In 2007, Jake Rosholt entered the world of MMA as a bona fide blue-chip recruit. A four-time collegiate wrestling All-American and three-time NCAA champion, Rosholt was signed by a major promotion (the WEC) just over a year after his debut, and joined the UFC in February.
After dropping a submission loss in his UFC debut, he rebounded impressively with a submission of his own over gritty veteran Chris Leben in his most recent matchup. That victory propelled him to the opportunity to fight Kendall Grove at Saturday night's UFC 106.
Rosholt recently took a few moments from his pre-fight preparation to discuss his fight with Grove, suffering growing pains in front of a worldwide audience, his thoughts on the Tito Ortiz vs. Forrest Griffin main event, and more.
Mike Chiappetta: Everything seemed to click for you in your last fight with Chris Leben. Is that how it felt for you in the cage?
Jake Rosholt: Yes, basically everything started to come together pretty well for me last fight. I think it's just experience. I think the more experience I get in the cage, the more comfortable I'll feel and the better I'm going to fight every time I go out there.
Leben's clearly one of the most dangerous strikers in the middleweight division. Did that win and the way you competed against him give you added confidence going forward?
It definitely gives me confidence. It just gives me more confidence in my standup and my striking and the fact that I went out there with a guy who hits real hard, and for the most part I was able to evade all his striking and win the fight. So it definitely gives me confidence.
What was your feeling going into it, especially coming off a loss? Was there any extra pressure beforehand?
I was just ready to get out there and get a win and show the UFC that I'm a good fighter and I'm going to be a great fighter down the road. I wanted to let them see what I'm capable of. I wasn't nervous or anything like that. I was just ready to get back out there and show everyone what I can do.
You're still pretty early in your career and came to everyone's attention very quickly. Is it difficult to develop as a fighter in front of the world?
I love it. I think it's awesome. I'm glad to be fighting in the UFC. It's the place to be, and I love it. I love all the fans and I think it's cool, because everybody's going to get to watch me grow as a fighter and progress all throughout my career.
But it can't be easy to do at such an early stage of your career. Going through the growing pains in front of a smaller audience was never an option for you?
Everything seems to be working out fine for me right now, but I wouldn't have been opposed to having more fights before I got into the UFC. I never pushed to get into the UFC or anything. It's just kind of how it happened. So I figured it was just my path.
You won the submission of the night bonus for your win over Leben. Did you do anything special with the money?
Nope. Nothing too exciting. Just banked it.
For this fight, were you happy with Kendall Grove as an opponent, or would you have preferred someone a bit higher up the ladder?
I'm happy with the fight. I wish we'd be on the main card, and I think it's a fight we could've had on the main card, especially with Brock Lesnar and Shane Carwin dropping out. But I'm happy. He's a good fighter and he's got a following. He's tough, people know his name as a former Ultimate Fighter winner, so it's going to be a great opportunity to advance my position in the UFC.
How surprised were you that your fight is not on the main card? Last time out against Leben, you were on the main card, and you won that fight, so it's not like you're coming off a loss.
Yeah it was surprising. I really thought I'd get to be on main card again, as I thought I put on a good performance against a tough opponent and would get a chance to be on the main card again. I figured it's a fight people want to see more than Phil Baroni and Amir Sadollah.
Now, that said, we're going to be on the Spike TV portion of the event, so that's good. It gives a lot of people a chance to watch me fight still. It'd be nice to be part of the main card that they're pushing and promoting, but it'll be awesome to be on Spike.
Kendall seems to be somewhat inconsistent in the cage. He's 2-3 in his last five fights, and one time he looks really good and the next he struggles. Is it hard to prepare not knowing what exactly you're going to see from him?
No, I think you always prepare for the best. You have to, so I'm preparing for him to have the best fight of his life. I just want to show people I'm getting better all the time, that I'm developing all the time, and that my striking and ground game, and just the overall dynamics of my game are getting better.
Kendall's takedown defense is probably not the strongest part of his game. Some people think it would be easy for you to take him down repeatedly and grind out a win. Is it tempting to sort of take the safe way and do that?
I'm never ever going to be the type to go out there and grind out a win. I go out every time to finish my opponent no matter what, whether it's standing up or on the ground. Am I going to take him down during the course of the fight? Of course. But am I going to rely on taking him down and laying on him? No way.
Are you happy with your career progression, and at what point do you see yourself getting in the title mix?
I'm happy with my progression. As far as the title mix, I'm not even thinking about that. There are so many guys in front of me. There are plenty of guys to move thru and keep progressing my way up. I think that's down the road. I think we're looking at two years -- somewhere along those lines -- where I work my way up the ranks into possibly getting a title shot.
If you beat Grove, who would you think is a good opponent afterward?
I don't care. It's something I'd have to think about after the fight. I'm focused on Kendall, that's all that matters to me right now.
You're fighting on the card with Tito Ortiz making his return. Who are you picking in the Ortiz-Griffin matchup?
I think Forrest will win. I just think Forrest keeps getting better and better and progressing. I think Tito's one of those fighters that's getting outdated. Not that Tito's not a great fighter, but as time goes on, a younger generation steps up and becomes the fighters of the future. I think Forrest keeps showing people that he's not just winning with heart. He's a great fighter and he keeps getting better in all his skills. Tito's sort of an old-school fighter and I don't think he's really progressed much over the last two years. He's pretty much the same fighter he's always been.