UFC Kansas City: Brandon Royval Says Shinya Aoki Helped Sell Him on BJJ, Wants Title Shot Next

#4-ranked flyweight Brandon Royval returns to action at UFC Kansas City this Saturday, taking on Matheus Nicolau, who sits at #5 in the division.

Royval (14-6) has become one of the more popular figures in the 125lb weight class, while sporting a rather recognizable nickname: Raw Dawg.

The nickname isn’t something Royval wanted to brand himself with; rather, he didn’t want a nickname at all.

“When I started fighting, I was like ‘nicknames are dumb, I don’t want a nickname.’ Then Raw Dawg came along, I was like ‘oh well, guess I have a nickname now,'” Royval told Cageside Press in a recent exclusive interview. “It was just one of those things that worked out, but I didn’t really want it to work out that way. It just happened.”

Even before he was a professional fighter, Royval, who grew up wanting to be everything from a boxer to Bruce Lee, was obsessed with MMA. At 15, he found his way to a martial arts gym, which set him along his path.

“I knew the whole roster from beginning to end. Once a fight started, I knew who they were fighting, when they were doing it, I would play matchmaker, all this stuff. It was just an obsession. You know, you’re obsessed with this stuff,” Roval recalled. “Then I started kind of training. Once I started training, everything kind of unfolded naturally.”

Royval didn’t go into the gym thinking he would be a professional fighter. Rather, “I wanted to get good at it. I wanted to practice it. I was already doing so much sh*t as a young kid. When I was younger, I wanted to be a ninja, like a Kung Fu type of guy, then I was trying to be Bruce Lee for years. I was working with nun-chucks and trying to do all this other dumb sh*t. Then I wanted to be a boxer, I tried to work on my boxing and stuff. It kind of just unfolded naturally, until all of a sudden MMA started becoming popular.”

Surprisingly enough, there were two areas Royval didn’t like when it came to fighting: grappling, and kicks. Kicks he felt were “girl sh*t,” while wrestling was “against everything I learned when I was younger.”

Then Royval was put to sleep by his own brother with a guillotine. That showed him the potential of jiu-jitsu. A Japanese legend helped spark his interest further. “Who got me into the ground game was Shinya Aoki. I hated jiu-jitsu. I hated it, I thought the ground game was so lame. And then this dude was wearing these little long pants, spats and stuff, and then you see him choking people in weird ways, and doing this crazy stuff. I feel like a lot of the stuff I do now is even based off his game and stuff like that.”

Miguel Torres and Nick Diaz were two other influences on Royval.

Early on in his career, Brandon Royval often charged across the cage, looking to end fights quickly with a head kick or other explosive technique. He wanted to instill fear in his opponents, and that finishing mindset is something he still possesses.

“I want people to be afraid. I want to install fear in these guys, I want to program these people to be afraid of me this whole entire time,” said Royval. “I want them to know that I’m not f*cking around. The moment that bell rings I’m coming across, trying to take heads off and go home. Go home as quick as possible.”

At UFC Kansas City this weekend, Royval faces Matheus Nicolau. It’s a fight with possible title implications, and Royval told media outlets including Cageside Press during Wednesday’s media day that a title shot is what he’ll be looking for with a win.

“If I go beat Matheus Nicolau, and I go make a statement, which I’ve done in all my UFC wins, is I’ve made statements— then I don’t know who else would be in contention for that.”

Watch our full one-on-one interview with Brandon Royval above. His media day appearance can be found below.