Former three time All-American wrestler Shane Roller is fearless.
You'd have to be to accept a fight on short notice despite likely having your job on the line, but that's exactly what the Team Takedown lightweight did when Cody McKenzie got hurt, stepping up to take on Michael Johnson with just three weeks of preparation time.
After a strong run in the WEC that saw him on the brink of title contention, Roller has had mixed results in his UFC career thus far, knocking out Thiago Tavares in his debut only to come up short against both Melvin Guillard and T.J. Grant in his last two bouts.
His gym is currently experiencing its most tremendous high after teammate Johny Hendricks shocked the world against Jon Fitch just a few short weeks ago. Roller is hoping to piggyback on some of that momentum to help himself get back on track against The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) season 12 finalist.
Roller spoke with MMAmania.com about the recent addition in his life, taking a fight on short notice and where he feels he'll have advantages against Michael Johnson on the undercard of UFC on FOX 2 this Saturday night (January 28, 2012.)
See for yourself.
Shane Roller: It's good man. We're excited, just ready to keep the ball rolling. That knockout was huge for our team and just ready to get in there and get back on the winning track.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You had a pretty dramatic two week stretch there, with a newborn child on December 20th and then Hendricks goes out and scores the biggest win in Team Takedown history on the 30th and then you announce you're taking a short notice fight on January 4th. What's it been like for you with everything that's been going on?.
Shane Roller: It's nothing too bad. It's just kind of what we do. Fighting is our job here so we're always trying to stay ready to fight and we train here year-round so that makes it a little easier for us to take fights like this on short notice and it wasn't too big of a deal. I was in a close enough range where I thought my shape could be to be ready to take this fight and go out with confidence out there and get the win. All that other stuff, it's just life, you can't put it on hold.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Yeah, I remember before the fight was announced, you were mentioning on twitter that you were running on fumes and the baby had her days and nights mixed up. Has that been a factor?
Shane Roller: A newborn baby is kind of crazy but my wife does a great job letting me just concentrate on training and she's taking care of the baby right now especially at night. I moved into a different room so I can get my sleep and she's done a lot for me. You've got to be able to get your rest during training camp to give your body enough time to recover so that helps a lot.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I know you're a guy who would never turn down a fight, but was there any reservations at all in the back of your head on taking a short notice fight because of the fact that you're on a two fight losing streak heading into this one, perhaps you'd want more time to prepare?
Shane Roller: No, I'm ready to fight any time. If they call, you can't turn down an opportunity to get into the Octagon and put on a show. That's what I want to do. I've been ready to get back in there as soon as I got home from my last fight. If you lose, all you think about is getting back in there and getting back on the winning side. I'm ready to go.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Typically during your normal training camps, when you're not cramming or anything, when do you start shifting your focus to more specifically prepare for your upcoming opponent?
Shane Roller: It usually starts much earlier, like between six and eight weeks out when I start focusing on my opponent. Honestly, as soon as I get the call from the UFC, that's when I start focusing on my opponent, his tendencies and things I want to work and things like that. As far as specifically working on it in training camp, it's usually about six to eight weeks.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): So what are some of the differences you'd had to do this time around since you didn't have nearly as much time as usual?
Shane Roller: Yeah, I've had to cram a little bit more like you said. I think I had three weeks and three days so I've had to cram it all in, watch a lot of footage on him and figure out what's going to work during the fight and just get my body ready. There are some advantages to taking a fight on short notice too. Sometimes during a six to eight week training camp, your body gets broken down and you have some injuries and things you'll have to fight through and this being a short training camp, my body feels the best I've had since the last time I took a fight on short notice.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Yeah and speaking of that, I had heard that you did take a fight on short notice before so what did you take from that experience that you could potentially use for this fight?
Shane Roller: Just like said, a lot of people put a lot of stress on short notice and being ready, but the biggest thing I learned was to always be in shape, keep training and be ready year-round. My management makes it able to where we're not concerned about needing a job so we're in the gym training all the time and it gives us opportunities to take fights like this on short notice.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Let's talk about your upcoming opponent, Michael Johnson, an Ultimate Fighter veteran. You said he's a good wrestler, but compared to you, you were a three time All-American at Oklahoma State, so how would you compare your wrestling ability to his?
Shane Roller: Just in pure wrestling, I'm obviously a more accomplished wrestler but it's not always about wrestling. The guy's explosive and he's got good takedowns. I think St. Pierre never wrestled but he's got great takedowns in MMA and he's a terrific athlete so you don't have to be a great wrestler to have good takedowns. He's definitely very explosive and that's something I've got to watch out for and I'm confident in my wrestling.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): He was submitted in his last fight by Paul Sass in the first round. Knowing that you're a pretty competent submission grappler yourself, does that give you any extra confidence heading in?
Shane Roller: Yeah, I'm always confident and that's where I think I have the advantage over nearly every opponent I fight, the submission game. I'm liking what I see in film and what I feel in my hands. I have confident in my punches as well but I've got to have my striking, takedowns and submission game all working together. That's how you become a great fighter.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Most fighters that transition from a strong collegiate wrestling background, they don't have the finishing ability that you seemed to possess right off the bat. You've only had one decision in your entire career so what do you attribute that to you in your fighting style?
Shane Roller: That's just my mindset. When I go into the cage, I'm going in there to finish it. At any point, sometimes it does get me into a little bit of trouble, getting me out of position sometimes, but I think it's exciting for the fans and that's the way I want to fight and that's the way I'll fight on Saturday night, going after the kill.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Was there anything that you've been able to take from your last two fights, two tough losses that you have learned from that you can bring into this one?
Shane Roller: Yeah, just different positions. There's always things you can take from every fight, win or lose, that you can get better at. It's different positions in each of those fights. Like, my last fight against Grant, I found myself on bottom trying to go for different things and I should have swapped positions with him. That's one position I need to get better at and then with the stand-up, I was too upright with Guillard and I just need to get better.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Now that you have this fight all lined up with Michael Johnson and you've been thinking about it, how do you picture victory against him?
Shane Roller: I can definitely see it being a stand-up war. You'll see that happening a lot of times with two wrestlers and I'm prepared and ready for it. I've got a lot of confidence in my hands so I'm prepared and ready for that and I'm definitely going for a finish, whether I hurt him standing or flip him or whatever, I'm definitely gonna be jumping on him looking for the finish via submission or punches.
So what do you think, Maniacs?
Will Roller get back on track against Michael Johnson on Saturday night? Or will taking this fight on late notice prove to be his undoing?