(The hypogonadism is spreading like wildfire. PicProps: MMAClothingTrends)
So, we forgive you if you didn’t spend 2010 following Ricco Rodriguez’s career with the rapt and breathless attention you reserve for ex-UFC champs like, say, Tim Sylvia. If you’re just a youngling and/or aren’t a huge fan of Dr. Drew’s Celebrity Rehab then it’s also sort of understandable if you read that headline and were like, “Ricco who?” (Seriously though kid, UFC 39, check it out sometime) In any case, you’ll have to excuse the rest us oldsters if we pause from massaging Tiger Balm into our arthritic hip and raise one hoary eyebrow at reports out this week that the former 265-pound-titlist-turned-tragic-cautionary-tale might be on the verge of returning to the UFC.
MMA Weekly got the water boiling with an interview published on Christmas Eve and on Monday Five Ounces of Pain inserted the standard “learned from a source close to the fighter” qualification to the story that Rodriguez has been "negotiating" with our Octagon Overlords about a brand new three-fight, six-figure deal. To this we say: Huh. Weird.
Turns out, Rodriguez won seven fights during 2010 and has now collected 10 straight victories. That only three of his opponents during that stretch actually have their own Wikipedia pages – and those guys are Travis Fulton, Moise Rimbon and Daniel Tabera – is probably the reason nobody’s talking about him for “Fighter of the Year.” Still, nice going, Ricco. It’s a far cry from when Rodriguez was signing up for calamitous reality TV stints, showing up for fights looking like this and getting schooled by Travis Wiuff in the goddamned Yamma Pit. But, the UFC? That seems impossible.
Rodriguez has been slowly slimming down this year and – even though he missed weight during his first try at light heavy at Israeli Fighting Championships last month – recent pictures suggest he’s in pretty good shape. He’s been saying all the right things, too …
“(There’s) been a lot going on in my career,” Rodriguez told MMA Weekly. “Dropping down to 205, winning my last 10, (it’s) just been a tough year, working real hard. I’m ready to step up to the big leagues. All my past history with Dana and everyone, I just want to totally apologize and hopefully put it behind us and there’s still some great fights that the fans want to see. Hopefully all this can be possible.”
On a personal note, if Ricco has managed to tame at least a few of his many demons and get himself back into a spot where he can be a halfway relevant MMA fighter again, we’d like nothing more than to see him back on the big stage. We don’t want to get crazy overestimating his potential on the basis of this current win-streak, but it’d warm even our shriveled, blue hearts a bit to see the 33-year-old hard luck story be able to end his MMA career on his own terms. There’s even been some talk (mostly from Rodriguez so far) of a possible rematch with Randy Couture, whose orbital bone he broke with an elbow to win the UFC heavyweight title back at 39. (Honestly, go watch it.)
“I want to be able to end my career in the UFC,” Rodriguez says. “I think a lot of fans want to see a Ricco Rodriguez-Randy Couture (rematch), they want to see possibly Frank Mir, there’s still a lot out there. They want to see me in top contendership and see if I’m even capable of doing it.”
Yeah, that’s about right. Also, if you haven’t checked out the part in “The Smashing Machine” documentary where Rodriguez shows up late to training because he was out partying the night before and – as sort of a punishment – Bas Rutten hits him super hard in the liver, well, you’ll want to add that to your Netflix queue too.