Roufusport fighter Dennis Munson Jr., 24, died due to head trauma following an unsanctioned, amateur kickboxing bout in March. An investigative report in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel last month highlighted apparent negligence at the event from officials, doctors and Munson's own cornermen. The card was promoted by Roufus' business partner, Scott Joffe.
Since the Journal Sentinel article was published, multiple former Roufusport fighters and coaches have come out against Roufus and the gym for fostering a toxic, bully culture. Current "Ultimate Fighter" competitor Rose Namajunas, her boyfriend and former UFC fighter Pat Barry, and ex-UFC veteran Eric Schafer have led the charge on social media.
"I guess they needed something to happen to go off of," Pettis told MMA Fighting on Monday at a lunch to promote his lightweight title defense against Gilbert Melendez at UFC 181 on Saturday. "The worst thing is they don't know this kid. This kid came to our gym. He's training with us. We saw him as a teammate, as a family member. It hurts us more than it hurts them. Using that? That's what pissed me off about it. They're using that as a way to attack personal issues. Make it about what happened. The kid died last March. No one said nothing back then."
Roufus, who was also present at the lunch, called it a situation of "the pot calling the kettle black" with regards to Namajunas. The coach said Namajunas returned to train at Roufusport in the spring -- after Munson's death -- and assaulted a training partner after the bell.
"Her gloves came off and she was hitting the guy, cut his face," Roufus said. "No one told me this until after she had left after she visited our gym this spring for training. If there was such a problem with us, why did you stop by our gym to train?...In the past, I had to correct her to not hit other girls and other people at our gym. There's two sides to every story."
Namajunas did not respond to a message sent by MMA Fighting on Monday evening.
Two weeks ago, Namajunas began posting screenshots of messages and posts on Instagram from past Roufusport members blasting Roufus and other team coaches.
"Crazy that I finally speak out against the people that are responsible for this tragedy and now other people are coming out too," Namajunas wrote on Instagram. "It's sad it takes someone's life to bring awareness."
Schafer told MMA Fighting's Luke Thomas last month that a UFC heavyweight at Roufusport was once told to "beat another UFC heavyweight out of the gym." Schafer also said when pure wrestlers were brought in to help Pettis prepare for Shane Roller in 2010, Roufusport fighters were told to aggressively turn it on against them in MMA settings when coaches felt like the wrestlers were not going hard enough.
"Chico [Camus] whispered in the wrestler's ear, 'Sorry, man, but I gotta step it up,'" Shafer said.
Roufus denies such incidents, but admits that he can be tough on his fighters at times.
"There are a few different Duke Roufus's," he said. "A lot of people don't see every day at five o'clock, Monday through Thursday, I teach kids' class. I have a karate gi on. I teach traditional martial arts. The dude I am in karate class is different. I teach technical kickboxing to our recreational students. The dude I am in that class, I'm different. Yeah, sometimes you have to get in people's asses in professional sports. Have you ever watched HBO's Hard Knocks? That being said, I'm not gonna sit here and have a mudslinging contest with them. People can think what they want or they can look at the results, the positive results."
Roufus said he saw Barry at a Glory event in May and Barry asked him contractual advice. He wonders why Barry didn't mention to him then that there was any animosity.
"In May it was okay and in the spring it was okay for Rose [to come in and train], but now after the fact everything changes?" Roufus said.
Added Pettis: "I just don't understand why they waited so long to say something. Rose left the gym when Pat left the gym years ago.
"We didn't pick her on the show, because it just didn't happen. I've seen them at fights after that. Nothing was said. Red Schaefer owns a gym not too far away -- Milwaukee is small. We see him all the time. He says nothing."
Roufus said he would prefer to not talk about this any longer, preferring to focus on the positive. Roufusport, he said, has 31 professional athletes, including champions like Anthony Pettis, Ben Askren (ONE FC) and Rick Glenn (World Series of Fighting). In his mind, the gym's "positive results" speak for themselves.
"They have a voice," Roufus said of Namajunas, Barry and Schafer. "They have their fans. If people want to believe them, cool. You know what? I'm not here to make everyone happy. I'm only here to make the people who really love me happy. I'm not worried about enemies. I'm worried about supporters. And I'm sorry they feel that way."