This Saturday, former UFC heavyweight champion Ricco Rodriguez faces TUF 10 vet James McSweeney in the co-main event of BAMMA 5 (MEN Arena; Manchester, England), which you can watch live via $10 online pay-per-view at bammatv.com. With 10 consecutive wins already under his belt — and his personal demons under control — you’d think that a decisive win over McSweeney would move Rodriguez one step closer to a UFC return. That’s what we thought anyway, until we asked Ricco about it on last week’s episode of The Bum Rush Radio Show. (The interview with Rodriguez begins at the 1:30:11 mark.)
As it turns out, the recent report that claimed Rodriguez was on the verge of signing a new contract with the UFC was mostly hot air. And in fact, it would be a minor miracle if “Suave” got anywhere close to an Octagon during his lifetime. Here’s the excerpt from our Bum Rush interview, in which Ricco Rodriguez — for the first time ever — explains why he’s been blacklisted from the organization.
RICCO RODRIGUEZ: No, [the report] definitely wasn’t accurate. There were some talks to possibly get into the UFC, but that opportunity is just not available, and I just don’t ever see myself returning to the UFC. Dana holds a grudge pretty well, and he has his reasons, and I don’t blame him. I understand what I did at that time, and it was a tough pill to swallow and he has every right to be upset with him…The truth of the matter is, is that I single-handedly almost tore down the UFC at one point in my career. A lot of people don’t know this, and you’ll probably be the first one that I’ll ever admit this to.
I wore a henna tattoo in my fight against Randy Couture, and at that time, the UFC was literally just building itself, we were only at 60,000 pay-per-view purchases [per event]. The Mohegan Sun and the Indian tribe allowed that fight to go on, and the truth is, they almost stopped that fight from happening. If that would have been the case, then I would have single-handedly destroyed the UFC.
CAGEPOTATO.COM: Because of a tattoo?
RODRIGUEZ: Yeah, there was a lot behind the scenes that a lot of people don’t understand. First of all, Lorenzo Fertitta, they own casinos, so when you own a casino, you have certain laws that are very strict…If you remember this fight, Bernard Hopkins vs. Felix Trinidad, Bernard Hopkins just got out of jail, he was approached by GoldenPalace.com to wear a henna tattoo. He took the $100,000 that they gave him, and he bet it on himself. He was a 4-1 underdog and he won the fight, and he won $400,000 plus his regular purse. So when the opportunity presented itself to me, I did the same exact thing. I was a 5-1 underdog, so I gambled on myself and I won that fight. And I made more than the UFC would have ever paid me. The UFC paid me $30,000 to show and $30,000 to win, and I put all my money on myself and I won half a million.
So there’s a lot of things that people don’t understand. And this is why Dana White will never let me back in the UFC, and I totally understand. I respect that, and it is what it is. The truth of the matter is, is that Lorenzo Fertitta came and did a walk with me right before the fight, and you know how terrifying that was when Lorenzo Fertitta walked with me? A lot of things were going on. Micky Ward came into my locker room with the Mohegan Sun commissioner, and I was like “Oh my God, Micky Ward” — I remembered his battles with Arturo Gatti.
So a lot of things were going on in my own personal life, here I’m fighting for the UFC, but at the time I was also doing a lot of promotions for the UFC, flying around, talking with people to help explain what mixed martial arts is. I was one of the guys that helped make the sport what it is today, because I was the one going from place to place explaining that there’s rules and all this other stuff. Of course we weren’t making anything close to the money that guys are making today. I’ve never seen the paydays that these guys have seen. Tito Ortiz and Chuck Liddell got to see it, and I was part of that whole crew, but I never made the money they did. And part of that was my own personal fault, which I take full responsibility for. And that’s why I’m at where I’m at. So, I don’t ask anybody to feel sorry for me, and I understand why Dana White is very upset, and people have to understand that I almost single-handedly destroyed the UFC…and this is the story. And hopefully you can share it in the most polite way possible.
To hear our entire interview with Ricco Rodriguez, in which he discusses his BAMMA 5 matchup with McSweeney, his public recovery from addiction, and another behind-the-scenes tale about how his UFC debut against Andrei Arlovski nearly ended his career, download the latest episode of The Bum Rush Radio Show.