Of course Mike Rhodes is no stranger to taking dangerous fights, having squared off against Whittaker in New Zealand, and Silva in Brazil. He’s taken short notice fights, he’s been the underdog — as his career progresses, is he looking to be a little more calculated in the fights he accepts? In short, no.
“That’s not how I live life. I like to fight. I like to fight the guys who are at the top, I like tough fights, I like tough guys, I like big names, I like money. So that’s who I am as a fighter” Rhodes stated. “I take on all comers. I don’t shy away from opportunity, I don’t shy away from a fight. When people say any time, any place, anywhere, a lot of them don’t mean it, but I mean it. A lot of these new age fighters, they talk the game but they don’t walk the game. They talk a lot of Internet stuff but when you see them in real life, they’re hiding behind their friends and stuff like that.”
“That’s the reason I don’t talk a lot of s***” he continued. “I’m from a different place in this world, where your words, you’re accountable for those, and there’s repercussions for those actions. If you talk s*** to me, and you see me at the grocery store, you better be ready to fight. That’s just the person that I am.”
Lesson learned, don’t cut in line in front of Mike Rhodes at the grocery store checkout. All kidding aside though, Rhodes is brimming with confidence heading into Bellator 181.
“I don’t think there’s a person walking this earth that can beat me on any given day. Until you beat me, you can’t beat me. And after that, you’ve got to beat me again.”
The next man to try to beat Rhodes will be a decorated BJJ fighter, of course. It’s the classic striker vs. grappler match, so what is Rhodes expecting to see from Lovato Friday night?
“I expect him to try and take me down. I’m a Rufousport fighter, who wants to stand with us? Who wants to trade on the feet with us? Not a lot of people. We turn strikers into wrestlers.”
“Obviously he’s world class on the ground, I think he’s going to try to drag me down the floor and see what he can do there, and I think he’s going to have a hard time doing so” Rhodes continued. “I’m really good on my feet, I have a great wrestling pedigree for mixed martial arts, and I have a great grappling game that I’ve been working on for the last seven years, to get ready for a fight like this. To make sure that I’m better on the ground, in the grappling exchanges. That’s what I’ve been doing. I’m ready for where ever the fight goes, but ultimately I think that he knows he has to get me to the ground in order to win this fight.”
There’s also the fact that this isn’t a straight grappling contest to consider. Something that Rhodes feels will benefit him. “It’s MMA, it’s not a jiu-jitsu match, so the grappling is different, there’s punches, there’s strikes, elbows, things like that that you can use to improve your position or get out of bad positions. I’m well versed in those. I think that he’s going to have a hard time taking me down, first of all, and once we get there, he’s not going to be in there with some incompetent grappler.”
It may not always have been the case, but Rhodes has come to trust his skills on the ground.
“I think that I can hold my own down there with anybody in the world now” he exclaimed. “I think that’s what was missing for me, I think it was confidence. I think I’ve had the skill set for a while, but I’m now very confident in my grappling game. I welcome the grappling, I think I can do okay in an MMA fight grappling with Rafael Lovato Jr.”
So what can fans expect at Bellator 181? “They can expect to see fireworks, they can expect to see a fighter who is going for the finish. A fighter who is going to be in great shape, I’m in phenomenal shape right now.”
“You will not see me settle in a position. I will not lay on my back, I will not be pressed up against the cage, I will not be held down. I will fight.”
Before we finished up, it was simply too tempting not to ask about one of the Rufousport fighter’s more infamous teammates, CM Punk. Out of the spotlight more or less since his promotional debut at UFC 203, what has having Punk in the gym been like?
“He’s a good dude, he’s one of the best teammates at the gym. He’s always looking out for everybody, great guy, a very standup individual. My last couple weight cuts, he’s helped me out a lot. He’s a great partner to run with, to bike with, to bounce ideas off of, it’s just awesome. He’s always in the gym, he’s always with us, it’s a great support system. I’m lucky to have a friend like Punk in my life.”
Mike Rhodes faces Rafael Lovato Jr. at Bellator 181 Friday July 14 at the WinStar World Casino in Thackerville, Oklahoma.