Overall experience may not be something that George Roop has in bulk, but the "right" type of experience is something the Tuscon native believes he has in large supply.
Since his stint on the eighth installment of The Ultimate Fighter back in 2008, the 31-year-old has experienced mixed results while competing at the highest level of mixed martial arts. During his two runs under the UFC banner and a three-fight stretch competing in the "little blue cage" of the WEC, the Apex MMA-trained fighter has compiled a 6-6-1 record.
While the victories during that stretch have been high points on his journey, Roop has held his defeats in high regard as well. Outside of his loss to Shane Nelson at The Ultimate Fighter 8 Finale in 2008, Roop's five additional setbacks have come against a collection of top-ranked fighters and former title challengers including Hatsu Hioki, Eddie Wineland and current featherweight powerhouse Cub Swanson.
Although those losses kept Roop from establishing his footing, they provided a unique education that is only available while competing under the Zuffa banner. Of the lessons learned, perhaps the most poignant was his need to find a more suitable weight class, and this mindset led him to drop down into the bantamweight ranks.
"I think I've definitely learned a lot from my losses," Roop told Bleacher Report. "I'm not one of these guys who has just been spoon fed opponents. I don't have one of these 10-1 records where I've been fed guys that I'm supposed to beat in order to pad my record. I've fought the best of the best in there all the way through my career.
"I only had a few fights going into the UFC so my career pretty much started once I got here. I started out at 155 pounds and now I'm competing at 135. I think that experience and the caliber of competition I've faced is a huge advantage for me. I know guys having incredible records are sharp fighters, but the reason I'm doing good and only getting better is because of the losses I've had."
The decision to cut down to 135 pounds has proved to be the right one. It has yielded impressive results, as Roop has found victory in back-to-back showings as a bantamweight. He stamped his official arrival in the 135-pound fold by defeating Reuben Duran at UFC 158 in March. Two months later, he made a bigger statement by drubbing Brian Bowles at UFC 160 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Roop survived some early adversity in the bout and rebounded to batter the former WEC bantamweight champion, picking up the TKO victory in the second round. By defeating an opponent with the resume and name recognition of Bowles, Roop solidified himself as a legitimate player in the bantamweight division.
The rangy striker will face Francisco Rivera in his next showing at Fight for the Troops 3 on Nov. 6 in Fort Campbell, Kentucky. While he's excited for the matchup, he sees the fight as another opportunity to gain the respect he deserves. Both men have built solid momentum in their respective climbs up the divisional ladder, and the winner of the tilt will take another step toward the top.
That said, Roop is on a mission to get what he feels is coming to him. He has no intentions of stopping until he gets his hands on the bantamweight title.
"I know I haven't got the respect I deserve yet," Roop said. "That's what I'm looking to do. I'm going to go out there and get my respect, and until I get it, I'm not going to be satisfied. I want the belt bad and that is all there is to it. I wouldn't be dropping down to 135 pounds if I didn't believe I could be the champion. I want that belt and I'm not stopping until I get it."
Duane Finley is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. All quotes are obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise.
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