Duke Roufus is not afraid to test his best prospects.
The elite Milwaukee-based head coach of Roufusport MMA would much rather have his fighters face adversity earlier in their careers than have them find out the hard way they don't belong on the biggest stage in the sport.
That's why Anthony Pettis took on veteran Bart Palaszewski in just his second WEC fight and why rising stud Rick Glenn battled top Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace and former unbeaten fighter Alexandre Pimentel in his World Series of Fighting debut.
Losing isn't the end of the world to him. In fact, he thinks nothing can light a fire under his fighters more.
The former Super Heavyweight kickboxing champion spoke to MMAmania.com about his young talent in part one of our interview. In part two today, he discusses learning from defeat, putting his prospects through a trial by fire and teaching strikers how to fend off wrestlers.
Check it out:
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You're not one to protect your fighters for too long. I've noticed you're more willing to test your prospects early in their careers against top competition. Not many other trainers are as willing to do it, so why do you?
Duke Roufus: That's the thing. Obviously, we are guys that are looking to fight people. I'm not looking to postpone the inevitable. Let's get down to business right away. Even look at, if you watched RFA, I took a prospect of ours Mike Rhodes who is a good prospect against a great prospect in Brandon Thatch. My guy ended up losing to Brandon Thatch but it just goes to show you that we're not afraid to fight people.
You get better by fighting better people. Sometimes you lose but when you lose, it's like medicine. You don't like taking your medicine and you don't like taking a loss and that's what makes you better. You get home, regroup and focus on getting better. If you want to be a real prize fighter, you have to go out there and fight somebody. That's what it's all about. I'm trying to prepare these kids to be at the top. If you're afraid to fight somebody who's in front of you in the beginning, how can you be ready to do it at the end?
Duke Roufus: Oh yeah, that's the turning point of Anthony's career. I love the way he took that. I'm really close with him but he didn't whine, he didn't make any excuses publicly or privately, nothing. He took responsibility that he took the wrong gameplan and didn't prepare the way he should have. He chose not to be bitter but better and out of the fire came the phoenix that is today's Anthony Pettis. He loves making the fights easy and when you train hard, the fights are easy. It's such a stupid cliche but it's the darn truth.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Erik Koch was another fighter in a similar situation. He was in a tough battle against Ricardo Lamas and one mistake cost him the fight in pretty brutal fashion. How did he react to that, what did he learn from the loss and what's he doing to get better since then?
Duke Roufus: He actually got food poisoning the day of the fight. I smelled vomit on his breath when he was warming up, that's how sick he was. Not making excuses, just that's the breaks in this business. You work the whole year and bad things happen. It's the nature of the beast. That being said, he's back, getting better and waiting for an opportunity to shine again. I think honestly the time off hurt him. I sometimes don't think ring rust is an issue for some people but I think it definitely was for Erik in that situation. Erik's a competitor. These kids are so young, they need to fall when they're young to make them stronger. Most people don't look at it that way. Yeah, they hate losing, but it really ignites a fire. Name a top guy who hasn't lost in MMA, everybody loses. That's the unique thing about mixed martial arts. There's parity across the board. Floyd Mayweather is an anomaly.