There’s a new breed of fighter emerging from Duke Roufus’ camp deep inside the heart of Wisconsin. Fighters like Mike ‘Biggie’ Rhodes. A former RFA champion, he was on the fast track to success. He had it all – the high-profile camp, the win streak, the talent… But it all came crashing down as he dropped his first two fights in a row when he joined the UFC.
Now, he faces Erick Silva. Once the golden child of up-and-coming Brazilian fighters, Silva has gone 2-3 in his last 5 fights. Somewhere in Las Vegas, the matchmakers decided to put these two together. Desperate for a win, both of these two are preparing for war at UFC Fight Night 58, and Rhodes is heading into battle with bad intentions.
Interview by Matt Homeyer.
You have been off to a rocky start going 0-2 in your first two fights in the UFC and both going to decision do feel you had opportunities to finish either of those fights?
I think both of those fights presented challenges in different ways. The first one was the weight cut and the amount of time that I had with the fight being on short notice. The second one, I was facing a guy that was highly talented, he won the ultimate fighter, traveling to a different country, I’ve never done that, cutting weight, and all that other stuff for the first time while traveling, those things presented challenges that played a part in the whole thing. To go back and say could I finish those fights? Yea in MMA you can always find a way to finish the fight. But the opportunity, I just didn’t seize it, there were times that I could have but I just couldn’t pull the trigger and get it done.
With back to back losses for the first time in your career, how are you coping with that and do you feel added pressure with it being for the UFC?
I mean, there is always pressure; being 0-2 the only pressure I’m feeling is that I hate losing. I don’t like that to coincide with my name or anything that I represent. My main focus is to get back to my winning ways. That’s what I am accustomed to, that’s why I train so hard so that I can win. As far as pressure there is always pressure, with every fight there is pressure, everything you do in life is pressured. The pressure doesn’t bother me, it doesn’t motivate me, and it really doesn’t play a part in anything that I do.
You had mentioned that travel was an issue; do you feel the travel plays a big role in fights where you have to leave the states and travel overseas?
I feel it definitely plays a role; you are not eating the way you normally eat. You’re on a long flight and cutting weight and there’s nothing you can do about it. Once you get there you still have to cut weight and being in a foreign country you’re not getting what you are accustomed to. You don’t have the foods that you would be eating here. Even though the UFC does a good job of making sure you have everything and that things are ready and at your fingertips for availability. There are still things that you don’t get that you’re accustomed to. Fighting in other countries a lot of people think it’s fun traveling and stuff like that, I don’t look at it that way. It’s a tough experience, I got to get one of those under my belt so hopefully this time it goes smoother and I can add to the process and make it easier for myself each time I have to do this.
Erick Silva is a very well rounded fighter with wins coming by submission, knockout, and going to decision. Do you see any holes in his game that you plan to exploit?
Umm, I wouldn’t say holes I think there are just some things that he doesn’t do quite as well as others. I know he’s really explosive, I know he’s really well rounded but he tends to open a little wider a little bit wilder he fights really exciting but that opens yourself up to be countered and eat shots so that’s what I’m going to be looking to do. When he goes wide I’m going to look to stay controlled with my posture and my techniques and be the cleaner sharper fighter.
With back to back losses and coming back after a surgery is there any part of your game that you have really worked on for your upcoming fight with Silva?
No, you know there is no particular spot in my game that I feel that I need to focus on and improve. I’m one of those guys that’s very well rounded and so I just look to improve everywhere. I’m not going to pick out a specific thing in my game, that’s how you force other areas to lack because you neglect those areas. So I just stay training all the time, making sure that I hit every focal point in my mind that I think I need to work on. I work on it all and I put it all together.
With the group of world class fighters that you have to train and spar with at Roufusport, is there anyone in particular that has been helping you get ready for this fight with Silva?
Not really, it’s a team effort for everyone here. I have teammates that play different roles, I have teammates that fight similar to him with the high output little bit wider open style. Other than that, a striker’s a striker, a wrestler’s a wrestler it doesn’t really matter. As long as I am training with the best strikers in the world I’m not going to be concerned about Erick Silva. Yea he’s dangerous, but I’m dangerous too. I train with some guys, Anthony Pettis just to name one that’s on a striking level that is untouchable by a lot of guys. So I don’t have to go out of my way to find someone to simulate him or anything like that. That’s no concern to me.
Is this the biggest fight of your career and what would a win over Silva mean to you?
Every fight is a big fight in the UFC and Erick Silva is a big name in Brazil. I feel like there are some names out there and he’s one of them. If I can go into his hometown and take him out on his own soil that puts me right back in there. It’s just another fight for me, I’m grateful the UFC gave me another fight you know hopefully I can take full advantage of this one and get back in the win column. I’m only 25 years old; I’m still young in this game. I have only been training and fighting for three years so no matter the income of the fighter, the outcome of the fight I’m not concerned it won’t be the last time you see me. I’m not only confident that I can go in there get a win bonus but put on an exciting fight. That fifty thousand dollar bonus that’s what I’m looking for that’s what I’m shooting for to make money in this sport while I can.
Is this the best Biggie we’ve seen yet and should we expect anything exciting in this fight?
Yea, you know I have done some big things or exciting things in the sport but getting a UFC win against Erick Silva in Brazil you would have to see the best Biggie. This is going to be my best performance, hopefully my shortest performance. Hopefully I can go out and get the job done really quick, I don’t want to go to a decision in his home country so I’m looking to go over there with bad intentions. It’s going to be a gun fight, it’s going to be whoever gets hit first and I’m ok with that because I think it’s going to me who puts that right hand on his chin and put him to sleep.
You recently hurt your knee, why don’t you explain what happened as well as the process you had to go through with surgeries and being away from the gym.
Yeah, in my fight with Whittaker, I got taken down and the knee popped couldn’t extend my leg. Finally during the fight on the ground it popped back straight and I was able to get up and still do some things. After the fight I went back home, I had some knee pain it was bothering me so I went to the doctor, the doctors said I had a torn meniscus, they did the surgery while I was in Las Vegas. It’s usually six to eight weeks to get back active, I took a little bit longer I took ten weeks to make sure the process would go smoothly for me. I took the process and made sure that I was back healthy. At this point the knee still swells every now and then but that’s just due to the fact that it’s still healing and repairing itself but I am still able to train fully and at a high level. So it’s not affecting me at the moment.
You were seen in the background of The Ultimate Fighter: Team Pettis vs Team Melendez as a coach for Pettis. How was that experience for you?
Yea I was bought out there to help on the show, when I got injured it kind of hindered that opportunity. I was stuck sitting on the sidelines so I was kind of more of just a voice of reason. Our coaching system and our style is very mental orientated. You have to be smart to understand it and to grasp the little things with the techniques, so I was kind of that buffer for the girls. I would kind of break things down or speak to them using a different term or different language. Every coach uses different wording and stuff like that. My experience on the show was great; I got to be around some high class women and made friends with a lot of them. It was really nice to see them go through the experience and be a friend to them when they are not allowed to have their phone or any contact with the outside world, so it was nice to be that for them. Also it was nice to get to see how the show works and everything like that so overall it was a great experience.
Is there anyone you want to thank for helping you get ready for this upcoming fight?
I just want to thank all my teammates at Roufusport. I want to thank Matt Gifford at NX Level, he’s my strength and conditioning coach who is always helping me elevate my game, making me bigger faster stronger. Matt Gibbons who helped me with my physical therapy and helped me get my knee back to a hundred percent. Dr. Sanders, who did the surgery out in Las Vegas. I just want to thank those guys and I want to thank my family, my mom, Sandra Harmon and all the gang back in Waterloo, Iowa they keep me motivated, they don’t know what I go through. so many things and I can just get through it by thinking about them and trying to be the best man I can be for them. I want to thank my sponsors, all the guys who are on my sponsor team now they’re on my website www.biggiemma.com. Check all those guys out I appreciate it any of the new sponsors that are going to be joining the team I want to thank you in advance. I thank the UFC for giving me one more fight and I’m going to take full advantage of it.