“This is a huge, huge fight for me,” Jake Rosholt says. “I’m fighting someone with a big name, who has tons of fans and respect. It’s on pay-per-view, on the main card, so I’m pumped. As far as I’m concerned, it’s the biggest fight of my life.”
Rosholt, an Ultimate Fighting Championship middleweight with impeccable wrestling credentials, is talking about his UFC 102 tilt with journeyman brawler Chris Leben.
After three straight wins in regional promotions to start his career and a win over Nissen Osterneck in the WEC, Rosholt dropped his debut bout in the UFC, a submission loss to Dan Miller at Fight Night 17. Now Rosholt will face his biggest challenge to date in the always-game Leben. But the wrestler has enjoyed too much success to start doubting himself. “Chris is a very tough fighter who always comes forward and puts pressure on his opponents, and he’s gonna try to knock my head off,” said Rosholt. “But I’ll be ready for that and I’ll be able to take the fight wherever I want.”
Growing up just 30 miles south of the Canadian border in northern Idaho, Jake Rosholt began honing his ground fighting skills at the tender age of six. “I was in kindergarten and the teachers handed out a flyer about the local kid’s wrestling program,” said Rosholt. “So I went home and asked my parents if I could try wrestling, and that was that.”
During two decades of grappling, Rosholt earned four All-American honors and three NCAA Division I titles while attending Oklahoma State University — more than any other fighter in the UFC today. But fighting was the last thing on Rosholt’s mind once he graduated college.
“I had no aspirations to fight, whatsoever,” admitted Rosholt. “I got done wrestling in college and was burned out and didn’t want to train anymore. All you can do is try to make an Olympic team and there’s zero money in it and it’s just hard to live. You’ve been in college, broke, for five years and you graduate and want to find a job and start a life, and wrestling or fighting just wasn’t that route for me.”
Rosholt didn’t seek out MMA but it found him anyway. The wrestler met the men behind Team Takedown through his gig as a children’s wrestling coach. The management group specializes in recruiting elite wrestlers and developing them into MMA fighters. “[Team Takedown] started asking me what my plans were and seeing if I wanted to try MMA and the deal was that they’d back me up if I gave it a try,” said Rosholt. “So they brought me down to Vegas to meet Randy Couture, and he urged me to give fighting a try to see if I liked it or not.” Rosholt trained with Forrest Griffin and Frank Mir and says, “I got my ass beat for 45 minutes. After I left, I decided it was something I wanted to do!”
The only thing left to determine is if he can do it well enough to make waves in the UFC at 185 pounds.