Although Duke Roufus is perhaps best known to mixed martial arts (MMA) fans as the head coach of fighters such as Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Lightweight Champion Anthony Pettis and former Bellator welterweight champ Ben Askren, Roufus himself had a storied career as a professional kickboxer in the 1990's and early 2000's.
In addition to Roufus' role as a coach, he has also taken on color commentary duties with GLORY.
With GLORY 12: "New York" just days away from airing on Spike TV, it seemed like an opportune time to sit down with Roufus and talk about his role with GLORY and his thoughts on kickboxing in general. (Note: portions of this interview have been edited for concision's sake.)
Steve Borchardt: Most readers of an MMA site probably know you primarily as a coach. Can you tell me a little bit about how your professional kickboxing career got started and how you eventually got into coaching?
Duke Roufus: My father was my first coach. My older brother (Rick "The Jet" Roufus) and I trained in kickboxing and martial arts under my dad. Back in the day there was an organization called the Professional Kickboxing Association (PKA). My dad was a promoter. He promoted fights on ESPN when I was a kid. He was an official, a coach, all kinds of different stuff. So it was only a natural progression that I followed in his footsteps.
I started teaching at our academy when I was only 15 years old. That's what led me to where I might get involved with coaching, and here we are today. This past week was the 25th anniversary of me getting a license in Nevada to be a corner man and a coach. It's kind of wild since I'm only 43 years old.
Borchardt: You started doing commentary for GLORY with the move to Spike TV. How has that been?
Roufus: Needless to say the magnitude of being on Spike TV has been incredible. I feel like I've worked with some good productions, but this is way beyond what I've done. I'm just learning the process. I'm loving it because I have the best seat in the house and I'm still the biggest fan. It's a lot of fun.
It's awesome: the best kickboxers on the planet, on a great network like Spike TV. It's a dream come true for me.
Borchardt: There are a lot of MMA fans who haven't given kickboxing a shot for whatever reason, but it seems like it would appeal to many of them, especially those who grow impatient with the ground game. What would you say to MMA fans who are on the fence to get them to give GLORY a try?
Roufus: Oh man, it's just pretty fast food. It's shorter rounds and very forced action. Because there is only striking, that's the only way to win, which causes a lot of action.
Me myself, I train in jiu jitsu and I wrestled in high school, so I am a connoisseur of the ground game. But I think there's nothing better than a Gatti/Ward or Bonnar/Griffin type fight. People want to see two people go toe to toe and try to knock each other out, and GLORY delivers that product. Especially in the tournaments you're going to see that.
That's the cool thing about what's going on today: more MMA people are watching boxing, more boxing people are watching MMA than ever, and I think more boxing and MMA people can be watching kickboxing and vice versa. There's something to be loved from every sport, and every aspect of it.
I love it all personally. I watch my friend Ben Askren wrestle in Agon wrestling, I watch Metamoris jiu jitsu, I TiVo the Big 10 network and watch all the wrestling -- I'm just that type of person. I don't watch anything else. I only watch combat sports.
Borchardt: I guess at the end of the day, no matter what sport it is, when you have two athletes competing against one another and only one can win, there's a universal appeal that can appeal to fans of all combat sports. For instance, MMA fans can maybe see that same appeal in boxing or kickboxing.
Roufus: Oh for sure. I look at it, I believe that in our culture today -- this is my Roufusism as someone's called it -- I believe that just like the ancient Roman society, the more civilized our culture becomes, the more violent we like our entertainment. What's the oldest spectator sport on the planet? Fighting in the Colosseum.
If you love combat sports and the appeal of the mano a mano, you're going to love GLORY.
Borchardt: This weekend's GLORY 12 card features a lightweight tournament as well as a bout featuring middleweight champ Joe Schilling. Can I get your thoughts on the card?
Roufus: The tournament itself is a mixed array of fighters. You've got Davit Kiria who comes from more of a kyokushin karate background. He throws spin kicks, jump knees; he comes at it with a really cool palate of skills. Then you've got Andy Ristie, who trains in Holland and has the classic Dutch kickboxing, with a little flair. He likes the flying knee, and he's gonna come in there very aggressive.
The two favorites in the tournament, and they're two contrasting styles, are Robin Van Roosemalen and Giorgio Petrosyan.
Van Roosemalen is like the Mike Tyson of our sport almost. There's a famous Muay Thai fighter that passed away this year named Ramon Dekker -- the greatest Muay Thai kickboxer ever -- this guy was a beast. Van Roosemalen is the closest fighter we've had since to Dekker, he brings that style. What I mean by that is every strike he throws he's trying to knock you out or break your leg. That's the Dutch style to the maximum.
On the other end of the spectrum, Giorgio Petrosyan, known as the Doctor, if we had to describe any fighter to be the Mayweather of kickboxing it would be this man. He is precision, he can't be touched. He's very evasive but at the same time very dangerous. He's probably the best ring tactician in all of kickboxing.
That being said, the main event is gonna be off the chain. Joe Schilling had a big upset in Los Angeles at GLORY 10 when he beat Artem Levin, but he's got a very tough, stern test in front of him in Wayne Barrett, who has come out of nowhere but is a very gifted striker.
Borchardt: For MMA fans who maybe hear Joe Rogan or whoever mention these things in passing, how would you characterize the difference between the Dutch style of kickboxing and a Thai style?
Roufus: The thing with the Dutch style, beyond the technique, is the mindset. They want to finish fights, man. The have a mindset that they're, not literally but figuratively, trying to kill you. They're trying to break you. They're trying to punch you hard in the head and the liver. They're gonna kick your arms, kick your head, kick your leg and every strike they throw at your they're trying to make you quit. It's a very aggressive, in your face style, which makes it very fun to watch.
Whereas in Thailand, they like to use the science of the body. It's almost a jiu jitsu mindset. That's what Petrosyan, even though he's Italian, does. He uses the Thai style. In Thailand they call that "technique boxing" whereas the Dutch style would be called "strong boxing."
There's a place for both styles in GLORY, but the fans are going to love the Dutch style because it's smashmouth kickboxing. That's why it's easy to love these guys.
Borchardt: In closing is there anything you'd like to say about this weekend's GLORY 12 card?
Roufus: Again, let's not say "boxing" or "MMA" -- I like the term "fight fan." If you like fights, you're gonna see great fights this weekend. Everyone's a fight fan. You're definitely going to not feel like you wasted a few hours watching this show. I'm just looking forward to it. If you love fighting, make sure you watch Saturday night.
For more on this weekend's GLORY 12 fight card click here.