Watch Ricco Rodriguez battle Daniel Tabera on November 9th from Tel-Aviv, Israel. For the first time ever cage fighting invades Israel as the IFC presents: Genesis. You can catch all the action on Go Fight Live.
The road back to the top has been a long, hard and crazy trail for former UFC heavyweight champion Ricco Rodriguez.
The journey continues on November 9th as Rodriguez will take on Daniel Tabera in Tel-Aviv, Israel as one of the main attractions for the Israel Fighting Championships: Genesis card. The bout will be contested at heavyweight, but “Suave” may be taking his talents to the light heavyweight division as a faster way back to the UFC.
For the 33-year-old Rodriguez his career has been marked by just as many highs as it has by lows. At the age of 25 Rodriguez took on UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture for the vacant heavyweight championship. At that point Rodriguez was 14-1 with victories over Gary Goodridge, Paul Buentello, Andrei Arlovski and Jeff Monson.
The two men battled for four and a half rounds before the referee stepped in and stopped the fight giving Rodriguez the win and the title via TKO. After that things immediately went downhill for the real first Mexican heavyweight champion (Rodriguez is of Puerto Rican & Mexican descent). He then went on to lose his next three bouts in a row.
He was cut after losing the title to Tim Sylvia and he then traveled to Japan where he dropped a unanimous decision to Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira at Pride Total Elimination 2003. The UFC brought him back to face Pedro Rizzo at UFC 45 where he lost via unanimous decision.
From November of 2003 until July of 2007 Rodriguez was taking fights anywhere he could get them. He was severely out of shape, at one point he weighed in at over 350lbs for a match with Ron Waterman. After defeating Imani Lee in November of 2006 he was suspended indefinitely as he tested positive for both cocaine and marijuana. He was forced to sit out the next six months as a result of his positive drug tests. He also found himself the butt of many jokes as he had a stint on VH-1’s “Celebrity Rehab” back in 2008.
Rodriguez would go 3-3 during his next six bouts. At that time he fought for the IFL, EliteXC and Yamma Pit Fighting, all three organizations are no longer in business. After winning five consecutive fights Rodriguez lost to Jeff Monson at an event in Miami, Florida. He would split his next two bouts before embarking on the road he now finds himself on. A road that could lead him back to the promise land.
A Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Blackbelt, Rodriguez began his career by competing in the esteemed Abu Dhabi Combat Club World Championships. In 1997 he won the Blue Belt Absolute Title and followed that up with a win in the Absolute (Open Weight) Division. 22 of Rodriguez’s 44 career victories have come by way of submission.
Looking to get his life and career back on the right track, Rodriguez competed in the 2009 ADCC qualifiers. After weighing over 300lbs. for most of the past decade, the Paterson, NJ native weighed in at just 218lbs. An incredible amount of weight to lose, it showed promoters how focused and prepared Rodriguez was as he looked for another chance.
As he prepares to battle Tabera on Tuesday, Rodriguez will go in to the fight riding a nine fight winning streak and could possibly find himself back in the UFC with an impressive victory. It was just a few short months ago that Rodriguez told MMA Junkie that the UFC would welcome him back with open arms if he could make the light heavyweight division’s 205lb. limit.
Rodriguez knows more than anyone just how precious these opportunities are. You can be on top of the world one minute as heavyweight champion of the most prestigious mixed martial arts organization in the world and the next minute you could find yourself suspended then fighting in front of a few hundred people in a college gymnasium. Next stop on the road back to redemption: The Nokia Arena in Tel-Aviv, Israel.