By Nick Portella
What’s up fight fans. Today I had the chance to sit down with Victory bantamweight champion Rob Emerson. He will be defending his title on April 14 against a tough opponent in Raufeon Stots. Let’s sit down with this Rob and talk about his career.
Nick: What does it mean (for you) to be a fighter?
Rob: Being a fighter means being able to reach my physical and mental human potential everyday, and then being able to perform on a platform where fans of our beloved sport can witness all of my hard work and talent. It’s the purest from of sport and combat in my opinion.
Nick: At what age did you begin to train martial arts?
Rob: I began training in martial arts at the age of 4. I am 35 now.
Nick: What belts do you have and in what disciplines?
Rob: I have a brown belt in Kyokushin, a brown belt in Kajukembo, and the first American to receive a black belt in Vale Tudo from “the King of the Streets” Marco Ruas.
Nick: What made you decide to choose fighting as a career?
Rob: I have been fighting my whole life. Growing up with tourette syndrome,ADHD. and OCD wasn’t easy. Had to learn to defend myself at a young age. The fighting carried over into my teen and young adult life so after having my first sanctioned pancrase style “cage fight” and winning by K.O. I fell completely in love with the competition aspect of it and it came very natural to me.
Nick: With only two amateur fights under your belt, why did you decide to go to the professional level so quickly?
Rob: I actually have 4 amateur fights under my belt. 3 pancrase style fights (all won by KO) in San Pedro Xtreme Combat and one close fisted amateur fight and won via unanimous decision (against an opponent that outweighed me by 40 pounds) down at Ken Shamrocks “Lion’s Den” in San Diego. After watching Jens Pulver defeated BJ Penn for the first ever UFC lightweight title I knew right then and there that I would commit the next couple decades of my life to this sport and immediately became a HUGE fan of Jens. 6 months after “Little Evil” won the UFC strap I was asked if I wanted to fight him in some show in the midwest as the main event. I was 20 years old at the time and jumped at the opportunity. I figured if this was something that I wanted to do, what better way of testing myself to see where I stand amongst the sports elite then fighting the #1 ranked fighter in my division at the time.
Nick: How long have you been with MMA LAB?
Rob: I have been over at the MMA Lab for about 16 months now, moving out to Arizona to train at such an elite team and getting out of my “comfort zone” totally secluding myself giving me the opportunity to train without all the distractions I have always had in Orange County. It was something I owed to myself. All my friends and loved ones have always told me “if you move out of state and take this sport seriously you will become a world champion.” So that’s exactly what I did, and that’s exactly what happened.
Nick: Your nickname is The Saint. Who gave it to you? Why?
Rob: So “The Saint” was a name my friends gave me about 10 years ago back when I did The Ultimate Fighter season 5. We were all really into the movie Boondocks Saints at the time and all my family is from Boston where the movie takes place. Also I grew up catholic so it seemed fitting. I’ve actually been trying to drop that nickname for a while now. I have actually spoken to my old Kyokushin Sensei recently and he reminded me how he used to call me “Aianhato” in Japanese which translates to “ironheart” in English. This was back in the 90’s when the movie Lionheart came out with VanDamn which he was a fan of. He also said because of how ferocious I was as a small kid sparring these adults. He said I was “fearless” when I sparred and no matter how big they were I would always come forward hunting for their heads. I always competed against much bigger and more experienced guys in tournaments and would either get 1st or 2nd place.
Nick: What would you say your biggest strengths are inside the cage?
Rob: I believe my biggest strengths are my athleticism and my fight IQ. After being in this sport for 15 years and martial arts for 25 plus years human movement and hand to hand combat is part of my DNA. My reaction and timing is like breathing.
Nck: What’s your favorite strike to use? Submission?
Rob: My favorite moves are kicks and knees. Not every fighter is athletic enough to utilize them in actual combat. They also do the most damage. For a submissions I like neck cranks.
Nick: People talk about the next generation of fighters frequently. While you are a veteran in the fight game do you feel that you represent that with in some ways? Do you feel any pressure to represent that next generation?
Rob: After 15 years in this sport yes I would agree that I am a “veteran of the sport” but also because of my genetics and my iron chin and thick skin. I have never lost a drop of blood in the ring. My body and brain are well preserved. I have a lot of mileage left on me and am constantly reinventing myself and most importantly I focus on the mental aspect of this game. So I am able to compete with the “new generation”. The sport of MMA has the fastest learning curve of any sport out there, and if you don’t stay ahead of the curve then you fall behind. I have been fortunate enough to stay ahead of this curve and adapt and progress as an athlete when most fighters “in my class” are retiring or have retired.
Nick: With cutting weight and fighter safety always being a priority. What methods of cutting weight do you use? How much weight do you usually have to cut before a fight? Do you feel the weight cut has a major impact on your strength before a fight?
Rob: Again, being in this sport for 15+ years I’ve learned a thing or two about the human body, MY body to be specific and nutrition and how I manage my weight accordingly. I’ve never missed weight in any fight and these cuts seem to get easier for me because of the knowledge I’ve picked up along the way when for most fighters the weight cuts get harder as they get older. I walk around at 170 and cut to 135 and 145.
Nick: Victory is one of the promotions making a splash in MMA and putting out top notch shows. You have also competed under the UFC and Bellator flag. Do you have any plans to try and get signed in the UFC or Bellator again at some point in your career? If not why? If so which one and why?
Rob: Yes of course the goal is to get signed to another major organization. I have a few years left in this sport and I want to fight the best fighters in my divisions but most importantly against guys that will put on entertaining fights for the fans. More so than belts and accolades I want to be in ENTERTAINING fights. Fights people talk about and show their friends at work that next week. My goal is to get back to the UFC and put on the most exciting and entertaining fights in the bantamweight and featherweight divisions. I still have not had one performance that has showed my potential. My opponents either break before I can even get going, or they try to wrestle and stall out like cowards till the bell rings. I’m here for the violence and the blood.
Nick: April 14 at Victory 56 you will be facing off against bantamweight Raufeon Stots. Seeing that you have only been finished one time in your professional career did change up your training at all for this fight?
Rob: More so then “changing things up” I have just become a better version of me. I have always had a violent damage inflicting style and I think that’s what the fans like to see. In this season of my life I focus on the mental aspect of being an athlete. I’ve always had the talent and physical gifts. The thing I lacked if anything was the mental aspect and belief in myself. My OCD would always get the better of me, and you see that in my career. I have fought most of my opponents to decisions and lost very close ones to guys I very well should have beaten. My record very well could have been 26-3 had I figured out how important the mental aspect of combat sports really is. I have only been finished ONCE, and that was a fight that I won the first round and emotionally checked out days before the fight due to family issues and all my friends know that I gave up my back in that fight. I don’t focus on the past though. I am grateful for every moment in my journey because it has made me the man I am and has gotten me to where I am today. I will only continue to grow and get better!
Nick: Do you have a prediction for how you will finish your upcoming fight?
Rob: I will win this fight by TKO if he quits or the ref stops it. If not then it will be a clean KO. 2nd or 3rd round.
Nick: Seeing that there has been a lot of MMA related news lately one of the big one’s pertains to your weight class. What are your feelings on the Cody Garbrandt and T.J. Dillashaw Feud?
Rob: The Cody and T.J. feud is great, it is entertaining. We are in the entertainment industry. I think feuds are great for our sport. Its fist fighting. Of course there are egos involved and everyone thinks they are unbeatable, but most fighters have a false sense of confidence given to them by “padding their record” or given to them by their teammates and coaches. The ONLY way to know for sure is to test your metal, and my metal has been tested
Nick: Who is your favorite MMA fighter past or present?
Rob: My favorite MMA fighters have always been the guys with heavy hands that stand toe to toe. I first started training with guys like Marco Ruas, Pedro Rizzo, Babalu Sobral, Gustavo Ximu and grew up in this sport admiring guys like Pele, Anderson, Shogun, Fedor anyone that brings the violence!!
Nick: If you could have one dream fight with anyone, who would it be? Why?
Rob: Of course everyone in this game wants a shot at Mr. McGregor. I would love to have my shot at him as well. He is human and bleeds like the rest of us and has already shown that he is beatable. You have to dissect his style, train to beat him the way he utilizes his southpaw stance would be an interesting challenge and one that I would be passionate about!
Nick: What is next for you in the fight world? I know your fans are eager to know.
Rob: Hopefully I get back to the UFC after collecting this 3rd win at VFC so I can display my efforts and talents on the premier stage so that more people can watch and appreciate it! Regardless I will continue to look to put on the most violent and entertaining fights possible!
Nick: Rob have you submitted to the takeover?
Rob: This is Rob Emerson Victory bantamweight champion and I have Submitted to the Takeover.
Rob also wanted to thank his coaches, trainers, fight camp, friends, family, loved ones, and fans.
Well you heard it from the man himself. He is a fighter with a mission and a battle plan to get the job done. I have to thank Rob for taking the time to complete an interview with me. I wish him the best of luck. This is Nick Portella signing off for TheMMATakeOver.com.