This week on Diamond's Corner Craig sits down with Mike "Biggie" Rhodes to talk about how he got his nickname and his move to Milwaukee to start training professionally. Mike also shares with us the difference between training for basketball vs MMA and his train schedule while in quarantine.
Check out the video of their interview or read the transcript of their conversation below! We will be releasing new Diamond's Corner videos every Friday, so check back for more awesome conversations with interesting people.
CRAIG: Alright everybody welcome back to another edition of Diamond’s Corner. Today, another guest, and old friend of mine and Diamond MMA's. We've got Mike 'Biggie' Rhodes. Um, calling in from Milwaukee. What's going on?
MIKE: Not much man, I'm happy to be on the, on the show, and uh, happy to talk to you. It's been a little bit.
CRAIG: Yeah, it has been. I mean, you know, we started this show, we got some good guests, we got you, and just doing something different, you know. People are stuck at home during this quarantine so thought we'd get some content out there for people to watch. What have you been up to? Tell me. Before we got on you were talking, you're training in the basement with uh, JP too much, one of my other favorite fighters.
MIKE: Yeah, um, you know, the first week went by, of the quarantine, and we were just starting to go crazy man. You know, our routine is in the gym always. So were were able to, you know, piece together a gym, I work for a gym called the WAC, they were able to give me a recumbent bike and a couple other, some weights, and we got, put together some puzzle mats, and you know, we just trained. We're doing Jujitsu, we're rolling, we're, you know, drilling kickboxing, we're doing everything that we can do. Strengthening and conditioning workouts, uh, we're just trying to, you know, trying to be as normal as we can as we're still quarantining and following all the rules. But, you know, it's a good thing we have one another so we can continue to train.
CRAIG: Cool. So for people that don't know you or, give us a little background. I mean, you were, basketball, playing basketball, yeah i wanna hear about the transition from, you know, growing up, to basketball, and then in to fighting and then into the role that you are now with Roufusport.
MIKE: Yeah uh, you know, Biggie is obviously my nickname, and that comes from being a big guy back in the day. Uh, I was like 270lbs playing collegiate basketball at a junior college. Ellsworth Junior college in Iowa. Shortly after that I tried to go to a division two school, so I went to get in shape at a gym, a local Gold's Gym. They had martial arts classes, I started taking them. They were just fitness based but the coach asked me if I'd like to take the fighter class, I tried it out. Ended up taking a short notice fight after only like a month of training, uh, I won, but we both beat the crap out of each other. Next thing you know, uh, I fell in love with MMA and training, and all of its, you know, parts. Moved to Milwaukee within a year of that, started fighting professionally a year after that actually...
CRAIG: How old were you when you moved to Milwaukee?
MIKE: I was 21, I had just turned 21. My 21st birthday was December 4th of that year, and I moved December 17th, uh to Milwaukee.
CRAIG: What was that like? What did you pack up? Did you have a car? What did you; walk me through just packing up and moving to Milwaukee to be a fighter.
MIKE: Yeah uh, well it was all crazy. Two of my training partners were actually uh, pro fighters at the time. They were very highly touted pro-fighters, uh, Joe Cason, who you know...
CRAIG: Sure, yup.
MIKE: ...Was a member of our Diamond's squad. Roy Jones, Roy 'The Wolf' Jones. He was a pro fighter. They both had fought for strike force, were like, 10-0 or 11-1, as pros, so they were ready for the next level so they wanted to visit Roufusport in Milwaukee, I went with them, I ended up liking it, so at that point I was still in college, I used my last of my student loans and uh, I sold a motorcycle that I had at the time and that was the money that got me out to Milwaukee. Some buddies of mine that I trained with, uh, Brandon Roby, had a trailer, him and Mike Maker said, 'Hey, let's pack your shit up, let's go'. You know they knew that I really wanted it so, they actually just like shipped me up to Milwaukee and I lived with Eric Coke and...
MIKE: ...Thunderwood from down in, uh, down in Tennessee. He was up here living and training at the time so I moved in to their place.
CRAIG: From there you're training, you're training with some of the best guys, I mean, I mean the list... Pettis, and, and I mean just so many different guys throughout, throughout those days, and, Alan Belcher coming in, you had, I mean the names go on and on. What is that like, being so young in your career and transitioning from basketball? Really from being just a big 270lb dude that's playing basketball to now training with these guys. I mean, what was the everyday practice like? Did you have a lot of catching up to do? Or was, did your athleticism kind of help get you up to speed?
MIKE: Um, yeah. So when I got up there there was a lot of big names, but at that point I didn't know who they were. I didn't know what MMA was until I took a fight. Like Travis Fulton is from my hometown, literally lives maybe ten minutes away from my mom. And I had no clue who he was until I had already moved to Milwaukee and started training. Like I didn't really know who he was at the time. Like, even training with him a couple of times when I was an amateur, I still really didn't know the level that he was on, so like, when I got to Roufusport, these names were just names, you know. Like oh I know this guy, or I heard of this guy a little bit. But obviously Anthony was the big one, uh, he had just came off of World of Jinx. So that's the reason why I knew of him a little bit more. But I still had no clue who the majority of these guys were. So for me, uh, I was just getting my butt kicked you know, by random dudes, which was, you know, a little humbling uh, early on.
MIKE: But um, my athleticism made it a lot easier to transition in to the sport, and I've always been hard-nosed. Like even though I've been a basketball player like, I was a type two. Like I think that if I could ever make it to the NBA, it would have had to have been like the old days. Like I'm a knock you down, drag you out kind of guy. Like no one gets a free layup, so like...
CRAIG: Bill Laimbeer? Some of the old greats.
MIKE: Yeah, the Knicks, you know, the old Knicks players just knocking guys down and, that was like kind of style of basketball that I played. So it's always physical. For me transitioning in to fighting was something that, you know, in my neighborhood, we just did all the time. We would buy boxing gloves from like, Wal-Mart, and just, you know, park out on the, on the corner, and just, you know, throw down on Fridays so. Fighting wasn't crazy for me to jump in to and uh, you know. So when I got up here, it was a big learning curve because these guys are so technical and so great, but that was the reason why I moved here. So it was one of those things where I was okay with eating that humble pie, you know, learning and soaking it up.
CRAIG: Do you remember a time when, you just got, turned the corner a little bit or got over on one training partner that was above, a part where you said, man I'm actually catching on and I can do this and I'm going to keep getting better. Do you remember a certain practice or anything like that?
MIKE: Um, I don't think I remember just like a certain instant, but I would say I was at Roufusport for probably like a year and a half. And I mean I lived in there. Literally lived in there. Me and Coke at the time, we didn't even have no electricity in our place. So we would go and just stay at the gym from sunup to sundown, you know, and I feel like, just gradually over time, I stopped taking so many butt-whoopings, and I started giving them out a little bit, and you know, started earning that respect in the gym. You know, we all still, if you have one bad day, not even a bad day, if you have a bad round, you can get your lunch taken. So uh, it's just always up and down but, I would say at that year and a half mark I started getting bigger fights. And I feel like my progress showed in those fights, and I feel like that's the reason why I was able to jump on to the scene and make some noise, uh, right away so early into my pro career.
CRAIG: Any of the older guys that had a little bit more experience with the pro-fights- they give you any tips, I mean, you know, as far as your nerves, or, anything to handle those first big fights?
MIKE: Um, I mean, just guys talking, I'm not really the type to get, I would say like, nervous. If you ever see me like, backstage before a fight or you know, just walking around the week of the fight like, for me man, it's the part that I like. Like for me, so...
MIKE: ...When I see those lights, it's time to perform, I don't go the other way, you know, it kind of gets me up a little bit more, it actually brings out that like meaner side of me that you see in fights. Because I'm not that guy, you know, all the time. So um, when I get to flip that switch, I like it. So um, but I would say that all the guys always give you, you know, bits and pieces. You know obviously Duke, uh, you know, coaching all the guys, he had to coach bigger fights at that time so he handed down his knowledge but, Ben Askren was big, um, in you know, just kind of helping me with little things. You know, being a young guy just going at it crazy every day. You know Ben was a little bit older in the sport already but he kind of just gave me a lot of, you know, fundamental knowledge that he knows from being competitive his entire life.
CRAIG: And, you know, I'm fortunate enough with Diamond MMA, I've spent a lot of time at Roufusport, I've spent a lot of time with you, and you've helped us, always, you know, unconditionally over the years, which we appreciate. And all your guys in the gym are cool dudes. You know what I mean. You know, that's the difference. I mean, we walk in there and there's just a camaraderie, everybody from Dan behind the desk to Duke, to Coach Kush, to everybody, everybody's just in there trying to help each other get better and it's a great atmosphere, and it's a really cool gym too if nobody's seen pictures or been down there. So yeah I'm fortunate to see and see kind of, you've taken over a little bit of a captain and coaching role too, at least for practice that I see and um, tell me what that's been like to be kind of one of the leaders in there now.
MIKE: Um, yeah, I just think it comes with time and experience and um, you know, I haven’t had um, I would say a perfect career, so I have a lot of teaching moments throughout my career that I feel like um, my teammates respect and, you know, want to learn from and, me being a teammate, I want to help them not to do some of the things I've done if I can help it, you know, or help them to do some of the things that I have done if it’s been on the good side of things. Um, for me though, I feel like being the best me is the best teammate I can be. So if I'm, you know, giving them hard rounds, if I'm going after them, obviously in a safe manner, but in a manner that will push them, I'm helping them to get better. And if I see something I can, you know, tweak or help them realize that they can do a little bit better, that's my job as a teammate. And I think that's just what you see uh, there's so many leaders on our team, um, you know, excluding our coaches I feel like we lead ourselves very well because we all push each other. We all want to see each other do well. So there's no egos in our gym. So I feel like the biggest example of that for me was Gerald Meerschaert. You know, he went from being, you know, just a grappler-based fighter and me being just a striking-based fighter. And through training with each other and giving each other bits and pieces of the other game, he helped to rise my Jujitsu to a level that I probably wouldn't be at without him. And I feel like I've done the same for him striking. So, being a small team I feel like we can really help each other.
CRAIG: And you both are black belts now, right?
MIKE: Yeah, we are both currently black belts.
CRAIG: Under Professor Daniel uh, Wanderley. Who's another uh, big supporter and, of our brand, and been an awesome guy, and his son Gabriel. So what uh, so what's next. I mean obviously we've got to kind of wait, with this quarantine stuff. But um, what, if it lifted tomorrow, I mean, what would be the ideal future for you, or near future?
MIKE: Um, I'm thinking just because the way things are, um, you know, with this quarantine. No matter how much you train at home, you know, you're still at the comfort of your home. It's hard to get the workouts at the intensity that we're used to.
MIKE: So for me, you know, I'm a big guy. So in order for me to lose the weight in order to you know, get to my weight classes and stuff like that to fight. I'd need a little bit more time of, you know, the real hard training, multiple times...
CRAIG: You've got to be in there.
MIKE: Yeah, multiple times a day, that kind of thing. Uh, but, I'm on a three-five win streak now, um, you know, putting together a good little streak for myself. I'm the CFFC light heavyweight champion, you know. So I'm thinking either how the weight starts to move, um, you know, either fight at 205 again, or maybe even think about going to 85, um, so I think I might have to take one at 205 before I go back down to 185, just how the weight is, but, you know, win that fight, and then see where I'm at. You know, I owe them one more fight on my contract, um, but I know those guys over there, you know, they look out for their fighters so if a bigger opportunity was to come my way, I figure they would probably give me their blessing to go and chase that. So I'm just trying to continue to use fighting as a platform to you know, better myself and better my life and my family's life. You know, get to travel around the world and fight some of the best in the world. That's my goal, and to make as much, you know, money on the side as possible. Um, I like fighting because you get those big chunks of change, and you get to travel the world and you get to do things that you most likely never would have done, especially someone like myself. I had never been on a plane until I took a fight, you know, somewhere else. Since then I've been all over the world. So for me, this is just a great experience that I plan on just living out as long as I can.
CRAIG: Yeah, that's awesome. I mean, you get to travel and be a corner man and training partner with some of your other guys and going to a lot of the UFC events in all sorts of different fights, and Bellator. What was it like to walk out from a, aircraft carrier, basically, at one of your fights?
MIKE: Um, the Chinook, yeah that was my last fight, that was dope, you know, it was on a military base, it was a fight night for the troops...
MIKE: We got to walk out of a Chinook, that was dope. Like, it was cold as hell, with the hangar door open, so like that was like the only negative. Like you see I walk out in like a designer hoodie. And that's like a forever 21 hoodie; it was Gerald Meerschaert's hoodie actually. But he saw how cold I was, and it was like drying my sweat. So I was like no longer warmed up. But to walk out of the Chinook with like the fog coming behind you, it was a good dramatic effect. It was good for everybody on TV and on the stream and stuff. But for me it was like, oh shit I'm cold. But you know, when I got out there, I took a little bit to warm up in the fight but I got the win and it was nuts. They were you know, the troops and stuff were going crazy in that place. In that little hangar.
MIKE: So that was an experience that I really really enjoyed.
CRAIG: Yeah, well that's awesome, check out um, Mike's Instagram, @teamrocbiggie, and that pictures, it's in there, I was checking it out before, that's a nice one. We'll pretend you weren't cold and you were just focused and ready to go.
MIKE: Haha, dialed in.
CRAIG: Um, cool man, well thanks for coming on, it was good chatting. As soon as these gyms open up, and as soon as Roufusport opens up, I'm gonna come back up there, bring you a little care package as always, and keep supporting you and all your teammates who've been supporting our brand. It's been a good, you know, relationship. And you know Duke and you guys have always opened the gym up to me to watch practice and um, have you guys try out some of our newest products. So thank you and Roufusport and uh, again, where can everybody follow you?
MIKE: Yeah, first of all I just want to say thank you to you guys and your brand, obviously two sides of a coin man, you guys are always willing to help, you know, whether it's forgetting a cup somewhere and we're at a fight week, you guys getting on it to make sure that we're protected and you know, just through the years, all of the stuff that you've done for me. Like a lot of the people don't know but our relationship has been great throughout the years, and you've always looked out for me as a fighter and as a person so I just want to say I appreciate Diamond and you, you know as a brand and uh....
MIKE: For me, you can follow me on social media, @teamrocbiggie, teamrocbiggie, that's on twitter and Instagram, and mikebiggierhodesfanpage over on Facebook.
CRAIG: Awesome. Biggie, thanks for coming on, and we'll talk to you soon!
MIKE: Yep, thank you.
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