Lightweight competitor Rolando Delgado from the eighth installment of The Ultimate Fighter can’t buy a break thus far into the season. After catching flack for gaining admission into the TUF mansion as a result of a broken nose sustained by Brian McLaughlin, Delgado once again found himself in the line of fire after former UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir decided to put him on the stand and cross-examine him regarding his credentials as a black belt.
The editors of the show didn’t exactly do any favors for Delgado in regards to how they presented his explanation, so we eager to get his side of the story during an exclusive one-on-one interview with FiveOuncesOfPain.com.
In addition to getting his response to Mir’s line of questioning, Delgado also shared his thoughts on Junie Browning’s decision to spit on a black belt; what it was like fighting Browning, whether he was intimidated prior to the fight; and more.
Sam Caplan: During last night’s episode, Frank Mir asked you about your black belt credentials. It seemed like that they chopped your answer up in editing, I wanted to see if you could talk a little more in-depth about how you got started in martial arts and what school you train out of.
Roli Delgado: I started training in ’97 and I currently train out of Westside MMA in Little Rock, Arkansas. I started training just jiu-jitsu and got started in amateur MMA about a year later and have just kind of been dabbling in MMA off and on for the past eight or nine years. I’ve been training jiu-jitsu for ten years now.
Sam Caplan: How old were you when you started?
Roli Delgado: 15.
Sam Caplan: How did your parents feel about you getting involved with MMA and jiu-jitsu at such a young age?
Roli Delgado: I didn’t start in MMA. Nobody really knew what MMA was back then, except for the hardcore people that were watching. It wasn’t a household acronym at the time. It was just me doing martial arts and it just happened that I was training Brazilian jiu-jitsu and kickboxing.
Sam Caplan: We don’t hear about many fighters coming out of Arkansas. What’s the MMA scene like down there?
Roli Delgado: It’s quiet. There’s only a few real good gyms in the state, so we have to travel to get around. Actually, out of the Westside Gym we have a lot of high-profile people. Seth Kleinbeck, he’s a medical doctor and a pro fighter that used to fight for EliteXC. He trains at my gym and then you have Hillary Williams, who is one of the top female grapplers in the country right now. She actually has a winning record against men. She’s won blue belt men’s divisions at NAGA (and) she won the Pan Ams within the past couple of weeks in New York. She’s a phenomenal purple belt and she’s out of our gym too in Little Rock, Arkansas. Then I made The Ultimate Fighter.
And we’ve got a heavyweight coming out of Little Rock that’s huge. The guy is a former strength and conditioning coach and weighs 250 pounds. The guy is an athletic machine and he’s 16-1 now. He’s 8-1 as a pro and about to bust out onto the scene. He has his first pro boxing match next week, actually. The guy is very talented and his name is Mike Wessel. He’s going to be huge.
Even though you don’t really hear much about Little Rock or Arkansas, we have a really good program down here and we travel all over the country just trying to find good competition and trying to stay busy.
Sam Caplan: So in order to fight, you have to travel out of state?
Roli Delgado: Oh yeah. Yeah. I’ve only had one pro fight in Arkansas. Most of the time it’s fighting for the AFC in Florida or like the Danger Zone in North Dakota. Whenever opportunities come up, I just take them.
Sam Caplan: Can you talk a little more about your background. You mentioned on last night’s episode that you were a college graduate and that you’re a investor in real estate. Is MMA your full-time job?
Roli Delgado: My main source of revenue is from my gym, Westside MMA. I’m a full-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu instructor. That’s where I get the majority of my income and then I do own a few rental properties in North Little Rock. Those are more investments. They aren’t income producers, so I’m not a slumlord (laughs). They’re actually nice houses. I barely cover the notes with the rent but it’ll pay off in the long run.
Sam Caplan: When Frank Mir started to ask you about your jiu-jitsu credentials, did you feel at first he was just doing it to get to know you better, or did you feel he was putting you on the spot on purpose?
Roli Delgado: I think he was putting me on the spot on purpose. He was trying to call me out in front of his guys. I think he thought it was funny. I felt it was pretty immature on his part. The question wasn’t whether I was a good or bad black belt — everybody can have an opinion on that. But I felt he was questioning my integrity a little bit, and that what bothers me. Anybody that knows me knows that I’m not a storyteller and I’m not a liar. And my black belt testing is actually on Google videos if you type my name in. You can find it.
It’s really a shame that it was an issue on the show, because it shouldn’t have been. Like I said, I think Frank Mir was a little immature. What can you do? It’s out of my control. He asked me who I got my black belt from and I told him and he asked me a bunch of followup questions and they edited it to make it look like I was rambling about it. Like I said, it’s not something people have to take my word on, they can see it with their own eyes.
Sam Caplan: Last night’s episode was the first time they got into your blackbelt credentials. Had there been things that transpired that led up to that situation? Why did Frank Mir decided to start in on you?
Roli Delgado: Yeah, Vinny had asked me about it and I think it was just guys on the blue team — who, ironically, I had never trained with — just questioning my legitimacy. And I think that’s kind of what got it started. I’m not a well-known guy as far as the Brazilian jiu-jitsu scene. Living here in Little Rock, I’m not willing to travel to LA to do a single-elimination tournament like Pan Ams or Worlds, which cost me a $1,000 to go and compete and I might only have one match. Most of my tournaments have been — I’ve won a couple of the NAGAs — the North American Grappler’s Association tournaments. Because I can bring a team of 10 or 12 people and I can coach all of those guys and then compete, it makes more sense financially. It makes better use of my time but I don’t have as many people that are going to fly out to California to do some of those bigger-name tournaments.
So I’m not a well-known name. I am out in the middle-of-nowhere in Arkansas, so I think some guys were questioning it. Unfortunately, Frank Mir kind of jumped in on that.
Sam Caplan: I wanted to ask you about some of the pre-fight antics of Junie, with his decision to break out the black belt, throw it on the ground, and spit on it. Was that something you feel he thought of on his own, or do you think someone might have put him up to it?
Roli Delgado: He probably thought of it on his own. It made a lot of people mad but it didn’t upset me. It’s Junie Brown; it’s to be expected. You knew he was going to do something at the weigh-in. It didn’t catch me offguard and a kid like that, I’m not going to get involved in mental games with that guy. That’s just not how I am; that’s just not my personality. Honestly, I was just laughing. I thought it was funny. He’s trying to get me upset and he was doing a pretty poor job of it. He made a lot of other people upset but I wouldn’t expect anything less out of Junie.
Sam Caplan: I forget exactly who it was, but in one of the interviews they showed just before the fight, one of Mir’s team members claimed you were nervous.
Roli Delgado: They thought I was scared. Yeah, uh-huh. Those guys didn’t get to train with me. You can talk to anyone, I trained with the lightweights every day. I rolled with the lightweights every day. They rolled with me every day. I wasn’t scared going into the fight. I thought that I was going to win the fight. I never bought into the Junie Brown hype machine. They thought I was intimidated — the problem is that I don’t have a Type A personality like most fighters. I’m a really laid back guy. I’m very chill and it’s kind of hard to get me upset. I think that they took that as weakness and I think some people read me wrong.
I don’t think there is any correlation between how you talk and how you fight. You could say a lot about the fight; that maybe I wasn’t technical as I should have been. I didn’t fight a perfect fight by any means, but I don’t think anyone is ever going to question my heart or question me as a fighter. When it comes down to fighting, I want to do the fighting in the cage. I don’t want to do the fighting at the weigh-ins. I don’t want to talk about it. I don’t want to tell you how I am going to beat this guy or do this. I just want to show you. And I just think some of the guys took that as weakness and me being a timid person. I just think some people read my personality wrong.
Sam Caplan: Do you think Junie is a UFC-caliber fighter?
Roli Delgado: No, not yet. Definitely has the potential. And I don’t think I am, either. I’ve learned a ton and I fought fairly early in the season. I had another month of training with Nogueira and his staff and it was amazing. I’m a much better fighter now than I was then, and I am sure Junie is to. But at the time, to be honest, I don’t think most of the guys in the house were ready but I think most of the guys in the house had the potential to be a UFC-caliber fighter.
But none of us were on that level, with the exception of one guy — and I’m not going to name who — in particular that I think is at the level. I think that most of us aren’t there yet, we’re just on the cusp of being there. We have the potential. But that’s what the show is about. It’s taking guys that have the potential and grooming them from there (and) trying to discover tough guys.
At that moment was Junie ready to fight in the UFC? No, he wasn’t. But neither was I and neither were a lot of other people in the house.
Sam Caplan: You performed really well in that first round. You won the round with some solid striking. Then in the second round, it looked like you might have gotten tired. Your hands started to drop a lot and Junie started to take advantage of that. Is it a fair assessment to say you were getting tired at that point?
Roli Delgado: Here’s what happened in the second round — and a lot of people are saying I got tired — and yeah, I was fatigued. But it wasn’t fatigue from not being in shape. We were all in shape. If you look at the end of that first round, he clocked me with three solid shots; shots that I felt would have stopped a lot of other fighters. He hit me a couple of body shots in that first round. The body shots and the head shots, man, that takes it out of you. Somehow your lungs are connected to your head.
If you go back and watch the fight, a lot of people talk about people gassing. It’s not necessarily that their lungs just burn up, I mean a lot of times it’s related to some decent shots. And I think the shots just took it out of me. It took until the end of the second round for me to recover. I came back stronger in the third. But it wasn’t general fatigue. All of the fighters in the house were in great shape going into the fights.
But man, I took some shots and my defense was poor. And I think that was what made me slow down in the second round.
Sam Caplan: Frank Mir really put over those body shots and said he felt those were some of the strongest body shots he’s seen. Do you feel like that was a fair assessment?
Roli Delgado: I’m not going to lie, they were good shots. But never did I think they were going to break my rib or anything. You’ve seen fights when like Kalib Starnes got hit to the body and kind of had to stop fighting because he had cracked his ribs. So I don’t think that’s accurate. Mir just got excited. He gets excited and he says stuff and sometimes you just wonder what is this guy thinking? No, I don’t think those were the best body shots in the history of TUF. But definitely good body shots.
People are kind of questioning the power in Junie’s hands but I haven’t been knocked out and I’ve had over 20 MMA fights. He hits hard and his body shots hurt — they were good shots, for sure. I respected him for throwing them. And I threw body shots on him and on one or two, I could actually see him grimace but most of them didn’t have an effect on him.
Sam Caplan: Right after the fight was over, the camera zoomed in on you and Junie and he walked up to you and said something in your ear. Do you remember what he said to you?
Roli Delgado: Oh G-d, no. He was just telling me it was a good fight, I think. I was very upset. I’ve never lost a fight that close and when you lose a split decision like that, you realize that maybe if I hadn’t thrown that front kick in the third round that he caught and put me on my back where he just stood over me for a minute, that if I hadn’t thrown that front kick that I might actually got to fight again and maybe have even made it to the finale. It all comes down to just one thing here and one thing there that could have changed the fight and that really eats you. And it’s like my trainer says, if you’re not upset after losing a fight, you probably don’t need to fight anymore. I was very upset. It was probably the most emotional I’ve been in a long time. I was crushed.