Duke Roufus, the Roufusport Fight Club and the Power of Quality over Quantity
By now, the MMA world should know about Duke Roufus, the head of the Roufusport Fight Club.
Why would anyone want to know about Roufus? For starters, one cannot talk about the elite of the sport in 2013 without the mention of Roufus, who helped fighters such as Anthony Pettis, Alan Belcher and Chico "King" Camus, among others, develop into the fighters MMA fans enjoy watching today.
In what Roufus described as a "transition year" in speaking to B/R MMA, he noted what most fans widely recognized. Anthony defeated Joe Lauzon at UFC 144, but he battled injuries throughout the year while Anthony's brother, Sergio, came into 2012 with an unblemished 2-0 pro record and left 2012 with an unblemished 6-0 record.
Additionally, Bellator welterweight champion Ben Askren shows consistency in winning performances, and Camus, who fights at UFC 156 tonight against Dustin Kimura, defeated Dustin Pague in his UFC debut at UFC 150.
Of course, injuries to Erik Koch prevented him from two scheduled dates with UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo, and Belcher beat Rousimar Palhares but dropped a decision at UFC 155 to Yushin Okami. However, this small club in Milwaukee still delivered much of the memories that made 2012 enjoyable.
"We've put two guys in the World Series of Fighting," Roufus said, "We have another guy in the RFA, so I'm pretty happy with our small club. We don't have the hugest training camp, but we are a quality over quantity-type group."
Look at the quality of the wins received by the camp's fighters, and few will argue against the fact, especially when they take into consideration the way the camp performed recently at UFC on Fox 6.
Krauss' technical striking pulled him to a unanimous decision against Mike Stumpf in a preliminary bout that saw the debut of the "flying Panzer punch," which Roufus coined the superman-uppercut that many witnessed live on FX. The manner in which "Showtime" handled the challenge of Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone should go without saying.
However, the moments after Koch's loss to Ricardo Lamas stand out, not only because it served as the only loss on the Roufusport front, but because of what happened after the bout.
"The hardest thing I've ever had to do as a coach was Saturday night," Roufus said. "I had to leave Erik in the cage bleeding while running back to make sure Anthony was ready to take on Cerrone...it was a traumatic experience for me. I had to go back in the locker room and be very confident for Anthony...we had a good cry about it."
Speaking of Anthony now means speaking about UFC on Fox 7, as Anthony will get the winner of UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson vs. former Strikeforce champion Gilbert Melendez. Roufus will say with no hesitation that he would look forward to the fight Anthony already fought, meaning the rematch with Henderson.
At UFC on Fox 6, though, the rematch with Henderson and the rematch with Melendez remained on the shelf temporarily, as Anthony looked to settle a score with Cerrone after months of trash talk culminated inside the Octagon, where Pettis finished Cerrone with a liver kick and a series of punches.
Roufus knows Anthony well enough to know what Anthony encountered growing up, however, so Cerrone's loss to Anthony came as the result of "barking up the wrong tree," so to speak.
"[Cowboy] trying to talk trash to him is like those same gangsters that used to talk trash to [Anthony] in his own neighborhood."
As Roufus said in quoting Bane's words to Batman about being molded in the dark, Anthony and Camus found themselves molded in the darkness of the lifestyles surrounding their neighborhood before they ever stepped in the cage.
Now, despite the win over Pague and despite his story, few know about Camus, despite his win over Pague. But while Roufus won't ask anyone to see what Camus saw before Anthony brought him to Roufusport, he did enjoy how Camus evolved from a tough guy living the street life into a martial artist living the cage life.
"I couldn't believe the maturity in his first fight," Roufus said of Camus's first outing. "He didn't let the first-time jitters get to him."
As time grew on and Camus gained more experience, "The King" only continued to evolve into an under-the-radar bantamweight who wanted to make his name known throughout the sport, and he gets the opportunity to continue that evolution against Kimura.
Kimura did miss weight and will fight Camus at a catchweight, but Roufus did not shy away from echoing many of the expectations from people looking forward to Kimura's debut.
"A tough Hawaiian, man," Roufus said, "You'd think with all that nice weather, they'd be chilled out. Those boys are ready to scrap constantly."
Roufus never hesitates in standing behind his boys, all of whom help play their part in making Roufusport one of the premier camps to watch year in and year out. With Belcher remaining in that very category, nobody should forget about him also.
After all, he did expose what happens when Palhares cannot find the heel hook, and while he hit a rough patch against Okami, the person he had in mind to fight next mirrored the man Roufus wanted to see Belcher fight next.
"Bisping," Roufus said, referring to The Ultimate Fighter 3 light heavyweight winner Michael Bisping, who, ironically, faces Belcher in UFC 159's co-headliner later this year.
Nobody should need an explanation for this choice, especially if they followed the UFC middleweight title scene in 2012. Until losing to Vitor Belfort earlier this year, Bisping pleaded his case toward a title shot, while Belcher did the same. And then the two middleweights eventually took verbal jabs at each other while fans wondered when the two would collide.
"He's a guy with a big mouth," Roufus said, "and he needs to get it shut."
Whether or not Belcher accomplishes that task remains a question, but on paper, the fight promises to bring forth a culmination of one of the more intense rivalries of this year. With Roufus at the head, Belcher can definitely do his dirt in putting the final verdict in his favorite so he can once again creep into talks of a showdown with the UFC middleweight champion.
At the end of the day, few can fuel that desire like Roufus.
"One thing I teach several of my guys is 'What's your why?'; why are you doing this? Are you doing this to just fight or are you doing this to become a champion? I've pushed all my guys to become a champion...I love what I do, but for these guys, I see an opportunity for endgame.
"Ben's expecting his first daughter. Anthony has his daughter; they support their families and they've been able to support their families' lives through their career...you have to go out there and want to be the best. That's the only way you're going to get any reward in this sport."
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