Raul Rosas Jr. may be scheduled to be the youngest fighter in the history of Dana White’s Contender Series later this month, but he feels that he’ll also be the most talked about at the end of the season.
The 17-year-old bantamweight prospect faces Mando Gutierrez on the Sept. 20 DWCS fight card at the UFC APEX in Las Vegas. Rosas’ opportunity to fight in front of Dana White and the UFC matchmakers has certainly caused a lot of intrigue, much like Bo Nickal’s first appearance. When asked if he’ll be talked about more than Nickal, a decorated collegiate wrestler turned MMA fighter with a ton of hype, he was confident.
“I think it will be me,” Rosas told MMA Fighting. “I like Bo Nickal, and I’m also surprised he didn’t get that contract.”
Rosas is 5-0 with five finishes in his young pro career, which all took place in Mexico MMA promotion UWC. Don’t let the age and low number of pro fights fool you, however, because the California standout has a lot of experience in the cage.
“My first MMA fight was in the kid’s cage – I was 8 years old,” Rosas said. “My first [official] amateur fight I was 15.
“I’ve fought since I was 8 until I was 14 in the kids [circuit], and I only lost twice that I could remember. I was 20-2. My last fights with that, I went to Rome, Italy and competed at the worlds in the 14-15 year-old bracket and beat Russia, Lebanon, England, and got first place. When I came back home, I realized I was already the best kid in the world and I had nothing [more] to prove [there], so made my amateur debut at 15.”
It wasn’t as simple as saying yes to taking a fight on DWCS. Because of his age, Rosas, who is being home schooled for his senior year of high school, needed to do some extra work behind the scenes with help from his manager Jason House and his parents.
“My management did a lot of the work, but a lot had to be done,” Rosas explained. “I had to sign a few papers, and then my parents had to sign [with] a notary [and explain] why I should compete on the Contender Series.
“Yeah, there’s a lot of my parents’ signatures on a lot of papers, so a lot of paperwork had to be done for this.”
As much as Rosas wants people to focus on his skills, his age is something that is going to be talked about. Set to turn 18 in October, Rosas understands there are people that might be critical, or have questions about such a young fighter competing on such a big stage.
“I don’t pay a lot of attention to the critics, because I know what I’ve done to get here,” Rosas said. “I wasn’t a normal kid just going to school, doing my homework, playing around, going to parties — I knew what I wanted since I was little.
“My dad always told us, ‘You don’t have to be fighters, y’all do whatever y’all want to do, but just make sure that whatever you’re going to do, I want you to be the best at it.’ If we were going to be fighters, we were going to be the best at it.
“All my life, I would go to school, and I wouldn’t even go home. I would do my homework at the gym before training and just dedicated my life to this. I didn’t go to parties with friends, go to Halloween, or celebrate this, that, because I would be training. I’m not a normal 17-year-old, and Sept. 20, I’m going to show why I’m ready and shut up all the critics.”
Rosas already feels he can compete with some of the top names in the UFC’s loaded 135-pound division, and hopes he could one day share the octagon with one of his favorite fighters one day in José Aldo.
A big fan of Tony Ferguson, Rosas plans on putting on a show when the bright lights are upon him against Gutierrez, a 7-1 Michigan fighter who’s competed multiple times under the LFA banner.
“I’m going out there to try and finish every second of the fight,” Rosas said. “If it goes three rounds, it goes three rounds, but I’m going to be trying and finish every second. Even if I’m on my back, I’m going to be fighting off my back, I’ll be putting pressure on him everywhere. I feel comfortable anywhere the fight goes. We can clinch, we can wrestle, grapple, bang it out, I’m comfortable everywhere.
“I just know my style will impress Dana White, I’m going to try and finish the fight, and just put on a show for y’all.”