Ricco Rodriguez (Left) File Photo: Peter Lockley/Sherdog.com
My interest in the career of Ricco Rodriguez waned right around the time he decided to subject himself to a stint on VH-1’s “Celebrity Rehab,” a ghoulish voyeur drama masquerading as an earnest therapy opportunity. (Doctor Drew Pinsky, so studious in his glasses and forlorn expressions, is the Crypt Keeper with a doctorate. If there’s any justice at all, his rotting corpse will have a 24/7 video feed. But I digress.)
Rodriguez looked lost there, as he had ever since Tim Sylvia ended what looked to be a promising future as the UFC’s heavyweight champion back in 2003. Losses to Pedro Rizzo and Antonio Nogueira followed; rather than start at the bottom of the pay scale ladder in a major show, Rodriguez opted for the frequent checks on the sandbagging minor leagues circuit. When he popped up against credible competition, he dropped decisions.
Worse than any of those losses, he simply stopped being relevant.
Rodriguez now tells the WCF Courier (via MMAFighting’s Mike Chiappetta) that he’s far enough removed from his 350 lb. low point to consider a run at 205 lbs. for a UFC title. To prove he’s at least a little serious, Rodriguez knocked out Travis Fulton in Iowa on Saturday.
Two things about his comment: for a fighter, reinvention is as necessary from a psychological standpoint as it is from a rational one. An in-shape Rodriguez was a solidly built man of 230-ish lbs. A drop to 205 isn’t so necessary, other than for him to feel like he’s wiped a slate clean. While he may feel like he’s avoiding the kind of smothering wrestling practiced by Brock Lesnar, he’s really trading one problem (big men) for another (fast men). Rodriguez was not exactly a blur of fast-twitch fiber.
The other: that someone as brick-built as Rodriguez feels the need to escape the heavyweight division points to a serious ripple effect created by Lesnar and Shane Carwin, men who routinely have to cut weight to make the 265 lb. limit. They’re now able to get prospective opponents backpedaling before the bell. (Exceptions: Junior dos Santos and Cain Velasquez, both men who could cut to 205 without much problem.) But Lesnar and Carwin can and will be beaten -- and by process of elimination, likely by someone smaller in stature.
Threat mitigation as a fighter seems to involve bouncing to the next weight class down. Yet it’s often fighters moving up a class (Jake Shields, Matt Serra, Randy Couture) that enjoy the greatest amount of success. Go figure.
Rodriguez is a very talented guy who could be a danger to most everyone but instead chose to be a danger to himself. He’s probably a generation behind the current crop, but you don’t know until you try. If he fails, there’s always another season with Doctor Drew.