At 26 years old and with a 3-1 UFC record, Roosevelt Roberts clearly has a bright future in the world of mixed martial arts. But if you ask him if his teenage self would have seen this coming, he doesn’t hesitate to say that this was the furthest thing from his mind growing up in Florida.
“If somebody would have told me that when I was younger, I would have never believed it,” Roberts said. “I'd probably be doing some crazy stuff or living a crazy-ass lifestyle, but I definitely would not be where I'm at now. It came further down the line where it started becoming a dream of mine. Back then, I was living so fast, thinking live fast, die young, so I didn't really see past the next year. I always just looked for the next day.”
He’s come a long way since then, but don’t think life is any less crazy for the lightweight prospect. Come on, in the last six months alone he fought a Russian in Russia and is now fighting Brok Weaver this Saturday in a venue with no crowd in the middle of a pandemic.
Qualifies as a crazy life, still, right?
“Sometimes you gotta step on that edge a little bit, get that rush,” he laughs. “So I'm looking forward to it.”
These are good days for San Bernardino’s Roberts, especially since that aforementioned fight in Moscow last November saw him shake off the lone loss of his pro career against Vinc Pichel by beating veteran Alexander Yakovlev. It wasn’t up there with spectacular wins he turned in against Garrett Gross and Darrell Horcher, but some prospects never recover from their first defeat. Roberts did, and he didn’t doubt it for a second.
“I don't think me taking that L really did any damage,” he said of the June 2019 bout with Pichel. “I think I needed that for me to grow as a fighter. I had a lot of stuff going on outside of fighting and I had a hard weight cut, but no excuses, he did his thing. You gotta build yourself off of the losses. If I let that loss kill me, then what does this really mean to me? I got back in the gym, got better and I just take it one day at a time and keep pushing forward.”
At 6-foot-2, every cut down to the lightweight limit must be a hard one. He laughs.
“Every weight cut is pretty tough, but that one (against Pichel), it was really hard,” said Roberts, who hit his mark of 156 pounds for Saturday’s bout against Weaver. “That's no excuse, though. I didn't show up, I didn't have that drive and that fire that I usually have when I fight that night and he outworked me a little bit. I don't think I got beat up, I just think he outworked me and he got the victory. So shout out to him, but that's not gonna stop me. All I see if forward and that's how I'm gonna go.”
That’s not to say 155 pounds is his final MMA destination.
“I don't see trying to cut weight my whole career, so I definitely see 170 in the near future, but right now I've got a whole division to go through,” he said. “I got a couple people I want to fight at 155, and hopefully everything goes well on Saturday and I'm gonna call them out and see what happens.”
Roberts has put in the time to make sure things go well in Las Vegas, and he’s learned what happens when he’s not totally committed. A minute of lost focus could be the difference between winning and losing at this level, something Roberts, with just 10 pro fights to his name, is learning on the fly.
“It puts a little pressure on, but it makes me train harder and work harder because I know what level I'm at,” said Roberts, who debuted in the UFC in November 2018 after earning a contract on season two of the Contender Series. “I know the competition I'm fighting, so I actually think it's pretty good for me. Every time I fight, I've got to look forward to a hard training camp, to pushing myself, so I think me coming up like this, fighting good guys and being in the UFC is really good for me. I'm still very young in my career, I'm only gonna get better, so as time goes on, I'm gonna keep going forward.”
Crowd or no crowd. Just another chapter in this crazy life.
“When I did the Contender Series there wasn't really that many people there, so it doesn't really matter,” Roberts laughs. “As long as I go in there, handle business, get paid and go home to my kids, I'll be good.”
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