"We’re gonna grind and push and pull and throw and kick, and we’re gonna do whatever we need to do to get the W." - Kenny Robertson
When talking about his UFC on FUEL TV bout with Aaron Simpson, former Eastern Illinois University wrestler Kenny Robertson doesn’t expect a duel of mat skills between himself and the former Arizona State All-American. But he does believe that their shared background will come into play in another way.
“It is the wrestling method – we’re gonna grind and push and pull and throw and kick, and we’re gonna do whatever we need to do to get the W,” said Robertson. “That’s how I’ve always fought, so I would think that’s how he would fight.”
It’s the way Robertson lives as well. A married father of a six month old son whose day job is as a high school teacher, the 28-year old is a fighter who will make the sacrifices necessary not only to win fights, but to take care of his family as well. That makes for an interesting tug of war when he’s preparing for fights, especially this one.
“For me, getting that morning workout in is probably the hardest,” he said. “You’d figure from years of wrestling I’d be better at it, but it’s still kind of a pain to wake up and get that workout in. Or if you want to get two or three workouts in a day, finding people to actually roll with you more than once is almost impossible, especially in my area where I’m at. So do I want to drive an hour and a half for a workout that might not turn out to be that good anyways or do I want to just call this person up and just make sure I get a really hard workout that’s only 20 minutes away? That happens more now than not, and when you go that far, you have to make sure that you’re getting the best workout that you can.”
To have made it to 11-1 as a professional mixed martial artist with such a hectic schedule is a feat in itself, and a testament to his talent and work ethic, but you won’t hear that come out of his mouth, as the soft-spoken Illinois native will simply point out “It’s a tough road, but that’s just how it is.”
Luckily, in preparation for the Simpson fight, Robertson has been doing it while school is out for the summer. “The three best reasons to be a teacher are June, July, and August,” he laughs, but the timing couldn’t have been better for such a pivotal bout. It’s Robertson’s second in the Octagon, with his lone previous appearance ending in a second round TKO loss to Mike Pierce at UFC 126 in February of 2011. Couple the defeat with the UFC / WEC merge a couple months earlier, and Robertson’s stay in the organization was a brief one.
“I had a bad vibe about it that it might happen, especially with that merger,” he said. “It is what it is, it happens, and I’m back in now, so I’ll try to make the best of it this time.”
And despite the disappointment following his release, there was never any doubt in his mind that he was going to keep strapping on the gloves, no matter where he had to do it.
“It really wasn’t a question,” he said. “I knew that I wanted to do it still. I didn’t know if I’d ever make it back into the UFC and I didn’t know if I’d go with different organizations or what I’d have to do. But I knew I wanted to do it to basically pay off bills. My wife and I both have college degrees with college loans, so I knew I wanted to do it because there’s nothing better than having that little extra here or there.”
Finding fights was tough though. Finally, in October of last year, he got matched up with UFC vet Lucio Linhares. Robertson made quite the statement, finishing his foe off at 4:44 of the first round with a spinning back fist.
“It was one of those things where after losing to Pierce, I saw my standup and knew that I needed to really up my game, so I kept my hands up and really focused on that,” explained Robertson. “I didn’t not focus on the wrestling or the submissions, but I was really putting more pressure on my standup and I still do that.”
So coming into Wednesday’s fight, Robertson isn’t just a wrestler fighting MMA; he’s been doing everything in his power to make sure that he’s dangerous anywhere the fight can go.
“It’s kind of the old GSP (Georges St-Pierre) method – if the guy wants to stand up with me, I’ll take him down. If he wants to go to the ground, I’ll stand up with him. It just opens up your game.”
Kenny Robertson is not the same person he was the last time he stepped into the UFC Octagon. Since then, he’s lost for the first time as a pro, won a comeback fight, became a father, and realized the importance of being well-rounded as a fighter. As for his own take on the last 17 months, he’s as to the point as he always is.
“You take it with a grain of salt, I guess,” he said. “Everyone has their day. You just prepare yourself as much as you can and just have fun. That’s what I’ve been doing.”