Very few people’s day job invokes the same nerves that come with a professional MMA bout, but a police officer in the South Side of Chicago definitely fits that description.
LFA’s Alberto Rodriguez was born a first-generation American in the West Side of Chicago. While the South Side of Chicago is notoriously home to those such as Clubber Lang, Bad, Bad Leroy Brown and many other dangerous men, Rodriguez explains that the side of town he knows as “home” was just as rough even without the bravado that comes with the South Side.
Growing up in a heavily impoverished neighborhood, Rodriguez was witness to an abundance of crime and an abundance of gang activity. It was far from perfect at the time, but it put him on track to be the South Side police officer he is today.
“For me growing up, obviously there are a lot of good people in bad neighborhoods,” Rodriguez said. “Just because they live in bad neighborhoods doesn’t mean they’re bad people. It’s a very small group of individuals that gives that area the problems that it has. I would see good people under the tyranny of gangs and criminals, and I would see innocent people forced, in a way, to almost partake in stuff like that. I was very aware of the situation growing up.”
In an effort to keep her family out from under the aforementioned gang tyranny, Rodriguez’s mother put him in school in the North Side after a few years, and Rodriguez would stay close to home for college, choosing DePaul University before becoming a police officer.
There were always other plans, but he settled into his job nicely. Turns out a lifetime of comfortability in high-danger areas and a handful of years of BJJ under his belt made him a shoo-in for the South Side.
The 32-year-old has seen his fair share of traumatic crime scenes in his day. Shootings, dead bodies, horrific crashes, and many more aren’t uncommon for him. It’s impossible to completely prepare yourself for crime scenes day in and day out, but Rodriguez’s childhood and BJJ training are tools he takes to the job daily that set him apart from other officers.
“In certain situations you can’t avoid the conflict; you can’t avoid the physical part of it,” Rodriguez explained. “When that comes to it, yes, my training has helped a lot. I’ve been able to control situations. I’m a grappler at heart so I’ve never had to use anything like strikes - they call them “Direct Mechanical Strikes” in the academy - to the face or take out my baton or anything like that. I’ve been able to grapple people and control them from there. What I’ve found that my martial arts has given me more than anything is confidence and control and being able to stay calm in these situations.”
People pick up on confidence and control of a room and Rodriguez has grappling to thank for his ability to have both, regardless of the situation.
“I’ve seen other cops be very nervous and very hesitant,” Rodriguez said. “When you’re in a small room with someone that’s just been accused of some crazy stuff obviously it’s dangerous and you should take it very seriously, but because of my training and everything I grew up with, too, I’ve developed a very confident, calm demeanor. I’m able to kind of calm people down too, it’s a lot of de-escalation, believe it or not.”
Rodriguez knows that it would be an impossible task to “require” BJJ training for all incoming officers, but says that if every officer entering the academy had a couple years of grappling under their belt, the difference would be “night and day.”
“Obviously we’ve seen what’s gone down the past few years with policing and encounters where maybe they didn’t have to go to such extreme measures,” Rodriguez said. “Every situation is different. You don’t know what the person is thinking, you don’t know what they’re seeing. I don’t like doing the whole Monday morning quarterback thing, but what I do know is that when someone is given those tools to deal with certain things in certain situations, it would improve a lot. You’d see more confidence; you’d see less resorting to extreme measures.”
In his second trip to the LFA Octagon Rodriguez carries a 3-1 pro record and may not be too far from the UFC’s radar, but even if the call does come, he has no intentions of leaving the South Side.
“As far as my standing with the department, I know that it’s obviously a very tough job, very stressful and that’s always going to be there and it’s only getting tougher with the times that are passing by, but I think that if I was ever to get into the UFC I would keep my job and keep being a good police officer and give as much back as I could,” Rodriguez said.
Catch the return of Alberto Rodriguez to the LFA cage Friday, February 4, ONLY on UFC FIGHT PASS!