George Roop is a WEC and UFC veteran that has made a name for himself with a couple of upsets, and he's looking to take out one more highly-touted opponent at UFC 137 when he faces Japanese star Hatsu Hioki. Roop is also competing for the first time since the death of one of his mentors, longtime trainer Shawn Tompkins. Roop spoke to MMA Weekly Radio about what Tompkins did for him as a fighter, and about his main-card bout with Hioki. First up was Tompkins:
"Words can’t even express how valuable of a coach (Shawn) Tompkins is, and even more how valuable of a friend and mentor he is. So it’s a huge loss not only to me, but definitely to the whole MMA community.
He’s definitely help me take my game to the next level. It’s a huge loss. Him not being in my corner, there’s always going to be that void there," Roop said.
Despite the loss of "The Coach", Roop promises that he will persevere and will carry Tompkins into the cage as "an angel on his shoulder" in his battle with one of the finest featherweight talents in the world in Hioki. He was somewhat complimentary of Hioki when discussing him, but doesn't think he deserves his ranking (Hioki is currently number 2 in the world at featherweight on the USA Today/SB Nation Consensus Rankings):
"I think he’s a great fighter, I think he definitely earned his spot in the top ten rankings. I don’t believe he’s as high ranked as most people have him. I think there’s a few fighters that should be up there above him," said Roop.
"I don’t think he’s overrated, but I think he’s over ranked. I think he’s ranked a little too high. I think there’s some guys that are definitely there before him. I think Erik Koch is better than him, Tyson Griffin is a serial killer, he just dropped down to the 145lb division. You’ve got a lot of guys that are overlooked in the rankings perspective."
Roop has been a big underdog in his last four fights and this one is no different. He managed to win two of those bouts (over Chan Sung Jung and Josh Grispi) and got hosed by a split-draw (against Leonard Garcia), so he's proven himself to be a live underdog every time he enters the cage. Can he overcome the crafty Hioki and truly put Japanese MMA to bed? We'll find out on pay-per-view this Saturday.