Daniel "Ninja" Roberts is the newest welterweight to enter the UFC and he will step in for the injured Anthony "Rumble" Johnson to fight John Howard at the first UFC on Versus on March 21 in Broomfield, Colo.
In this interview MMA Fighting, Roberts talks about training with Cesar Gracie fighters and his upcoming UFC debut.
How does it feel to be part of the UFC roster?
Feels awesome. I've been training really hard. My last opponent (Anthony Macias) was pretty tough and I beat him pretty easily. I definitely feel I'm ready for the next level. I'm here. I want to keep winning, keep training hard.
You've been fighting MMA for three years. Did you expect to land a UFC fight this early?
Actually, I figured I'd be in the UFC already, but yeah, I'm surprised, but then again I'm not surprised cause of my record. It's just good to be here finally. For all the hard work to pay off.
Do you know if the fight will air on Versus?
Yes, it will air on TV.
What your training situation now? And how far into training are you for this fight?
I just got the call a few days ago and I've already been training in San Francisco with Gilbert Melendez and the Diaz brothers. Jake Shields is out filming The Ultimate Fighter, but when he gets back I'll be training with him. I'm around a great camp. Also, I've been training with Ghost Dog Boxing (Peppe Johnson) in Tulsa, Oklahoma. They've helped me out a lot.
When did you start training with Gilbert and the rest of the Cesar Gracie guys?
I just started, actually. I just got to California, almost two weeks now.
I kind of knew that I might get a call. I just wanted to be ready and not a last minute replacement that is out of shape. I think I'm definitely going to be ready. I think my cardio will be key, cause I have really, really good cardio and I'm able to push the pace. I'm just there to fight and I'm looking to end it as soon as possible. I don't like long fights. I want to get in there and get it over with.
Do you plan on staying in California?
I really don't know, just kind of see how it goes. I'm trying to get the best training possible. In Tulsa, I was training with Allan Green, one of the best boxers in the world. Out here, some of the best grapplers in the world. I'm probably going to be bouncing back and forth to keep the best training.
You've fought primarily in Oklahoma. There's a higher elevation for this fight. Are you doing anything in preparation for the change?
Yeah. I plan on getting there ahead of time and getting used to it. I'm good friends with Gerald Harris. He's one of my good buddies, so he told me about the elevation. He's going to be there training with me Colorado, so I'm probably going to arrive two weeks early to get used to it.
Your official website says you have 12 years in wrestling and jiu-jitsu. So you started both at the same time?
That's a huge advantage I have on a lot of people. Fighters most of the time either did jiu-jitsu first or wrestling first, and I did it both at the same time. I'm really comfortable on my back and I'm also good at taking people down. That's a huge advantage for me. I don't there's a lot of people as good of a wrestler as me and at jiu-jitsu as me.
What are your thoughts on fighting John Howard?
I saw some tape on him. He's a pretty powerful guy. I'm not too worried about his jiu-jitsu or his wrestling, but he does have some powerful striking. My striking a lot of people haven't seen. It's actually pretty good. It's just that my grappling is a lot better. I could stand with him. I could grapple with him. It doesn't matter.
Besides beating John Howard, what are you looking to accomplish this year?
The main thing is sponsors. This is a big deal for me and I train for about five to six hours a day. I need some income coming in outside of just the purse money. There more sponsors I can get, the more successful I'll be. Of course, I'm going to take it one fight at a time. I'm definitely going to focus on John Howard and from there on out, I can give you another answer, but my main goal is to destroy him.