By Jason Moles
CagePotato recently spoke with the former five-time Super Heavyweight kickboxing champion and current head coach/trainer at Roufusport in Milwaukee. We discussed his beginnings in combat sports, his take on UFC superfights, the upcoming Anthony Pettis vs. Clay Guida matchup, and what he really thinks about Dana White asking teammates to fight each other. Check it out after the jump.
CAGEPOTATO.COM: First and foremost, I’d like to thank you for taking the time to talk with us at CagePotato. For those who may not be aware, can you tell us how you got started in martial arts?
Duke Roufus: I started when I was four years old at my dad’s martial arts school. I started doing tournaments when I was six. Then we evolved into kickboxing and muay thai. Basically, I’ve been involved in every gamut of combat sports, and I guess the rest is just history. I worked my first UFC corner at UFC 26 and since 2005 I’ve been actively cornering guys; Ben Rothwell and Stephan Bonner were some of my original guys.
Speaking of big names, how do you manage all of the egos at Roufusport?
There are no egos, that’s the key. Sure, we’ve got a lot of really decorated guys here; Ben Askren‘s joined us, but everyone checks their egos at the door. It’s just a bunch of guys doing work who want to get better.
You mentioned Ben Askren, Bellator’s Welterweight champion. Has he rubbed anyone the wrong way yet?
(Laughing) No, not at all. He’s as cool as they come. If he wasn’t fighting, training, or coaching wrestling, he’d be doing something else he loves – professional disc golf. I’ve known him since about ’08, he’s a good kid and I just love him.
Matt Mitrione recently hinted to Ariel Helwani about opening a gym in Indiana. Is he leaving Roufusport and did you give him your blessing?
He has all my blessing. He trained one training camp with us, he’s not even a full time guy. He’s real good friends with Pat Barry, it’s just that due to his schedule and what he wants to work on, it’s all down in Indiana. It’s not a bitter split or anything, you know, it’s just guys getting work done. He’s got his thing going on and we got our thing going on.
Your fighter “Danny Boy” Downes is currently under contract with Zuffa and yet he is headlining NAFC’s ‘Mayhem’ in a few weeks. Can you enlighten us as to how this came about, even though Zuffa doesn’t usually like to share its talent?
I did it before, starting with ‘Red’ Schafer. I got him a few fights out of the UFC. Sometimes when they’re overstocked with fighters they’ll let you take an opportunity for a few tune up fights to work on your game a little bit.
Cesar Gracie supports the idea of fighters fighting teammates as long as they didn’t grow up in the sport together like Shields, Diaz, and Melendez. As a head coach/trainer, what’s your take on teammates fighting each other?
I don’t know, maybe if it were for a title. Yeah, it’d have to be for all the marbles, man, or at least a shot at the title. I’m a big supporter of Dana and Lorenzo and what they do in the UFC, but it just hits too close to home, ya know?*
If Anthony Pettis loses to Clay Guida, who do you think should the next shot at the winner of Edgar – Maynard?
Clay Guida. It was Anthony’s shot, and there’s no perfect way to handle who should get the next crack at the belt. I think it makes perfect sense to give it to Clay Guida. If he beats Anthony, he earned it.
You know what, I’d rather not see any of those fights! You know who’d I’d rather see? Alan Belcher vs. Anderson Silva. I’d like to get Ben Askren up to speed and get him to fight GSP. How ’bout that? It’s not fair to anybody having guys fight outside their weight classes.
Late last year, the WEC merged with the UFC which has since acquired Strikeforce. What impact, if any, has all of this had on you and your school?
I hate to sound cliche but it’s business as usual for my guys because I don’t have any Strikeforce guys. I like Scott Coker, he’s a real cool cat, but I’m a fan of the UFC’s way of doing things – when you do good you get bonuses.
Now it’s time to get your UFC 129 picks. Who ya got: Machida or Couture? Aldo or Hominick? Shields or GSP?
Ah, man. [Machida vs. Couture] is a pick-em. It’s just a matter of who can match up best with the other’s style. It’s the most interesting fight on the card in my humble 0pinion. I think Jose Aldo has the best all-around game but Mark Hominick has obviously improved; he’s a great MMA boxer which I think will slow down Aldo’s strikes a little bit. And everyone talks about how good Jake Shields‘s game is, but I mean, I wasn’t thoroughly impressed with his performance against Martin Kampmann. So I’ll go with GSP.
That’s it, thanks once again for taking the time to speak with us and letting us pick your brain for a little while. Is there anything you’d like to say to the loyal Potato Nation?
Thanks to the fans for the support of our sport, the fighters, the Roufusport guys. We’ve got a really great bunch of guys. I’m thankful for what the UFC does and you guys the media for the publicity and exposure for my guys. It’s awesome! I’ll be at the fan expo on Saturday so come on out and see me and ‘Showtime’ Pettis.
*Editor’s Note: This quote was changed as a result of a misinterpreted inaudible portion of the audio recording from the telephone interview to more accurately portray Mr. Roufus’ intended sentiments. We apologize for any undue negative attention the error may have caused.