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Exclusive: Ricco Rodriguez Explains Why the UFC Won’t Have Him Back

(Ricco Rodriguez battles Randy Couture at UFC 39 while wearing the henna tattoo that almost brought down an industry. Photo courtesy of Sherdog.)

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 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 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.

Cagepotato Comments

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Old_Bald_and_Irish- February 23, 2011 at 7:59 am
No "Turd". I'm not dead.

Geez...ya believe everything ya read on the interwebs?

If I die, I'll make sure to let ya know.

Thanks for the concern!

Gosh....I feel like Kimo!...except for the drug part....just the false death report.
ccman- February 23, 2011 at 7:33 am
At crocops ass.
If say indians is offensive I think we should mandate we all say it everyday until INDIANS and little sensitive bitches like you get used to it.
valetudorules- February 23, 2011 at 1:06 am
valetudorules- February 23, 2011 at 1:04 am
CroCops Gluteus Maximus- February 22, 2011 at 11:39 pm
***just a side note to all the americans including Ricco himself....I'm canadian and am not Aboriginal/First Native myself or related to that ethnicity by any means, but the term 'Indian' is a derogatory term to all First Nations yaa.....Indians are people from India (the country) not the natives of the americas
Endless Soldier- February 22, 2011 at 7:48 pm
Still, tho. Half a mil ain't all that bad.
ccman- February 22, 2011 at 2:46 pm
Actually since it was an indian casino is probably the only reason the ufc didn't get shut down over something like this. They are outside federal laws so racketering charges can't happen.
Fyi this is also why I don't gamble big at indian casinos. One good day at the apache casino in riodosa nm taught me a ton. Also Fyi.. never call the pit boss at an indian casino chief double down or when asked by canadian customs if you have anything to declare say "yes, I declare canada sucks!". They don't find the humor.
Hank Mardukis- February 22, 2011 at 2:29 pm
@ stak
Don't forget tito was the gimp
FaH Q NL15- February 22, 2011 at 2:28 pm
what do you think Dana did to the Shamrocks??
jimbonics- February 22, 2011 at 2:20 pm
Stak for the pulp fiction win.
jimbonics- February 22, 2011 at 2:18 pm
This explains why Cain Velasquez is billed as the first Hispanic UFC Heavyweight.
The done washed their hands of the man.
nicey- February 22, 2011 at 2:05 pm
@bgoldstein Gotcha, thanks!
RwilsonR- February 22, 2011 at 2:00 pm
Yeah, but it was at an Indian casino. Anything goes on the reservation, right?
k-onda- February 22, 2011 at 1:54 pm
@Stak40, maybe I'm just a sucker for a good story, but win, + a million.
@ben, t-shirt the man.
Hum, I've never heard either story before. So has anyone ever tried this, and had it backfire?
Turd Furgeson- February 22, 2011 at 1:52 pm

I saw you comment on the HWGP thread, and I was gonna ask you; some dude said you were dead. Is that true?
El Guapo- February 22, 2011 at 1:39 pm
^Getting locked up for armed robbery not withstanding
El Guapo- February 22, 2011 at 1:38 pm
The Hopkins story is true, except for the "minor" fact that he bet the money paid him with the website themselves and not a casino. BHop ain't not fool!
destinationblood- February 22, 2011 at 1:32 pm
of course you can bet on yourself!!!...remember when kimbo and his boys bet his purse on seth petrozuli???????
destinationblood- February 22, 2011 at 1:30 pm
kinda sorta like pete rose, but a whole different can of worms opens up when you consider who the promoters were and where the venue was...
FaH Q NL15- February 22, 2011 at 1:29 pm
Ok i gotta question. Is it legel for a fighter to bet on himself? if so, can he bet on his opponent? My guess is no
Stak40- February 22, 2011 at 1:29 pm
Actually Ricco was suppose to take a fall and didnt. Immediately after the fight he fled with Kim Couture but had to go back and get his watch his dad gave him after he had it up his ass for 12 years in a guatamalen prison camp. There he had to fight his way out against the Ice Man and while escaping he bumped into DW. They then started fighting and ended up in a porn shop owned by Ken and Frank Shamrock. Who tied them both up and was getting ready to play pudding pirates when Ricco espcaped and took DW with him. This got Ricco a pass to leave but never to return to the UFC
bgoldstein- February 22, 2011 at 1:10 pm
@nicey : Yeah, he doesn't spell it out, but it's like this. One of the participants in a sporting match was betting on the outcome. The event was not only held at a casino, but put on by a promotion (Zuffa) that's backed by casinos. That violates certain laws, which could have resulted in the Fertittas getting in a shitload of trouble, and possibly losing their promotion altogether. It sounds like the UFC found out and decided to sweep it under the rug rather than attract any more attention than necessary, but they still hold a grudge against Ricco.
nicey- February 22, 2011 at 1:01 pm
I still fail to see how he almost "took down the UFC" ??
the chef- February 22, 2011 at 12:52 pm
Next stop strikeforce, for a heavyweight super fight with Josh Barnett
MediocreThreat- February 22, 2011 at 12:51 pm
Bob Sapp is killing Japanese MMA