Buddy Roberts (11-2) will be making his UFC debut this Friday night at UFC on FX 3. I first caught Roberts on the local MMA scene in Reno and Northern California a few years ago, where the up-and-coming fighter was proving himself a force to be reckoned with. Roberts is one of those fighters who is comfortable whether he is on his feet or on the ground. Roberts is riding a five-fight win streak going into his Octagon debut and took some time out of Fight Week to speak with Lowkick.com.
Roberts had moved to the Reno-area, five years ago to train under Ken Shamrock at the Lion’s Den in nearby Susanville, California. With a mere 3 months in the gym, he went on to his first professional bout, which he won. Two years later he transferred to the Charles Gracie Academy in Reno, where he earned a purple belt. Last year, he made a bigger move to train under Greg Jackson in Albuquerque.
When asked what it was like to train at Jackson’s MMA, Roberts simply said: “Awesome. When I walked in the door the first time it was literally a “Who’s who” of fighters. It was an opportunity to train with the best in the world and that training has improved every aspect of my ability. Coach Jackson and Coach Winkeljohn have helped me so much. I am very lucky to be able to train with them”.
Getting his foot in the door at Jackson/Winkeljohn was not that easy. Roberts sought them out because he believed they were the best and they had a reputation for turning out the best fighters in the UFC. When he first approached them he was told that they were not taking on any new students. Determined to follow his dream, Roberts left Reno for Las Vegas to start his path to the UFC on its own turf. Soon after arriving in Vegas, a mutual friend from Reno, helped him secure an invitation to Jackson’s to train and be a part of the team. Roberts wasted no time getting to Albuquerque and fought in two more fights under the Jackson/Winkeljohn banner, securing back-to-back wins. As fate would have it, the UFC came courting: “After I fought in Albuquerque, in July 2011, I was contacted by the UFC. Ali, my manager, had me sign in January of this year after I made the drop to 185.”
Having seen Roberts fight 3 times at 205, I wondered how he was adjusting to the drop: “It is ideal; I am faster, more agile and alert. It is all about eating better. I was not really that big when I was younger. I bulked up in high school and college to play football.”
Roberts played in the NCAA for 4 years at Howard Payne University as a Defensive Lineman, prior to his fight career. While his UFC debut will no doubt go down as a memorable fight for him, his most memorable to-date was his last fight in Reno, where he fought B.J. Lacey, for one reason: “My mom saw me fight for the first time. She came out to a few before that, but for some reason something would happen, a fighter would pull out. My last one up in that area was supposed to be against Dave Huckaba and it fell through at the last minute.”
No stranger to false starts, Roberts was supposed to make his debut in the UFC, this past February, but on the day of the weigh-ins, his opponent, Sean Loeffler, hurt his ankle. As frustrating as it was, Roberts shrugs it off and chalks it up to part of the game: “It was a little disappointing, but what else can you do? I definitely feel like I have arrived in the sport. We have so much going on with Fox and FX, that there is going to be 4 or 5 events per month instead of 2 or 3 like it was in the past. They are recruiting more fighters and it is going to be very good for us.”
As a starting fighter in the UFC, I asked Roberts, if there was a lot of pressure to keep his place in the organization: “This is going to be my first fight for them, but as long as you perform and put on a good show for the fans, you will do well. This is putting all of us to the ultimate test; these are the best fighters from all over the world and with that variety there are a lot of rewards to be had. So I am going to do my best out there.”
Roberts is slated to square off against Caio Magalhaes (5-0) and I asked him what he thought of this fight and his opponent: “He has a strong jujitsu game and he throws big, heavy punches; but I feel awesome and I feel ready.”
Further reading: Buddy Roberts interview on Examiner.com