Residents of the Chicago community of Englewood might not like to hear it but the fact is their neighborhood is one of the most dangerous areas in the city.
Chicago Police Officer Mike Russow worked the area for seven years. After earning that sort of experience, one might think stepping into the Octagon is a cake walk for Russow, but if anything, it’s sharpened his reaction time.
“I think working as a cop in such a dangerous place helps me a lot in the Octagon because as a fighter, you always have to be ready,” he said. “The punch you don’t see could knock you out. It’s kind of like that in police work. It’s not like you’re going to know what’s going to happen. You could be driving around and all of a sudden you see something and you have to react.”
At UFC 114 on Mat 29, Russow (12-1-0) will take on Todd Duffee (6-0) in a clash of heavy handed heavyweights. Duffee is best known for his UFC record 7-second knockout of Tim Hague on Aug. 29, 2009, the same night Russow defeated Justin McCully by unanimous decision.
Duffee is a big step up in competition but Russow is always striving to improve, so says his jiu jitsu instructor, heavyweight and seven-time Brazilian jiu jitsu champion Rodrigo “Comprido” Medeiros.
“Mike already had some grappling before he came to me,” Medeiros said. “He fought in Pride. He works on back defense, submission options, takedowns. Mike trains very hard. He has a very good ground game now.”
Comprido, who also trains UFC Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar, says sparring the champ helped prepare Russow prepare for one of the UFC’s most-hyped prospects.
“In MMA, boxing, whatever, there is always something to improve,” Comprido said. “Training with the best heavyweight in the UFC has its advantages.”
So does being a Chicago cop. If mental strength were measured in pushing iron plates and steel barbells, Russow should’ve been in the World’s Strongest Man competition, not mixed martial arts.
“Being a police officer, I’ve pretty much seen every horrible thing you could think of, especially being in the second-biggest city in the country (sic),” Russow said. “But going into the Octagon on Saturday night, I know I’m going home. I’m going to leave the ring and go home after work. Whereas, when you’re a police officer, you never do know. I think that helps you keep your cool and perspective in the ring.”
“I think being a Chicago cop makes him understand how to work under great pressure,” Comprido said. “He can manage a bad situation better than other people because he already knows how to handle it and keeps his head. He can find a way out.”
Despite Duffee holding the UFC’s fastest-knockout record, Russow is not at all intimidated. He respects Duffee, but the rep doesn’t scare Russow, and he is plenty confident he won’t be the next guy.
“Todd Duffee’s a really good fighter and you give him credit for that knockout. He trains at American Top Team in Florida, so he’s good. But I think there was a little luck in that knockout, too.”
And while most pundits think with two heavyweights who like to throw hands, this fight will end quickly, the fact is both Duffee and Russow like the ground game.
“[Mike] is a very underrated and tough opponent and he fights very smart. I expect it to be a very sloppy, long fight,” Duffee told the UFC website.
“I have the same game plan as I’ve had the last three years,” Russow said. “It’s no secret. I’m going to keep my hands up and close the distance between us. Use my ground-and-pound strategy and see what happens.”
But make no mistake about it, Duffee is the biggest fight in the 33-year-old Russow’s career. More importantly, it’s an opportunity
“Yeah definitely,” Russow said. “Really, all eyes are on Todd Duffee, so it’s a good time for me to go in there and beat him.”