If you ask casual mixed martial arts fans what they think about the Yushin Okami vs. Buddy Roberts fight at UFC 150 on Aug. 11, you will probably get two questions in response.
Who is Buddy Roberts? And why is he fighting former middleweight title challenger and top-10 ranked Yushin Okami?
To answer the first question, Roberts is a Greg Jackson-trained fighter out of Albuquerque, NM, that holds a 12-2 professional record dating back to his MMA debut in March 2007. Roberts is 1-0 in the UFC, and while the majority of his career wins have come by submission, he has also been known to hurt opponents with his strikes.
Secondly, Roberts was originally scheduled to face Chris Camozzi on the preliminary portion of the UFC 150 fight card in Denver, but an injury forced his opponent out of the bout. At the same time as Camozzi’s injury, another fighter on the UFC 150 card, Rousimar Palhares, pulled out of his main card fight against Okami.
As the saying goes, one man’s loss is another man’s gain. That’s exactly the situation Roberts found himself in when his manager called just three weeks out from the fight with some good and bad news.
“I teach a kids class here at Jackson’s so, I got done teaching the kids class and I got a few calls from my manager and, you know, he kind of said ‘good news, bad news, which one do you want to hear first?’ And I was like ‘ah, lets hear the good news’. And he’s like ‘Well, I’ll give the bad news first and he was like ‘Camozzi’s hurt’,” Roberts told FightCove.com of the conversation with his manager, Ali Abdel Aziz from Dominance MMA. “I talk to my manager an he goes ‘Hey, Chris is hurt, he got hurt in training’. And I was just mad. ‘But Palhares got hurt, and they want you to fight Yushin Okami’. Right away I got (more excited), I’m way more excited to fight Yushin Okami than I was Chris Camozzi.”
Way more excited? What exactly is there to be excited about in facing Okami, a fighter long-ranked as the no. 2 middleweight in the world who holds a 10-4 record in the UFC?
“Just because he puts me up faster, you know higher up in the rankings when I beat him.” Roberts said. “Nothing against Camozzi, he’s a tough, durable fighter but Yushin Okami excites me a little more…I feel good about it.”
“I feel lucky (to have this opportunity), but at the same time it’s right time, right place, you know?”
Roberts made his UFC debut on at UFC on FX 3 on June 8 when he defeated Caio Magalhaes by unanimous decision. It wasn’t the most action-packed fight, but it gave Roberts the chance to get his feet wet under the bright lights and earn 15-minutes of experience on the biggest stage for MMA in the world.
However, going from fighting Magalhaes to Okami is quite the leap. Roberts knows this and feels he has prepared accordingly. Okami was on the receiving end of one of the most shocking come-from-behind victories against Tim Boetsch at UFC 144 earlier this year, and while many are kicking Okami for dramatically losing the fight in the final round, Roberts is not one of the people being harsh on the Japanese fighter.
“He was looking sharp, you know I think his stand up is getting better and better…I watched the fight and I didn’t think Tim Boetsch was getting dominated that bad in the first round,” Roberts said of the Okami vs. Boetsch fight. “If you listen to the commentating it sounds like (Boetsch) is getting murdered, but he lost the second round and the third round he just came out and brought it to him.”
Although Roberts fights with a completely different style than that of Boetsch, was the 29-year-old able to take anything away from that fight that he is going to try to implement against Okami when they meet Aug. 11 at the Pepsi Center?
“I don’t really want to give away too much, but a little bit of pressure, I just don’t want to play into his game. He’s really good going forward,” he said. “I definitively don’t want to be with my back against the cage.”
“Bringing the fight to Yushin is going to be an advantage (for me) in our fight.”
As a nearly 5 to 1 underdog, the odd makers aren’t giving Roberts much of a chance against Okami at UFC 150. Regardless of this fact, Roberts doesn’t care about betting lines or what the doubters have to say about the match up. Inspired by the words of one of his teammates, Roberts plans on walking into the octagon Aug. 11 on pay-per-view, fighting to the best of his abilities and pulling off the upset.
“I was talking to one of my teammates, he’s a veteran of the team and he was telling me, do what you need to do, don’t be listening to the media and all this stuff, he goes ‘you just go out there and do what you can do and you’ll come out on top.’” Roberts said. “That’s just in my head and I’m going to go out there and fight my fight, fight my game, fight to my ability and take it to him.
“There’s going to be naysayers no matter what fight goes on. There’s always guys who are, you know, negative about it. But I don’t focus on that.”
Roberts knows how huge the opportunity to fight Okami is. There is a tremendous amount for him to gain from the fight and very little to lose. While UFC 150 will mark his first crack at an elite fighter, Roberts is not going to let the pressure get to him, he just wants to have fun.
“I try not to fight with pressure, like my last fight I didn’t have pressure on me being my UFC debut and stuff.” Roberts explained. “I put in my work before, and as long as I put in my work before, I’ll let god handle the rest.”
“Whether I win or lose, I just go out there and have fun. If I have fun, it’s a win-win for me. If I have fun and I win, it’s a really good night.”
“I’m going to go out there and be the best that I can be.”