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· On The Spot ~ Rodney Wallace

· Article author: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Posted on 08/06 at 12:48 PM

UFC light heavyweight Rodney Wallace is not concerned about Phil Davis' pedigree or hype. When his original opponent Stanislav Nedkov had to withdraw, with just two weeks to go until the fight, Wallace asked specifically for Davis. Although he is currently 0-2 with the organization, 9-2 overall, Wallace may be thinking about the future with the request.

If he loses again, he would likely be out of the UFC. Even if he were to win in a fight over Nedkov, anything short of an impressive victory, and he could have been on the outside looking in. What better way to make a statement to the UFC than to follow up his "Fight of the Night" winning loss to Jared Hamman than to take one of UFC's brightest prospects out at this weekend's "UFC 117: Silva vs Sonnen"?

The North Carolina native, although a heavy underdog in the bout, believes he has the skills and ability to make an impact with UFC fans, and turn around what has been a disappointing start to his UFC career. Nicknamed "Sho-Nuff The Master," Wallace sat down with MMA Spot's Andrew Yount to discuss his opponent, fighter marketability, and why Wallace wants to see Anderson Silva lose his title this weekend.


MMA Spot:  How are you feeling coming into this fight? Any health issues during camp?
Wallace:  I feel good coming into it. No health issues or anything. Everything is in order, everything is intact. Good as usual.

Spot:  You have been saddled with a stiff challenge, drawing Phil Davis as a short notice replacement. Were you able to get much specific training in?
RW:  A little bit. He’s a little bit less aggressive than the other guy would be, so I’ll have to be a little more patient. He won’t be coming forward as much as Nedkov would be. Just little tendencies that he has. He’s pretty much the same type of fighter, it’s just the little tendencies I have to watch for.

Spot:  How did the conversation with the UFC go when they informed you of the change?
RW:  [Joe Silva] basically just called my manager and said we need to make a change. They offered Stephan Bonnar a chance, but he declined. I told him was interested in fighting Phil Davis, so [Joe Silva] said he would call him. [Phil Davis] said he’d take the fight; he said, "Rock with it." So I said, “Cool.” And that was it.

Spot:  Do you know what happened to get Nedkov pulled from the card?
RW:  I think he couldn’t get his visa in time.

Spot:  Your strong suit is wrestling and now you are facing off against another wrestler, does that change anything for you or your game plan?
RW:  I think people see me as a wrestler more than I see myself as a wrestler. I like to stand up and fight, that’s what the fans want to see the most. I mean, I can wrestle so I can also use that as an advantage, or I can use it as my base. But I like to throw hands too. Most people think I have wrestle my opponents more than it really needs to be. Going against a wrestler that’s as good and accomplished as Davis is, it’s all the same to me. You know, a fight is a fight. Different people have different attributes. I know his is wrestling, so I take it as such. You know, I’ll handle it as that.

Spot:  The odds makers have labeled you an almost five-to-one underdog against Davis. Does that get into your head in any way?
RW:  Odds makers go by the numbers. And if you look at the numbers, the numbers are true. If you look at the numbers, then I am a five-to-one underdog. I’ve lost my first two fights in the UFC, and he won his first two. Of the two guys he beat, one I lost to, and the other is a guy that beat a guy that I lost to. So why wouldn’t you say that I can’t beat this kid. But they’re just number crunchers. They aren’t experts in fighting. They aren’t experts in breaking down two people’s skill sets, and everybody knows that. Anything can happen in a fight.

Like I said, I requested Phil. I already knew what he had before I requested him. I think I know more than they know. So I’m not going to let them get into my head. That’s their job, so let them do their job. My job is to fight. They don’t have anything to do with how I do my job.

Spot:  You won "Fight of the Night" last time with your back-and-forth performance against Jared Hamman. How has that changed things for you? Sometimes we see guys that win checks throw caution to the wind and seem to fight for that money every time out. Do you see that happening to you?
RW:  No. When I first came in, I think that was my main motivation, to get that. But coming up in the smaller organizations you get money, but there ain’t no bonus coming. So you see these guys getting the bonuses, and you start thinking, “yeah I want one of those bonuses”. Now in my first fight, and this last fight, that was my motivation. I said that in a lot of interviews; “I’m going for “Knockout of the Night” or “Fight of the Night,” that was my motivation at that time. But now that I got it, I’ve put that to bed. Now I’m not really worried about it now. I’m not worried about people's perception of me and how I fight. So now I’m just going in there to handle business and get the win.

Spot:  With essentially a step up in competition with every fight in UFC, win or lose do you think UFC has long term plans for you?
RW:  I doubt it. Their business is in marketing men they think they can market. It has nothing to do with my skill set or what I can do in a fight. It has everything to do with what people believe that I can do. And their job is to put on fights and promote it. If they can promote me, they’d get me on as much as they can, but obviously they can’t promote a guy that’s gonna lose his first three fights. Regardless of how I lost, they can’t promote me.

I understand that. I understand that my marketability goes down at that time. It’s my job to go in there and win, so that I can be marketable, so that they can market me. That’s how they make their money. I understand the business side of it. So they’ll play this only as far as I can make it go.

Spot:  What will Davis have to be ready for when he steps in with you? Do you bring anything to the table that he hasn't faced before?
RW:  He needs to be ready, in general, to go through the exchanges. I don’t think he is as threatening to me with his wrestling, as he was to the other two guys. They were more worried about it than I’ll be, being that I come from a wrestling background. He’s a real gifted wrestler, but I’m not worried about that in the fight. If it’s him wrestling me to death, I’m not worried about that.

He’ll have to be worried about my speed. He’ll have to worry about my burst, my speed, and my athleticism more so than he did with the other two guys he’s fought. Him pushing me up against the cage is not as threatening to me as it was to them. I won’t have to work as hard to get out of the positions they were in. I won’t have to stay away from his wrestling; I won’t have to avoid anything from him. So I think it will make it a little more difficult for him. I think he’ll have to avoid a little more with me. I’m dangerous with my hands and with my feet; those are the obstacles that he’ll have to get over.

Spot:  What areas of your game have you been focused on improving since the last fight?
RW:  Nothing. My whole game is just a total course set. My thing is just to get better at everything. I’ll find different techniques that work a little bit better. I realized in the last couple of fights that taking people down hurt me. That the amount of points in the judges’ heads was a little unbalanced for me. I thought it was worth more than it was worth, but I guess it wasn’t. Because if I’m losing the decision, even though I’m getting a lot of takedowns, I’m still losing. So I guess I have to take into account how people are judging it, and that comes with the experience of being there. So then you just have to find different techniques to accomplish your goals in the fight.

Spot:  Was there anything about the Hamman fight, other than the decision, that you thought could have been better?
RW:  I think I would have stayed on my feet the whole time. I think I took him down even though I was obviously better than him in the stand up, but I tried to show how well-rounded I was. I think I showed that I could bang with him and take him down and do some things on the ground. I think that was the catalyst to losing the decision, because I put so many things together at one time. I think that caused him to have a little more energy, energy to take me down, or me fall down, and let him get on top of me, giving him a chance to ride out the decision like that. So I think that is what happened. But then again that probably would have resulted in me not having the "Fight of the Night." I probably would have had the “W” and then everyone would have the odds a little more even in this fight.

Spot:  What's the story behind "Sho-Nuff The Master"?
RW:  Because the name resonates with everybody. I mean it’s “The Last Dragon.” It’s a fight movie. We fight. So there is no big thing behind it. It’s not like naming myself “The War Machine” or “The Meat Locker” or whatever. It’s just because people resonate with it and its a little comedy relief.

Spot:  As a fighter, are you looking forward to any of the other fights on the card?
RW:  No, not really. I’m focused on my fight. I doubt I’ll watch any of the other fights. But I definitely want to see the Silva vs. Sonnen fight. Sonnen’s talked so much. I want to see what he’s gonna bring to that fight.

Spot:  What's your prediction for the main event?
RW:  I want Chael Sonnen to win. Silva’s a bad ass fighter. There’s no doubt about that, everyone knows that. The reason I want Sonnen to win is that I want him to bring that fire back that Silva used to have. Because that’s what people want to see, that fire. I think Silva is so good he doesn’t even have to spark a flame, he can just go out there on gas alone. He doesn’t even need the fire. I think if someone were to beat him and bring that fire back, you know like when B.J. Penn lost—I wanted B.J. Penn to lose. Not because I’m not a fan of him. I just don’t want anyone to feel like they can just run through people.

Spot:  So you’re not a fan of the reigning champion, Silva?
RW:  No. I want all of the champions to lose one time. If they win five and lose one, it’s all good. People want to think they’re the best in the world. They can still be the best in the world if you lose one every now and again. It just makes you hungrier. Even if you’re a champion, you get tired of beating everybody easily. You want that fire back. You want that same thing you felt when you first started training.

Spot:  You're from a smaller gym without the same number of top pros that others have. Do you get all your training there, or do you travel around?
RW:  I don’t travel around a whole bunch. I stay at my own gym. I focus on myself and my own self progression. I don’t want to get too many people’s techniques because a lot of things just work for certain people. A lot of the skill sets they have are based on attributes they have. I have to hone in on my own attributes and maximize my own skill sets. So I don’t really go to a lot of different places with different people. Even if something is successful for someone else, it might not be successful for me. I don’t even want to take it up because I might waste a whole bunch of time trying to learn something that’s not going to work for me.

Spot:  You mentioned marketability earlier. What makes a fighter marketable? Do you feel race plays a part in the sport, specifically in the UFC?
RW:  I don’t even think it’s an issue. I think that people talk about it, and that makes it an issue. But I don’t think it’s an issue. A character is a character. We’re out here fighting, but we are actually characters in people’s minds. Like Rampage has his own little werewolf type of deal. Everyone has their own deal that they try to do. Really, people don’t really want to see a fight. They want to see two characters go at it. If they wanted a fight, they could go to any bar and see a fight. They want that kind of person they can relate to. If it’s Rampage acting like a werewolf or an idiot or whatever, or if it’s somebody in the community they want to see that. A school teacher might want to see a school teacher fight. Idiots want to see other idiots fight.

It’s no real big issue, especially with the race part of it. A fighter represents their own self, so you can’t really be like 'I’m representing my own culture or my race.' I’m not representing them, I’m representing me. Everybody that can tag along with me, that’s great. No matter what race you are, if you want to act like an idiot and you pull all the idiots in, and they like fighting, then that’s what it is. They might get something positive out of it. I don’t think it’s a big issue, and I don’t think it even requires a discussion.

Spot:  Of your 11 fights, which one has been the most memorable and why?
RW:  Let me think.......I guess the Hamman fight. Because they cut me that check after it. I gotta remember that forever. They gave me that big check for doing something that I was doing anyway. I have to remember that.

Spot:  Any sponsors or friends you'd like mention?
RW:  Skin Industries, Team ROC, Fight Legion Management, The Gun Store, and Sprawl.


Special thanks to MMA Spot's Jesse Denis in preparing this interview

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