A Jiu Jitsu guy steps into a kick boxing ring. I know, it almost sounds like the beginning of a joke or the precursor to watching something akin to a car crash. But for MMA veteran and former UFC fighter and The Ultimate Fighter contestant Roli Delgado that's exactly what he did last Friday in New York wanting to prove he had more than just a ground game, and that his Boxing and Kick Boxing training for MMA could translate to a competitive environment where all you can do is strike.
His opponent for his début Turan Hasanov wasn't some schlub either, a respected Muay Thai fighter in his area with an amateur and pro record he was expected by some to make short work of his lanky opponent. Hasanov spoke a great deal of trash and gave Delgado no respect in the run up to the fight telling Muay Thai Authority he barely trained but would still get a quick KO in the first round.
Unsurprisingly he set himself up for a fall as Delgado had been training seriously for the fight, and for a month exclusively on his stand up. Weighing in at a svelte 147lbs Delgado controlled distance and used his reach to his advantage from the outset but also worked actively from the clinch throwing knees to the body. At one point Delgado even floored Hasanov with a high push kick. Delgado would go on to win a clear unanimous decision after 3 rounds.
"It was my first. I definitely saw myself working into double underhooks after rolling under his shots instead of looking for the Thai clinch or other sweeps. I had a lot of MMA-isms as you call them. Overall it was paid sparring."
Those that remember Delgado's last fight in the UFC will have remembered a brutal KO loss at the heavy hands of Andre Winner. I asked Delgado if that loss played on his mind and made him apprehensive at all going into a fight where striking was his only option:
"I actually worked really hard on my boxing before the Andre fight. He just had perfect timing and shot placement. He had me figured out and I have made my peace with it and I understand what, how and why that happened. I'm a fighter, he knocked me out but I got back up ... Eventually! So no, I had no reservations about that fight or my chin. I have a good chin."
Roli was quick to remind me that he has actually fought in MMA since that loss and his cut from the UFC and still intends on making a come back:
"I did another fight against a 16-3 opponent who was a great wrestler since that fight (with Andre Winner) and won in 41 seconds. I was just missing the boxing and fighting out of my weight class in the early UFC's. I'll be back at 145, really good on the ground and very good standing!"
From the photos of his Muay Thai fight Delgado looked to be in the best shape of his life and where he struggled at Lightweight he may fair far better at Featherweight where his tall frame could be a real advantage for him. As he tells Full Contact Fighter the new UFC 145lbs class will be tough to break into but something he plans on doing before the year is out as well as continuing to fight for respect and acknowledgement as a well rounded fighter, and not just a Jiu Jitsu guy.
Roli Delgado fights next in Little Rock, Arkansas in February so stay tuned for a more in depth interview in the coming weeks.
Amateur video of Delgado's Muay Thai fight after the jump.