tito might come back from this stronger, I’ve lost 3 fights in a row and people said the same thing to me but here I stand before you, a brand new person and it’s not over until the fighter says it’s over. It’s never up to the public but the commission and the fighter are the only ones who can judge that.
Ricco you had pretty rough times in your career. Do you think at the age of 35 Tito has what it takes to bounce back?
I think he has a better chance to bounce back than anybody else. The truth of the matter is that he that he has all the skills and all the knowledge he has everything at this disposal. I think he was off for some time and couldn’t find the rhythm. Any fighter needs to stay consistent, at least 2-3 fights a year and stay focuses on the game. The competition is getting harder every single day. Fighters are coming out of the woodworks, they are training hard, and it’s getting tougher. The competition is phenomenal. No one can argue that it’s getting tougher. You have to change or become a better athlete. I knew Matt Hamill was going to be tough, we all knew he was going to be tough. It’s just that we didn’t expect him to get off first and I think that’s what happened.
Cain Velasquez defeated Brock Lesnar at UFC 121. How do you rate his performance and what in your eyes Brock Lesnar did wrong in that fight?
You know, all MMA fighters are constantly getting smarter and tougher. To be honest, what they did with Cain Velasquez was amazing. They took him from the scratch and made him Champion. His management and coaches did a great job. Brock Lesnar is a freak. He fought against top guys and did really well. We all knew Cain Velasquez is going to do well against Brock, but no one knew he’s going to do so well. Styles make fights, and it was a great fight. Cain Velasquez is a great fighter, very well rounded and it’s hard to see someone beating him in the UFC. But you’ll never know, fight is a fight and anything can happen.
UFC are marketing Cain Velasquez as a first Mexican Heavyweight Champion. As you’re also of a Mexican descent, and a former UFC Heavyweight Champion, how do you feel about this?
I had to deal with this the whole month. Look, my father is Mexican and my mother is Puerto Rican. And I was born in San Jose. So you can say I’m American, Mexican or Puerto-Rican. UFC can do whatever they want, ‘coz at the end of the day it’s business. People want to argue about it… big deal. I have better things to do. Like my next fight in Israel on November 9th.
Speaking about your fight in Israel, you are fighting Daniel Tabera. How are your preparations going for this fight?
My training’s going good. Cutting weight is a big process for me. I’m doing a lot of cardio, training with different athletes. Training with Tito really helped me a lot. I’m feeling fully prepared now. I watched a lot of footage on this guy, he’s a very interesting fighter who brings a lot of problems to the table. You’ll never know about these guys. I fought John Juarez in July, and this guy was a stud. I’m taking this fight very seriously.
Do you consider this as a prime time of your career?
I definitely think I’m in a smarter and a more educated phase of my life. I understand the business of MMA. As for my primetime, I think I’m three years away from it. I feel better at 33 than I was at 23. I was probably a better athlete 10 years ago. But I feel like I’m so much better now, because I’m aware about a lot of things. When I enter the cage I feel relaxed and not letting other things to distract me. I feel a much more well rounded fighter today. And believe me, in this game you have to know everything. It’s not enough to know just striking or grappling.
Even with your shirt on, you looked in a great shape at UFC 121. Do you have what it takes to become a champion in UFC or Strikeforce?
You know, I think there’s a lot politics involved in this. My personal goal is to get as many wins as possible, and when time is right, I’m going to showcase my skills in Strikeforce, Bellator or the UFC. Wherever I feel the better deal is. Many people think that fighting for the UFC is the best thing out there. But I’m a professional fighter, and I love traveling around and fighting many interesting opponent. That’s the best part about being a free agent. But yeah, I think I’m going to become a Champion of big organization pretty soon.
What’s the difference from a financial aspect, when it comes to being a free agent to getting a contract with Strikeforce, for instance?
Myself and Jeff have a more value than a regular person. We can go to a smaller MMA promotion and help them getting the fans to stick around with their promotion. Bring the fans something they will not be able to see outside the UFC. Fighting for these promotions gives me an opportunity to do things my way. When you fight for a bigger promotion, they pay on everything, but they also dictate how you walk, where you go, who you fight and where you’re going to be. Like I said, people think that fighting for a big show is everything. I’m a professional fighter, and that’s how I earn my money.
Are you negotiating with any top promotions right now?
No. I’m currently concentrating on fighting as much as possible, and get more victories on my record. My personal goal is to get 50 victories. I’m not happy about 11 losses, but 50 wins sounds much better than 44. It’s important for me to stay busy and be in a good shape. When you’re fighting for another organization, you’re going to fight for 2 or 3 times a year.
Later on the show, we’re going to talk about Bellator. They are planning to make a Light Heavyweight tournament, would you be interested in taking part in this?
I worked with Ken Pavia. He explained to me there’s some interest in me fighting for Bellator. They are really nice guys, and I think it will work pretty well for me. So if the terms are good, I will be very interesting in taking part in this.
Going back to your fight in Israel, do you have any predictions? TKO or maybe a Submission? What you will be going for?
You know, I can say this and that, but you’ll never know until you get there. I don’t know much about my opponent. And for me it’s the scariest part, because you never know what to expect. You have to be ready and prepared. I just know that I’ll go there, and be prepared for a fight. I changed my life, and everyone is happy to see me fighting. Fans really support and it helps me a lot.
Would you like to pass any message to these fans?
Just the ones who support me and not the fake ones saying I’m too old. The think that you guys need to understand is that it’s a competition, and everyone has the right to compete. Everyone wants a piece of ex-Champion, but I’m concentrating and will continue to win fights. I give my heart out to the fans who support me. As for sponsors, I would like to give a shout out to Serious PIMP, Fairtex, and Punishment Athletics. All these guys really helped me out in my career. And it’s important to have a sponsor, who’s supporting you win or lose. And to all the up and coming fighters, I just say that you need to be careful on who you pick to be your friends.