If Rob Font has to pick between delivering Pizza Hut pizzas or standing in against a freakish bantamweight, he’ll always opt for the latter. In fact, the Boston native Font did just that at UFC 175 when he fought the stretch limo of 135ers in 6-foot-1 George Roop in his Octagon debut, and he came home with a very nice gratuity to go with his victory: $50,000.
That’s the Performance of the Night tip Font received for landing a big right hand that turned Roop momentarily into a woozy drunk trying not to tip over (before tipping over somewhat spectacularly). That knockout was one of many memorable moments at UFC 175. The others -- Chris Weidman and Ronda Rousey’s performances -- were expected. Font’s was an arrival.
"When I got the call, and they said it was going to be George Roop, it was kind of like, aw, man…what are you guys doing to me? You guys give me an animal for my first time out?" he says. "But then I stepped back, and thought about it and I’ve fought tall guys before. We knew if we could touch him, we could put him down and put him out."
As for the knockout?
"We watched it like 10 times afterwards," he says. "I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t think it was that clean of a shot when I hit him. Honestly, I thought I missed him and then I looked back and I saw he was falling and I was like, oh, here we go, and then I jumped on him. But I really thought I missed him."
Font, who trains with Mark DellaGrotte and his striking coach "Big" John Johnston at Team Sityodtong in Boston, has been en-route to that big moment for a long time, fighting on the New England local circuit. In April, at a CES show in Rhode Island, Font -- who was the promotion’s featherweight champion -- did a version of the same thing against Tristan Johnson. In January, he got Ahsan Abdullah, who’d driven all the way in from New Jersey, with a first round brabo choke after an onslaught of right hands.
Yet though he was making waves locally, it wasn’t until he got the call from the UFC that he knew the pizza delivery days were now in his rear view mirror. No sooner had he signed the contract than he was in Las Vegas for the first time in his life.
"The whole weekend was crazy," he says. "Of course, it’s Vegas -- it’s Fourth of July weekend in Vegas and the place is crazy. I get out there and I’m on Fox Sports 1, so I’m on TV for my first debut. I get in there, and I’m fighting George Roop, I guy I used to watch fighting. And then I knock him out. Then the fight gets thrown on the pay-per-view telecast and then I get the bonus. So I couldn’t have asked for anything better. I couldn’t wait to get home, because I was like, okay, what’s going to happen? What’s going to go wrong? Get me off this plane because something has to happen."
Nothing ominous happened, other than a couple of pinch marks he gave himself while flying back. When Font got home he called matchmaker Sean Shelby and asked to get on the upcoming UFC Fight Night 50 card at Foxwoods Resort Casino on Sept. 5, right there in his neck of the woods. He was obliged on Thursday, when the UFC announced he’d fight TUF 18 alum Chris Beal there.
So, the official scorecards read like this: In the space of a five days, Font went to Vegas for the first time, knocked out the veteran Roop, padded his bank account, called his shot for another fight, and has been granted the request. Even if he didn’t get everything he had hoped for -- after all, he politely requested to fight Sergio Pettis next but was steadfastly ignored -- it wasn’t a bad week.
"I was just getting by for so long," he says. "I was going back and forth, talking about going back to school, but really not making any moves or doing anything about it. I was partying too much, just drinking and hanging out at the clubs, just acting like an a--hole. Then I found a gym and I kind of settled down, and just started…like, okay, if you really want to go to school, then do it, but if you really feel like you can fight, then gamble and do it. I gave myself a couple years.
"Then I started fighting pro and it was, alright, I know I can do this. My grandfather said, look, I’ll back you whatever you want to do, if you want to do this, let’s do it. I went all the way in, I threw all my cards in and it worked in."
It’s was a slow turn into the fast lane for Font, but pretty good for a guy who -- not so very long ago -- was using his GPS to figure out where to drop off Cheesy Bites.