(Photo courtesy of UFC.com)
The Ultimate Fighter’s Rolando Delgado got his moment in the spotlight on last night’s show, taking on Junie Browning in a three-round split decision loss. In this exclusive Cage Potato interview, Delgado tells us what it was like to battle Lexington, Kentucky’s most outspoken representative, weighs in on Frank Mir and “Minotauro” Nogueira, and gives us a glimpse of what’s to come.
Now that you’ve seen the show and your fight, what are your thoughts?
Man, it’s painful to watch Frank Mir try and call me out on the show. I was definitely not looking forward to that, more than any other part of the show. Overall I thought it was a good show, it made for good TV. The fight was a fun fight. I definitely could have done better and Junie could have done better. You always have a lot of regrets when you don’t fight to your full potential. But overall it was a good experience.
So what’s the story with the black belt? How did that come up and how did it get to be such an issue? They just didn’t believe you really had a black belt?
Yeah, but I want to note that these were all guys who weren’t training with me. These were all blue team guys. I never trained with any of them. They didn’t interview anyone from my team. It was a little nerve-wracking. I’m not used to people questioning my integrity like that. It’s one thing if you say, ‘I don’t think you’re a good black belt.’ That’s a matter of opinion. But to say that I don’t have one, I thought that was very disrespectful.
Luckily I actually taped my black belt testing and it’s on Google Videos, so you can see it for yourself. I’m not someone who makes up stories and it’s not like I’ve just popped up on the scene. I’ve competed at every level. I competed as a blue belt in the late nineties, I did it as a purple belt, did it as a brown belt. I’ve done no-gi tournaments since I’ve gotten my black belt. I won NAGA twice. It’s not like I just popped on the scene.
Seeing Frank Mir question you and seeing him tell Junie to take you out, it kind of seemed like Frank had it out for you or thought you didn’t belong there. What did you make of that?
I don’t know what to make of it. I don’t know how I ended up on Frank Mir’s radar like that. He kind of has a weird personality. Maybe he’s really a good guy and he just came off wrong. I don’t think that’s the case, but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. Apparently he judged me wrong because he took his number one pick and put him against the last pick and it ended up being a split decision, which wasn’t what he was expecting.
Now that you’ve watched the fight again, if you had it to do over what would you do differently?
I probably would have gone forward more, tried to work in the clinch more. I think in the clinch I could have worked my muay thai. I would have had a better chance of taking him down with an upper body throw or inside trip or something. Just trying to shoot and get underneath him was tough. But you get so many conflicting game plans. Some people tell you to stay behind the jab or to move laterally or get it to the ground. It’s hard to do so many different things.
What did you feel like you got out of being on Nogueira’s team and having guys like Anderson Silva come in and work with you?
Oh, it was amazing. It was everything you think it would be. Nogueira’s an amazing coach and an amazing person. He really showed me what it meant to train like a champion. He’s an incredible role model. The training was amazing and that’s what I wanted to be on the show for. I didn’t just want to be on TV. It was by far the most influential experience on my martial arts career.
You mentioned during last night’s episode that you have a gym and rental property and you made it sound like this wasn’t a make-or-break thing for you to get into the UFC like it was for guys like Junie. Is that accurate, and if so, why go on the show?
Well, financially it’s not a make-or-break thing for me, but if you know what low-level pro fighters make, you know it’s not a financial thing for anybody. I was making $500 a fight. I fought Jason Ireland through overtime for $200 a few years ago. I don’t fight for the money. I was just making that point that I’m an established adult and Junie Browning is a child. That’s where I’m coming from. I’ve accomplished more in my short time on this earth than that guy is going to accomplish in his whole life. I was just trying to respond why I wouldn’t respond to his antics. But it didn’t take away from my will to win, just because I don’t absolutely need that money from fighting.
Do you see the UFC in your future?
I don’t know. I’m really more comfortable fighting at 145, to be honest with you. So I’d probably be better off fighting somewhere like the WEC. Whether they’ll take me now or whether I need to go get a few more wins, I don’t know. But I was happy to get the opportunity at 155. I’m just not a big-framed person and I don’t have the power to be at 155. Apparently I don’t have the striking for it right now, either.
So now that the show’s over, what do you think of Junie?
Here’s the deal, everybody hates Junie. Everyone talks all this trash about him and they think he’s just this big asshole. Well, Junie did a lot of things wrong on the show, but they’re not showing everything that happened.
There were plenty of times when Junie was a nice guy and plenty of times when he was friendly. I think he has a good heart and he’s a good kid, I just think he’s young. He needs a little direction in life and he needs better people to surround himself with. I don’t know if Lexington, Kentucky has those types of people, but I was fortunate enough that when I was coming up all the guys I looked up to were professionals in life and in the cage.
That’s how I tried to build myself and I think that’s what Junie needs. He’s a good person and he just needs a little help. He may need to be medicated. And I’m not saying they’re not accurately portraying him, but they could show some other sides to him that we saw. You saw him after our fight being a little more modest, and I was glad to see that.
It seems like the show has really revolved around him to a great extent so far, does that get tiresome for you to watch?
No, I knew I wouldn’t be on the show a whole lot. You’re going to see some of the crazy stuff that happens this season, and it was stuff that there’s no way I’m going to do, especially with a camera and two million people watching. There was a lot of craziness that I’m a little too old for. I didn’t expect to see myself on the show a lot.
To see a lot of Junie, I don’t care. I lived it and that was the most exciting stuff going on was him going off the deep end. Without him in the show they’d be searching for some other kind of drama. It doesn’t bother me like it bothers some other people. But all that stuff, that crazy stuff, it really happened, so it makes sense that it’s going to be on TV.
Everyone I’ve talked to says that house has a way of driving you crazy. Did you not feel that?
Well, the house does make you crazy but that’s just a cop-out for people’s mistakes to say that the house made them do things. Everybody’s an adult and you do what you’re going to do. If you’re going to get drunk and act like a fool, that’s on you. Especially if you get drunk before you have your fight. Once you’re done fighting if you want to get drunk, I can understand that. You have nothing left to do. But it’s not the house that makes you do it.
Living it is different than watching it. You go from training one way to training a different way and that affects some people, they leave the house in worse shape than they came in. The house part of it is tough, but it’s not going to make you do something you wouldn’t do.
Do you think you left the show as a better fighter for the experience?
Without a doubt. I left the show as a better fighter and a better coach. Just a better martial artist in general. I had a lot of great training partners. John Polakowski is a phenomenal striker and I got to work with him a lot. Philiipe Nover has some great jiu-jitsu and great stand-up. Efrain is a top-level wrestler and he used to take me down all the time. And of course you have the coaches. I learned a ton and I’m really looking forward to taking that and applying it to my career.
Thanks for taking the time to talk with me. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Yeah, if you don’t mind, I have a gym in Little Rock, Arkansas called West Side MMA. I’ve also got a heavyweight who’s a big up-and-comer and he’s just a beast and his name is Mike Wessel, and I just want people to be looking out for him. He’s already having trouble finding fights and I just wanted to plug him.