Quick Hits

Quick Hits

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For UFC heavyweight Shane del Rosario, returning to the cage is more than the progression of his career—it’s the result of soul searching and his refusal to have a lifetime of hard work taken away from him.

On April 14, 2011, it was uncertain whether or not Shane del Rosario’s fighting livelihood had been brought to an abrupt end after a drunk driver plowed into his car as he was stopped at an intersection. Hours before the incident, del Rosario had been at the gym preparing for the biggest fight of his young career against Daniel Cormier, but now he was left with a herniated disc, mounting frustration, and doubt about his future as an athlete.

It’s difficult to imagine a 28-year-old rising heavyweight star making a career comeback, but when you’ve had the year del Rosario has experienced, making a return to the fray is an applause-worthy accomplishment.

“I was coming off a solid win over Lavar Johnson, and I was set to face Cormier,” says del Rosario. “Suddenly, everything was gone. An entire year of my life was taken away from me. It was a rough time. I’ve had injuries in the past with broken bones, so I thought I would bounce back. As it turned out, the herniated disc was much more than I’d originally thought. I tried getting back in the gym, but I had to face the reality that I was going through a serious injury. I needed time off to do the necessary rehab to recover.”

Fighters, by nature, are forged from different molds, and it was del Rosario’s mental toughness that kept his head above water. The momentum that del Rosario had built over his first 11 fights was impressive, to say the least. As a former Muay Thai World Champion, del Rosario’s transition into mixed martial arts was seamless, finishing all 11 of his opponents in spectacular fashion, with only one fighter making it out of the first round. The American heavyweight knew it was going to be a long road back—one that would require diligence and patience and that would test his fortitude down to the core
just as his stock was on the rise.

Professional fighters rely on their bodies to perform at a high level, and del Rosario quickly discovered that the things that were once automatic had to be rebuilt. He had an internal sense of urgency to return to form and prove that he belonged in the cage with the best heavyweights in the world. The battles that he faced in the rehabilitation process created frustrations from within, as his range of motion and natural power were suddenly limited.

The California native would eventually come to terms with the pace of the process. Rushing the rehab would only stymie the outcome. After months of therapy, his mobility returned, and the snap in his kicks followed. With all systems firing, his confidence came back front and center, signaling to him it was time to get back to what he does best.

BACK IN ACTION

Now, with the darkest part of his journey behind him, del Rosario is prepared to begin the next chapter of his career. He is scheduled to step back into action against former UFC heavyweight contender Gabriel Gonzaga at UFC 146 on May 26.

“I was excited for the UFC to put me in a fight like this,” says del Rosario. “It shows they want me in tough fights, and that is where I want to be. Gonzaga is trying to reestablish himself and has built up some momentum over his past two fights. I’m in a similar position, coming off an injury, and we are both hungry for victory. The heavy-weight pool is stacked now that they’ve put the UFC and Strikeforce guys together. You have to prove that you belong. This training camp is going to be the most important of my career.”

In this particular matchup, del Rosario isn’t the only fighter scrapping for a piece of the suddenly crowded UFC heavyweight division. While Gonzaga was once considered a top contender in the weight class, a rough patch that saw him drop three out of four UFC bouts earned him a pink slip from the world’s largest promotion. But when the UFC made its return to Rio de Janeiro in January, “Napao” took advantage of his second opportunity and earned a first round submission victory.

“It’s going to be a great fight,” del Rosario says. “We are both dangerous, and there’s something to prove. He has to prove he can be a contender again, and I need to prove I belong in the UFC. I’m actually more pumped than I’ve ever been. I’m coming into this fight hungry.”

In the time between del Rosario’s last victory over Lavar Johnson and his return on Memorial Day weekend, the entire landscape of heavyweight MMA has shifted drastically. With Zuffa purchasing Strikeforce and merging the organization’s heavyweight roster into the UFC’s competitive talent pool, there is little room for error if his potential is to be realized. While the route traveled may not have been ideal, when del Rosario steps into the Octagon, it will be a dream come true.

“If the UFC signs you, that means they want you there and you need to show them that they’ve made the right decision,” he says. “All the hard work since the first day I stepped foot inside of a gym has been geared toward fighting in the UFC. The accident may have taken a year of my life, but things worked out the way they should have, and I’m going to be fighting in the UFC against a former contender. This is my make or break moment, and I couldn’t be more excited. The accident sucked, but I’m over being pissed about it. I’ve accepted it as something that happens in life, and it’s made me stronger in every aspect. When I get back to fighting on May 26, it’s only going to make me appreciate life that much more.”

VITALS

Name: SHANE DEL ROSARIO

Record: 11-0

Class: Heavyweight (235 lbs.)

Age: 28

Born: Hacienda Heights, CA

Fighting out of: Irvine, California

Association: Team DeathClutch, Oyama

Style: Muay Thai, BJJ

THE FINISHER

Cage-side judges have been able to take the night off when Shane del Rosario goes to work. He has ended all of his professional MMA bouts by way of stoppage (8 TKOs, 3 Submissions). It’s an impressive statistic, but nothing new to del Rosario, as the former WBC World Muay Thai Heavyweight Champion has compiled an 8-1 record with eight knockouts.

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It’s somewhat difficult to wrap your brain around the image of an MMA fighter hitting the gym hard, coming home with black eyes and bruised knuckles, and then settling into the easy chair with a good book. However, the power of the written word is undeniable. It teaches, it motivates, it changes lives.

We asked a panel of mixed martial artists what book made them a better fighter. The answers were as diverse as the fighters themselves: we got everything from fiction to the Bible to comics to one MMA champion’s bestselling autobiography on the list.

FORREST GRIFFIN “The diet portion of Vision Quest by Terry Davis helped me diet.”

FRANK SHAMROCKThe Book of Five Rings by samurai warrior Miyamoto Musashi [circa 1645]. It’s a text on kenjutsu and the martial arts.”

JAMIE VARNERWrestling Sturbridge by Rich Wallace is a typical underdog story. The main character never gave up on his dream and that’s how it made me a better fighter. It taught me never to give up on your dream no matter what’s in your way. Obstacles are put in front of you just so you can overcome them. You fall down; you pick yourself back up.”

TIM BOETSCH “The one book that sticks out in my mind is Arnold Schwarzenegger’s autobiography. I remember reading that book in high school and becoming highly motivated to be the best athlete I could be. At the time, I thought I wanted to be a bodybuilder like Arnold, but I could never convince myself that flexing in front of a crowd with nothing but bikini briefs on was a good idea.”

CLAY GUIDABecoming the Natural by Randy Couture because it shows how human he is—just like us. His struggles in life and how he adapts to them and always tried to keep a level head in his athletics and competition is inspiring. We are all very similar in what cards we’ve been dealt, but some individuals play their hands in a more positive light, like The Natural.”

RANDY COUTUREThe Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman gave me perspective to deal with the adversity of competition.”

ROB MCCULLOUGHRich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki helped shape who I am today as a fighter and person. It was the first time I was drawn into a book that really made sense and it seemed like it was speaking directly to me. [After reading the book] I set financial and personal goals and started moving in a direction to help achieve those goals. I laid down a foundation for my future, and two years later, I bought a home in Huntington Beach where I grew up, won the WEC Lightweight title, and started my own clothing company,”

NATHAN QUARRY “In Marvel Comics The Thing vs. The Intergalactic Boxer (two-inone annual number 7), the Boxer beats every superhero but the Thing. Only the Thing follows the rules and he fights with every ounce of heart. He gets beat, but the Boxer knows he could never beat the Thing’s heart and spares the Earth. The Thing was never the toughest or most skilled, but he had heart for days and that’s what I’ve always tried to be like.”

JOSH GRISPI “Probably the only book I read is the Bible. It helps me to be a better person, giving me words of wisdom. I’d have to say that any problem I have, I can find a verse in the Bible to help me figure out the situation. It’s basically a guide of how we are supposed to act even though it is pretty impossible for people to do. As for fighting, there are tons of fighters in the Bible who have defeated the odds, so if they can do it then I know I can.”

ERIC SCHAFERBody for Life by Bill Phillips is a followup to his Sports Supplement Review, which was also great. I remember these books from back in college, and while not specific for MMA, they give me a great understanding of supplements, diet, exercise, and basic stuff like eating six small meals, avoiding simple carbs, and how many supplements don’t work.”

JASON “MAYHEM” MILLERRingside and Training Principles by Margaret Goodman and Flip Homansky is a book written for boxing. A lot of it doesn’t really apply to mixed martial arts, but as far as the way the business works, I got more of a total view of how the fight world works. As far as being a businessman, it helped me a ton.”

DEMIAN MAIATransformando Suor Em Ouro is a book by Bernardinho, coach of the Brazilian men’s volleyball team. He took the national team to win the Olympic games and the volleyball world league many times. The name of the book translates into something like, ‘Transforming Sweat Into Gold.’”

NATE MARQUARDT “I think Gold Medal Mental Workouts for Combat Sports by Dariusz Nowicki is a great book for fighters. The author is a sports psychologist who was the chief coordinator of psychological preparation for all Polish Olympic teams training for the Sydney Olympics in 2000.”

JON FITCHZen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig

DIEGO SANCHEZ “The Bible because of the scriptures for battle. For example, ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.’”

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YOU CAN’T PUT A PRICE NEW GEAR TAG ON HAPPINESS

1. Hayabusa Tokushu Grappling Shin Guards
Kick your way to the top with these lightweight shin guards that don’t have any exposed hooks or hardware, so you can be sure of maximum safety and performance.
$119.99
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2. Sweet Sweat
Dab on a little Sweet Sweat before you begin your workout to increase circulation and accelerate the sweating process. It’s great for fighters/wrestlers who have a hard time getting a good sweat going before weighing in.
$32.95
Sweetsweat.com

3. VXRSI Grow T-Shirt
This 100% cotton tee will have you styling this summer, especially if you meet any chicks that read Latin.
$28.00
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4. No Mas Fightville T-Shirt
Slip on this heavy-duty tee before you hit the heavy bag to remind you that success is achieved through determination and hard work.
$34.00
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5. Gaspari Anatropin
Anatropin is a clinically studied testosterone booster that will put a little extra pep in your step, while controlling estrogen levels.
$64.99
gasparinutrition.com

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Brazil’s fight scene was the first victim. Shooto Brazil, Meca World Vale Tudo, and Jungle Fight were some of the promotions that hosted Jose Aldo’s malicious fight style. He started his professional fighting career just before turning 18-yearsold. The Nova Uniao fighter who trains with jiu-jitsu aces Thales Leities, Vitor “Shaolin” Ribeiro and Marlon Sandro, has had an Anderson Silva-like approach since the beginning. He’s cool, sporting a swagger to conceal his Samurai sword skill set that cuts through the competition.

Despite being a four-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu champion, he’s only won via a submission hold once in 16 fights (15-1). The other submission on his ledger was due to strikes. Aldo stomped past Anderson Silverio and soccer kicked him en route to victory. Stomps and soccer kicks are illegal under WEC rules, but the former semiprofessional soccer player has been indomitably ferocious since storming stateside.

He debuted in the Octagon at WEC 34 in June 2008, against Shooto legend Alexandre Franca Nogueira. Innovative offense and aggression not only helped him avoid Nogueira’s famed guillotine, they also put Nogueira on the chopping block as Aldo axed him with punches. He’s been dissecting opponents ever since.

He proved he could sustain his pace by dragging his next opponent, Jonathan Brookins, into the third round and finishing him at WEC 36 last November. At WEC 38 two months later, Rolando Perez was the next to be overwhelmed. Aldo countered a body punch by lifting a knee, perfectly catching Perez and ending his night early. Aldo then stopped Chris Mickle at WEC 39 in March. But it’s the Brazilian’s last bout that placed him at his current peak.

One strike. Two strikes. Over. Cub Swanson was finished before Aldo got started at WEC 41 in June. The then 22-year-old, already considered one of the sport’s elite prospects in any weight class, launched a flying knee that connected directly on Swanson’s face. A great improviser, Aldo switched in mid-air and threw a second knee, landing cleanly on Swanson’s left eye. The pair of flying knees stopped Swanson in eight seconds and opened deep cuts above and below his left eye. (And the stoppage could have come sooner, too, as Swanson doubled over and suffered unnecessary punches.)

Mike Tyson is his hero, and if Aldo wants to continue to emulate him, he must dispose of 145-pound champion Mike Thomas Brown at WEC 44, in Las Vegas on Nov. 18. The win over Swanson earned him the title shot on the same night that Brown bested former featherweight king Urijah Faber. There is little doubt that Brown will be the roughest test of Aldo’s career. He will, however, be up for the challenge since his only two known aspirations are to be a champion and to buy a house — both come along with the win.

Whether Aldo will continue to be “Kid Dynamite” should be known once he’s tangled with Brown. After all, a fighter should be judged not by the content of his character, but by the wreckage he leaves behind.

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SWEEP… THE LEG

“Chuck depends a lot on his rhythm, and we wanted to keep him from setting up. We knew that if we kept kicking him, he wouldn’t have a leg to stand on.”

– Greg Jackson, on Chuck Liddell

 

PROMOTION KING

“I have nothing but love for Ultimate Fighting.”

– Don King on his feelings towards his biggest competitor

 

THE ULTIMATE TEST

“In a perfect world, I’d love to fight my clone.”

Anderson Silva when asked who he’d like to fight next.

 

SHO-GUNNED

Q: How many stitches did you get, Forrest?

A: I got all of them.

– Forrest Griffin commenting on the giant gash on his forehead after UFC 76

 

FULL STEAM AHEAD

“Unlike other organizations where they said, ‘if I can get a TV deal,’ well, I have my own TV deal. I have my own DVD output. I own my own arena. I can put it on in American Airlines Center. We have our own production company, so I don’t have to pay a third party to come in a truck and produce video so I can put out a DVD. These are all elements that we already control.”

– Mark Cuban, on entering the world of MMA

 

FREE BEATINGS!

“Well, the weird thing about me is that I grew up fighting. One of my friends introduced me to it [MMA] and I was like, ‘Whoa, you mean I can beat up white dudes and not go to jail?’”

– Rampage Jackson, on what drew him to MMA

 

MMA BALLER

“I’ve been doing a lot of fighting, a lot of swimming, a lot of hunting and a lot of school work and a lot of reading…” “UFC fighting, Ultimate Fighting, yeah, I’m serious.”

“….I’m a fan of the sport. I started doing it and then some guy challenged me!”

– NBA Superstar Shaquille O’Neal when asked how he spent this past off-season.

 

SPEAKING OF BASKETBALL…

“Of course. I’d be f—ng happy to sock his big basketball head all over the Octagon. (laughs) I’m only joking. You’re going to quote me on that, aren’t you?”

– Michael Bisping jokes with MMAJunkie.com about taking a fight with his TUF coach, Tito Ortiz.

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Dan “Punkass” Caldwell is one of the founding members of the MMA giant TapouT. He, along with Tim “Skyscrape” Katz and the late Charles “Mask” Lewis, went from selling t-shirts out of the trunk of their car to running a multi-million dollar mixed martial arts empire. As part of their expansion, they partnered with Champion Nutrition to launch TapouT Sports Nutrition – a high quality supplement line available at major retailers such as bodybuilding.com. Punkass took some time out of his busy schedule to answer some of your readersubmitted questions. Then it was back on the road to the next show. Ahh, the life of a rock star. If you forgot to submit a question this month, don’t worry. Mike Brown will join us next month to tackle your inquiries. Submit your question now to AskChampion@ FightMagazine.com or visit fightmagazine. com/ask.

Hey Punkass. I’m having some trouble with my girlfriend not appreciating my love of MMA. How did you deal with people telling you that MMA was dumb and giving you grief about the sport you love? Juneau Waterloo, ON

It’s probably a little different in my situation. When people gave me shit, I just didn’t pay any attention to them because I was gonna do what I was gonna do no matter what. I made sure to keep all those voices out of my head. That said, since it is your girlfriend, I’d recommend trying to get her involved. Take her to a fight. You’d be surprised how much females enjoy the sport once they are exposed to it. Every girl that I’ve ever taken to a show has become a huge fan of mixed martial arts. MMA is so amazing live that it’s not hard to convert someone into a fan.

I know you’ve been training for a while. Have you ever thought about competing in a pro MMA fight? Armando Marshville, NC

I did think about it. But, anything that I decide to do, I do it 150%. I just don’t have it in me to do anything half-ass. So when we started TapouT, I just didn’t have the time to put in the training that I would have needed to compete at a high level. I’ve continued to train for the love of the sport, but I had to focus on the business and keep my eye on making TapouT what it is today.

When you guys hit the road in the TapouT bus, what is it like? You guys partying like rock stars or is it more low key and relaxing? Jasan Fremont, CA

We certainly have out moments, you know. I certainly can’t speak about everything that goes down on the bus, that’s for sure! There are some dead times where we’re just relaxing and enjoying hanging out, but there are some times that get out of control. You can imagine how boring it can get being on the road for a couple of months straight. So, we like to have fun and mix it up a bit.

With MMA and TapouT really starting to break into the mainstream, what big plans do you guys have in store for 2010? Andrew Gatesvill, NC

We’re really excited about this TapouT Nutrition thing we’ve got going. We’ve got great partners in the venture and we’re really looking to expand our categories. We’re branching out abroad as well. We’re going to continue to spread the word about mixed martial arts in any way we can. We’re showing the world that there are top-notch, organized companies in MMA with broad infrastructures. We feel we can go out there and hang with the best.

What advice would you give an aspiring mixed martial artist? Don Denver, CO

Some of the best fighters are still undiscovered. So you’ve gotta get out there and get noticed. Get good management. You have no business negotiating your own contracts and sponsorship deals. Network. Make sure to train at a good camp. Treat yourself like a business. And of course, win your fights.

Running a multi-million dollar business has got to be stressful. What do you do to relax and forget about it all? Tyler New York, NY

I’ve got a punching bag that I like to take some frustration out on every now and then. I work out and train which helps a ton. I also like to take drives up the coast, go to the beach. Something about driving for a hour or two and letting my mind roam free, it really calms me down and gets me level.

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You’re a UFC fighter, gym owner, ESPN analyst, and constant Twitterer (@kennyflorian)—how much free time do you have each day?

Not a whole lot. I have time between my training sessions to rest and decompress a little bit. I’m not really able to watch as much TV or do as many things or go as many places as I’d like to. I love it. That’s the crazy thing. I’d rather be training more than anything else.

What’s the one thing that you wish you could do more?

I’d like to hang out with girls a little bit more than I do. I usually just hang out with guys [laughs]. Hot supermodels—I wish I had more time to hang out with supermodels. I definitely have to work that into my schedule.

You’re now a featherweight—everyone probably assumed a supermodel was helping you cut weight.

Yeah [laughs], I’m on the Kate Moss diet.

Speaking of featherweights, you face José Aldo for the title at UFC 136 on Oct. 8. Is this the biggest fight of your career?

Without a doubt. I’ve faced a lot of tough guys in my career, and this is one of those fights I get to use my experience and put it all together and become champion. That’s what I’ve been working for. I absolutely believe that this will be the toughest fight of my life.

You’ve experienced 16 fights in the UFC. Which one is your favorite?

I don’t know. I hate all of my fights. Actually, one of the losses. The loss I had to Sean Sherk was one of the fights where—even though I was tremendously out-experienced—I still went five rounds. It was a bloody war, and it was kind of my acceptance into the UFC. It pushed me to new levels. It really drove me to train harder and harder every fight.

What’s the biggest misconception that people have about fighters?

That it is mindless—that there is not a lot of strategy involved, that there is not a lot of intelligence, that there is not a lot of technique. Some people think that we just go out there and start throwing punches and it’s just random violence. That’s one of the things that angers me the most.

In your fight against Drew Fickett in 2004, Dana White was scouting him for a shot at The Ultimate Fighter, but he was so impressed by your performance that he went with you instead. Do you ever wonder what your life would be like had you never caught the eye of the UFC president?

I definitely believe I would not be fighting in the UFC, because at that time, I had no intention of being a fighter. I really just did MMA to test my BJJ skills. It was just something I did for fun as a new test, a new challenge. I was more into the grappling aspect of the martial arts. It wasn’t until I lost in the finals of The Ultimate Fighter that I decided to try and do this.

Do you think being stereotyped as a smart, hardworking fighter is a dig at your athletic abilities?

I think people sleep on my athletic ability a little bit, but I think it all comes down to the mind. Some people will fold when they face hard times. There have been studies on people who are naturally talented, and the first time they meet failure in their life, they just fold and don’t know how to handle it. They end up becoming failures because of that—because they’ve been talented their whole life. Both my dad and mom instilled a good work ethic in me. By no means did I come from a poor family or anything like that. But, my parents always taught me that I had to work for what I wanted. They weren’t going to hand it to me. My dad had it tough, my mom had it tough. They came from Peru, and they had to work for their success, and they wanted to do the same for us. It came down to working harder than everyone else. My dad has said it since the beginning. As a foreigner coming in as a physician, he had to be twice as good as everyone else, work twice as much as everyone else if he wanted to get the business or get a certain job. He basically instilled that in us. We have to outwork everybody. There is always going to be someone better than you, but there is no reason why you shouldn’t be able to outwork someone, and that’s something I’ve always tried to carry with me.

Thanks, Kenny. Good luck outworking José Aldo on Oct. 8.

“There is always going to be someone better than you, but there is no reason why you shouldn’t be able to outwork someone”

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Let’s get right to it. You’re Canadian. How many beers does it take for you to get nice and tanked?

(laughing) I usually lose count. But I guess about 20 Canadian beers. About 24 of the American stuff.

Did you have any role models growing up?

You know, Sean Tompkins was a big role model for me. I met him when I was sixteen years old…still pretty young. I wasn’t making all the best decisions with where I was going and he really got me on a good path that has taken me to places that I never thought I could be.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten?

Probably to save my money. Ya know, not spend it faster than I can make it.

What’s the best and worst thing about being a fi ghter?

The best thing is just the overall lifestyle. Traveling, the recognition people give you…the respect that you get. The worst thing is the days when you know you have to get up and train and you’re all sore and you just DO NOT want to go to the gym. Then you realize that you have to go train and you have to do it twice.

What’s the worst job you ever had?

Roofi ng. I was a laborer for a roofi ng company for about six months. The job went right into the cold Canadian winter. I was up on the roof with snow and ice…just freezing my fi ngers off…busting my back. Man, that was a pretty terrible job.

If you could have drinks with any person on earth, who ya drinking with?

That’s a tough one. There’s so many good looking women out there. (after a good two minutes of weighing the women of the world) I’m gonna go with Angelina Jolie.

Final answer?

It was a tough question man. I like it though.

Who are the top three guys in the sport right now regardless of weight class?

Fedor [Emelianenko], Anderson [Silva], and its pretty much a toss up between BJ Penn and Georges St. Pierre.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a fi ghter?

I don’t event want to think about it!

What fi ght are you most proud of?

I think the one that people have given me the most credit for, even though I didn’t win it, is the fi ght with Spencer [Fisher]. It was my toughest fi ght so far. I’d like to pick a fi ght that I won, but I think that fi ght is the one that got the most recognition and the one that people appreciated the most.

What’s your favorite movie of all time?

I always want to switch my answers around, but since you’re asking me today, I’ll say the new James Bond movie Casino Royale.

Wait, lacrosse in Canada?

Yeah man. Its not that big here as most of the people are into hockey, but I was never too good on skates, so I played lacrosse.

If you could change anything about MMA, what would it be?

The pay scale man, the money.

The brutally honest answer is always best. What was the last book you read?

Street Justice by Chuck Zito. Its actually Chuck Zito’s autobiography. It’s a great book man, you should pick it up.

And the FIGHT! fi nal two… What song do you rock out to when you’re alone that no man should ever be caught listening to?

Ahhhh, you want me to embarrass myself. You know I really like that Katie Perry song “I kissed a girl.” I jam out to that one, I’m gonna be honest. I crank that track.

And fi nally, Jessica Alba, Jessica Simpson, or Jessica Biel?

SS: Jessica Alba. Hands down.

FIGHT! note: Still no love for Tony Romo’s squeeze. Thanks Sam. We hope to throw back some of those Canadian brewskies with you sometime soon.

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What have you been up to lately?

 

I’m co-hosting a reality TV show with Joanna Krupa about female fighters. It’s called The Ultimate Women’s Challenge, airing on NBC on September 25. Basically, these girls go through a series of challenges, and at the end of the show, after all the challenges, they’ll be chosen to fight. It’s just been a real cool experience. This is actually gonna be my first national TV show as a host. Other than that, I’m still the Xyience spokes model, and I just got back from the fan expo at UFC 118 in Boston.

 

What’s been the experience like being part of something that’s growing—not just MMA—but women’s MMA?

 

Most people expect fluff from girls, but you’re not getting that from these girls. They’re the real deal. It’s a premium show, watching these girls fight and persevere through all of the challenges we put them through is awesome. It’s been a really cool experience—being on set with a supermodel like Joanna Krupa.

 

Were you intimidated stepping on set?

 

Not at all, I was actually really excited. This show—being the first of its kind—really goes in depth with training and challenges. They give me a basic script, and I’m just allowed to go with it. I actually feel more comfortable on the fly.

 

What’s been the most exciting part of filming?

 

I really think people are going to be excited when they see the kinds of things that we put these girls through. Some of these challenges are fun, of course. We want it to be fun, but some of these challenges I’d be surprised to see a guy complete. We’re really taking them to every level and kind of pushing them beyond their breaking point, which is exciting. We also have a lot of guest coaches and popular fighters coming in, which I think fans will enjoy seeing.

 

What’s the grand prize?

 

I think the grand prize is $50,000 and a one-year membership to a training gym and a contract with an organization for at least a one-fight deal. It’s going to be a great opportunity for the winner. It will really open some doors for these girls.

 

Did you ever see yourself as the host of an NBC show when you first started in MMA?

 

Not on the MMA side of it, but I’ve always known that’s where I wanted to go with my life. I’ve always wanted to act and model. Hosting and MMA have just been a part of it. It wasn’t a driving force, it wasn’t something I pursued, it’s kind of something that fell on my lap and it’s wonderful. I’ve already actually been offered two more hosting jobs on Fox and FX, so if I can land those as well, this is gonna be a tremendous year for me.

 

A lot of fighters are doing movies now. Who is a fighter you’d like to work with on a movie set?

 

Probably Forrest Griffin. He’s like a natural actor, and he’s hilarious.

 

What kind of roles are you looking for?

 

I think I can play a lot of different kinds of characters. I definitely have a comedic side to myself, but serious or romantic or action—I’m up for it all. I’ll do anything.

 

Who are some actresses you admire?

 

Lately, I’ve been getting Megan Fox—“You’re like Megan Fox.” That’s cool to me because she’s a young, new actress also, and she’s like the new hot thing, so that’s been cool for me.

 

You’re just putting yourself in line.

 

That’s right!

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Arkansas native Rachel Wray is a natural beauty from The Natural State, but don’t let her charming Southern demeanor fool you. The 23-year-old former NFL cheerleader recently traded in her pompoms for four-ounce gloves, proving she’s more at home in the cage than on the sidelines.

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Fighting in the cage is a long way from cheerleading for the Kansas City Chiefs. Do you miss your pompoms?

Sometimes—every now and then. If I hear a good song, I miss the dancing. However, I can’t explain in words how much I love fighting. I truly love it.

Do you ever find yourself doing spirit fingers after throwing a good combo?

Yeah [laughing]. After my fights, you can see I bounce up and down like a cheerleader. You can’t take the cheerleader out of the fighter.

You’re now 2-1 as an amateur fighter. What was losing your first fight like in March?

It was a really positive experience. Obviously, I wish I would have won, but it was a huge honor to fight for the title. It came down to a very close decision. It’s not like I got knocked out or submitted. It was an amazing, bloody battle for three rounds. No clinching. No ground fighting. The crowd was so loud I couldn’t even hear my corner. I didn’t even feel like I lost. I like that I was in an actual dogfight for the first time. After that fight, I’m ready for anything. It was very positive.

What do you need to work on the most?

Definitely my wrestling and takedowns. I’m really comfortable on my feet. I love to stand and box. I’m comfortable on the ground, but not as confident in my takedowns.

image descHow did you get into fighting?

I had no background whatsoever. I was a cheerleader and a dancer all my life. I danced and cheered in college at the University of Arkansas, and then I became a cheerleader for the Chiefs after I graduated. In Kansas City, we got a free gym membership to Title Boxing Club, and I fell in love with boxing. I was doing the boxing workouts twice a day. I couldn’t get enough. I started working with a trainer. Boxing became my life. Then, I started seeing fighters next door at HD MMA—that’s LC Davis and Jason High’s gym. I walked in one day and tried kickboxing. Then I became a member. I was living two different lives—cheerleading during the day and fighting at night. When cheerleading auditions came up for the Chiefs again, I decided to fight instead. I had my first fight six months later. Cheerleading led me to fighting.

What did your parents say when you told them about it?

They are pretty conservative, so I kept it to myself for a while because I wasn’t sure I could do it. Eventually, I let them watch me hit mitts…then spar…then grapple. They finally put it all together and have been very supportive.

Forget the stupid Rachel Ray cooking jokes. What’s your fighting nickname?

Thank goodness. I get that way too much [laughing]. So far, everyone’s calling me “The Cheerleader.”

How about Rachel “Death” Wray?

Uhhhhh, I guess I could use my last name to make it clever. But my opponents always call me “The Cheerleader” when they are talking trash. But I’m proud of the nickname. I own it.

Do you cut much weight?

I walk around at 136 pounds. I’ve fought at 120 pounds, and my last fight was at 115 pounds. That was a major cut.

I guess weight cutting was a new concept for you?
As you can see this is how playing poker online works if you are playing poker in a poker room such as this or BlackChip Poker
Yes, but LC Davis and Jason High—they know how to cut weight—walked me through every step.

When’s your next fight?

I’m trying to line up something in June. In the meantime, I’m going to enter a grappling tourney.

How long until you go pro?

I don’t have a set number of fights, but I’m thinking eight or so. I do a lot of work, so getting paid would be nice, but I still have a lot of work to do. I’ll turn pro when I feel like I’m ready.

Who’s your favorite fighter?

Ronda Rousey. I’m a huge fan. I love all the female fighters—Miesha Tate, Cat Zingano, Cyborg. I pay way more attention to women’s MMA than I do the men’s.

Do you miss cheerleading at all?

No, just the girls. The Chiefs had an amazing group of genuine girls. I still talk to them. They’ll be my bridesmaids one day.

Are you getting married soon?

No, no. It’s hard to find boys when you practice every night.

Are guys intimidated that you fight?

No, I think they are more intrigued by it. Fighting is fun.

image descWas the photo shoot a refreshing reminder that you don’t always have to get punched to have fun?

The shoot in Atlanta was really fun—cute little outfits, old cars. I hadn’t been to Atlanta since my college cheerleading days, so I took my mom with me and we went shopping and ate at some good restaurants. I love the city. You can’t beat Southern hospitality.

What do you do with yourself when you’re not training?

I like the outdoors. I go to my family cabin, four-wheeling, shooting guns. I have two Berettas—a .22 and a .32—both with laser grips. They’re awesome. I like to shoot, and carry it around just in case.

In case of what?

You never know.

Speed Round time. What’s your Favorite movie?

Gone With the Wind.

On a hotdog, ketchup or mustard?

Ketchup, but I can’t eat hotdogs. They aren’t on my diet.

What Pandora station are you listening to right now?

Kid Rock.

Best physical feature?

My butt, which everyone is looking at now. I hope my parents don’t have heart attacks.

Did Bobby Petrino ever give you a motorcycle ride at Arkansas?

No [laughing]. No he didn’t. I would always pass him at the field house after cheer practice, and he would always say “Hi.” But no, no motorcycle rides for me.

Why are manhole covers round?

Huh, what’s a manhole cover [laughing]? I don’t know.

Would you rather be knocked out or choked unconscious?

Choked out, for sure. It feels good when you wake up. The first time, I thought I’d been out for hours. I was like, “Whoa, this feels good.”

Here’s to waking up feeling good.

Cheers to that.

Follow Rachel on Twitter and Instagram: @cheerleadermma and cheerleadermma

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// Photos by Paul Thatcher
// Makeup, Hair, and Wardrobe by MARAZ

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