Having made it to the big leagues only for his dream to be deferred, Mike Rhodes has no intention of resting on his laurels. Instead, he’s determined to make it back to the majors, a journey that begins this weekend.
UFC & Bellator vet Mike ‘Biggie’ Rhodes collides with always dangerous Bryan ‘The Beast’ Baker this weekend at Beatdown 21 (under the Dakota Fighting Championships banner) in New Town, North Dakota. In one of the better cards that a regional promotion has conjured up in some time, Rhodes is one of three athletes competing Saturday night that has already made it to the pinnacle of the sport.
Never mind that this 28-year-old has already made the walk to the Octagon three times. And competed under the banner of Bellator as well. He believes his best days are still to come.
Cageside Press spoke with the Roufusport fighter about working his way back to the big show, training with the ‘Irish Dragon’ Paul Felder, and more.
When news broke that Bellator had released 13 fighters from their contracts a couple weeks back, many people were left shaking their heads at some of the names on that list. Chief among them, Mike ‘Biggie’ Rhodes, but don’t get it twisted, it’s not exactly what it seems.
“This whole thing has got twisted,” Rhodes said when asked about the release. “Basically, it’s like this. Bellator had picked me up for a fight with some contingencies that, if I won, they [Bellator] would officially offer me a multi-fight contract. I lost the fight, so they [Bellator] decided to not bring me back, so my name just got tossed in with those other guys.”
At just 28 years old, Rhodes has already competed for the two largest MMA promotions in the world. Yet he doesn’t view this as a setback. “It is what it is,” says Rhodes.
“Actually, I think it’s a positive,” he told us. “Now I’m going to get a chance to fight on the regional scene, and most importantly I can stay fighting. The biggest thing with Bellator is you don’t get to fight often enough unless you are in an area they go to all the time.”
That has long been one of the main criticisms of the Viacom owned company. That, and not being able to build home grown stars. Rhodes added that “I guess they have a hard time building guys up. They have some really talented young guys but for whatever reason, they just can’t get them over.”
Rhodes raises some valid points, and to be fair, these are issues that have been widely criticized in the past. Let’s hope Bellator MMA can figure that part out.
Figuring it out is exactly what ‘Biggie’ has been up to as of late. He’s been putting in some hard rounds with the one and only ‘Irish Dragon’ Paul Felder up at Roufusport MMA in Milwaukee. “I’ve learned so much from Paul,” said Rhodes.
“I can’t even begin to tell you how much Paul and all the guys here have helped me progress. Every day we’re in here putting in work with the best guys in the world.”
As for the most important thing ‘Biggie’ has picked up from the ‘Irish Dragon’?
“He [Paul] has taught me that its just as important how you win. Look at the way he [Paul] finishes fights, dude is violent. That’s something that I’m starting to realize now.”
Perhaps Rhodes will get a chance to show off some of his new finishing skills when he fights former Bellator tournament finalist Bryan ‘The Beast’ Baker at Beatdown 21 this Saturday in New Town, North Dakota.
Baker walked away from MMA five years ago; Rhodes will be Baker’s first professional fight in that time, but ‘Biggie’ is ready. “I’m prepared and expecting the best Bryan Baker we have ever seen,” said Rhodes.
Rhodes added, “Baker was a savage before he left, 18-5 record. Even if the Baker that left five years ago shows up Saturday it’s going to be a hard fight. But I know he has been training and getting better. We are both fan friendly fighters, it’s going to be a war.”
If you are one of the lucky ones that will be in attendance this weekend, we envy you. If not, hopefully Beatdown 21 is streamed live on the promotion’s Facebook or Youtube page.
Despite what some would call a set-back, Rhodes pushes forward, and this exciting 28-year-old fighter has all the tools to do exactly what he says he is going to do.
“I will make it back to the big show, mark my words.”