Rick DeJesus is at the head of the class
Two years ago, Rick DeJesus—the vocalist of rock band Adelitas Way—was staying cool inside the Tropical Smoothie Café in Las Vegas, Nevada, without a care in the world. His group’s single “Invincible” had just landed on mainstream radio and was being featured on television programs such as Bully Beatdown, CSI: Miami, and WWE Superstars. Simply put, the 27-year-old was at ease. Minutes later, then-rising UFC welterweight contender Dan Hardy entered the cafe. As “The Outlaw” walked inside, he noticed DeJesus sitting at a table. The more he glanced at the singer, the more he began to recognize him.
“He looked at me and said, ‘You look familiar.’ And I said, ‘Hey, you look familiar too.’ That’s how we met,” DeJesus recalls. “He wasn’t a big star yet. He’d just had his second fight in the UFC and was getting ready to fight Marcus Davis, and we just hit it off. I was like, ‘Yeah, I’m in a band called Adelitas Way.’ He said, ‘Yeah, I know you. I hear your song on the radio all the time.’”
This wasn’t the first time DeJesus met a high profile mixed martial artist. In fact, the rock vocalist lives in Las Vegas and has a habit of running into many top UFC superstars. Whether it’s hanging out backstage at awards shows with José Aldo, Jon Jones, and Urijah Faber or bumping into guys like Chuck Liddell at nightclubs, the singer has been embraced by the MMA community. It’s a good thing, because DeJesus is a diehard fan of the sport.
When DeJesus first discovered MMA, he was a fan of the Gracies, the Shamrocks, Kimo Leopoldo, and Dan Severn. Although the aforementioned families and fighters were pioneers of the sport, the initial bout that hooked him was a UFC 3 matchup between Keith Hackney and the morbidly obese Emmanuel Yarborough back in 1994.
“Everyone was basing the fight on the size of Yarborough, thinking he was gonna kill Hackney, and I was so interested in the fight,” DeJesus says. “Hackney goes out there and knocks the guy out. I think that was my first real eye-opener. There’s something special about two athletes proving who is superior, and that’s always what’s been interesting to me.” He never really had time for any casino games.
Growing up in an athletic family, DeJesus always competed in basketball, baseball, and hockey. The 6’3”, 210-pounder also took up boxing at a young age and wrestled on the Harry S. Truman High School team in Levittown, Pennsylvania. Then, while attending junior college, he took a class in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, learning the submission game. It piqued his interest enough to consider fighting on the amateur level.
“A couple of my friends are fighters and sometimes I’ll scrap with them, and we’ll go put some gloves on or something,” he says. “I’ll mess around with them, and they’ll always break my balls, like, ‘Dude you should train.’ Obviously music is first for me, but if there was ever time where I got off, I’d go back to the gym and polish things up.”
However, due to his band’s hectic schedule, it might be a while before that ever happens. DeJesus formed Adelitas Way in 2005, and the group (also comprised of lead guitarist Robert Zakaryan, rhythm guitarist Keith Wallen, bassist Derek Johnston, and drummer Tre Stafford) spent the next three years writing material, handing out demos, performing concerts at any venue that would host them, and, in the process, developing a strong following. All of that hard work paid off. Three years later, the empowering rock troupe signed to Virgin Records and released their self-titled debut album in July 2009. The studio effort became a mainstream smash—thanks in large part to the singles “Invincible,” “Scream,” and “Last Stand.”
Once they finished touring with Breaking Benjamin, Chevelle, and Shinedown, Adelitas Way returned to the studio to record their sophomore set Home School Valedictorian. Fueled by the banger “Sick,” the explosive full-length offering is loaded with an assortment of intense compositions that have piercing significance. Yes, this album is packed with attitude. “You put track one on, it’ll punch you in the face,” DeJesus says with a laugh. It’s a much bigger thrill than playing the slots!
For DeJesus, he mainly wants people to experience two things upon hearing Home School Valedictorian. “I want them to listen to the record and be able to relate to it. If they’re having a bad day or feel a certain way, I want them to put the record in and hope it makes their day better,” the singer says. “And second, I want them to listen to it and when that thing ends—when track 11 is over—I want them to say ‘Holy fuck.’ I want people to call their friends up and say, ‘Did you fucking hear this album? It’s amazing!’”