When I last spoke to Mike "Biggie" Rhodes, back in Oct. 2013, he was preparing to face Alan Jouban for the Welterweight title at RFA 10. The Roufusport-trained mixed martial arts (MMA) prospect was brimming with confidence -- something that seems to be contagious among his teammates -- and he predicted that his victory would "propel him into the UFC."
He was right.
What the RFA champion visualized became reality less than two weeks ago. He would get the call that all prospects wish to receive, earning the opportunity to fight for the big show at UFC on FOX 10, which takes place later tonight at United Center in Chicago, Illinois. Rhodes will collide with former Cage Fury Fighting Championships (CFFC) 170-pound champion -- and fellow UFC newcomer -- George Sullivan on the FOX Sports 1-televised "Prelims" under card.
"I think you always have to have a game plan, something you want to achieve," Rhodes told MMAmania.com. "Obviously the UFC is where all the fighters fighting on the lower levels want to be. I knew with hard work and dedication that I could be in the UFC. I put all my hard work and everything on the line for that RFA title fight. Winning that, obviously, paid off with being able to take this call on short notice and getting called up to the big show."
As far as the fight being a clash of two former regional champions, Rhodes insists, "none of that matters." As far as he is concerned, they are both novices trying to forge their own path in UFC among the best. They are both some place new and both trying to get off on the right foot.
"We are both stepping into UFC, somewhere new," he said. "We both are trying to come in and make our name early and get our UFC career kicked off with a win. That's what's important to me and what I plan on doing."
"Biggie" now boasts a professional MMA record of 5-1, with his only loss coming to Brandon Thatch, another RFA standout who also now resides in UFC's talent-rich 170-pound division. You will never hear anything other than positive words from Rhodes' mouth. It is always a question of when he wins, not if he wins. So, it comes as no surprise when he says he doesn't study his opponents.
"No, it's never my goal to study a guy," Rhodes admits. "I let my coaches check him out, check out the video and whatever they can get. They dial up the game plan and I execute and get the win. I really don't need to know too much about him other than the fight start on our feet, we are both kickboxers. That's all need to know. He likes to stand up and that's fine with me. I can beat him there and I can beat him anywhere else."
The 24-year-old Iowa native was once a roommate of Anthony and Sergio Pettis. The latter of the Pettis duo will also be on the "Prelims" tonight in Chicago. The two teammates are very close friends, and being able to be around a familiar face for his first UFC experience, is something that is very special to Rhodes.
"It's awesome man," he said. "Being on a UFC card and not being by myself, being with one of my teammates and my brother ... We are going to put on a show and show them what Roufusport is all about and get two W's early on a show. I also have a friend Chico Camus, he's fighting on the card as well. It's great to share this opportunity with him as well."
UFC on FOX 10 FOX Sports 1 "Prelims" portion begin at 5 p.m. ET later this evening, with the former RFA champion kicking off the opening fight versus Sullivan. Rhodes has been on AXS TV, a small comparison to the eyes that will be upon him when he sets foot in the Octagon for the first time. As per usual, the confident Welterweight is eagerly waiting to introduce himself.
"It just means I get to kick the show off with a bang," Rhodes said. "Get my win in my UFC debut. That's all that matters to me. It will bring more fans and everything like that, being on a bigger network. Obviously FOX is huge for the UFC and fighting period. It will be great for fans to see me my fighting style. They will either be rooting for me or rooting against me but they will be watching me. It's just a stepping stone and I feel like a big victory here can move me up the rankings and that is always the goal."