“If someone wants to push their star featherweight then give me a call. If not, let them keep fighting kids.”
Interview and Photos by: Richard Burmaster
Rocky Long lives and breathes MMA. Whether it’s training young up and coming fighters at StreamLine Fitness or strapping on his own gloves and stepping in the cage, Rocky is doing what he lives to do. When he turned pro back in 2001 the paydays were small, but the fights were just as brutal. In his first two fights combined, Rocky made a grand total of $20, in fact it cost him more to get to the show than he made. Having started his fight career off like that, it makes you wonder why he kept climbing back in the cage.
If you’re ever out at Streamline Fitness and you venture into Rocky’s room you’ll quickly see why he kept coming back to MMA. The reasons are next to the TV along with videos of fights (some of his and some of others) and a bible. Those reasons are the championships belts. Unlike many gyms, they are not on display for all to see. They are tucked away in Rocky’s room where he crashes on those nights that he is too tired to drive home. The belts showcase the accomplishments of a man who was fighting while most of his students were still in school.
Never one to shy away from a fight, he’d sometimes twice in a night. Not for the money and not even so much for the belts. Rocky Long doesn’t fight to impress you or me. He fights because it’s what he was born to do. This Friday at the Arena Theater, Rocky will wage war for the USA as he takes on “The Russians” at Russian Invasion.
Rocky sat down with me in between his training sessions at Streamline Fitness.
TCD.net: How did you get started in MMA?
Rocky: I liked watching it when I was a kid. My uncle got me started in Tae Kwondo when I was younger. 1993 the UFC came out, and I wanted to do that. I saw this little guy submitting everyone, and I wanted to do it. I was living in Conroe at the time. The closest gym to me was Yves Edwards’s gym Woodlands MMA. It was the first in the area. Unlike today when just because you think you can do an arm bar you can teach MMA. I had trained Brazilian Jiu Jitsu before that with Alvis Solis in Attascosita, and I had been competing in a few tournaments. Woodlands MMA had just opened, Yves had not even fought in the UFC yet. They didn’t have amateurs back then it was straight to the pro’s. I took my first fight in Indiana, and I was so nervous. I stepped in the cage and thought, â€œwhat the hell am I doing in hereâ€. I got caught in an armbar, and I lost that fight. I thought whatever I’ll fix that. Later that night Yves was in the main event versus Aaron Riley. The winner of the fight was going to the UFC. I thought it was crazy that these guys I had watched on TV like Jeremy Horn were on this card. Yves tore Riley up, and his next fight was in the UFC with Matt Serra. After watching his success, I decided to stick with it.
TCD.net: What motivated you to come back and fight again after that first loss?
Rocky: I knew I could do better than that. All that training, all those hours to lose in the first round and to get caught in an armbar. I couldn’t believe that. So when my arm got better I started training hard again hard. The guy I fought that night was the number one contender for the title. I got the call from Yves on a Tuesday, and the fight was on Saturday. I was waiting tables in Conroe and Yves called me, and he asked if I wanted to fight on Saturday. I had been training with him for 4 or 5 months at that time, so I was ready to go. After that fight, I came back and fought in Houston. It was old school rules, no gloves, Pancrase type rules. It was at the Verizon Wireless center on Saul Soliz’s Renegades show. That was November 2001. I went the distance with Jose Santabanos, but I lost. I had him in so many submissions, and I kept thinking he would tap, but he was tough and wasn’t going to tap. Now I knew I was going to have to break him to get him to tap. I won my next fight.
TCD.net: What do you think fuels that mentality of “I’m not going to tap”?
Rocky: Some of those guys just don’t care. They hope the other guy will just get tired before it breaks. Me, personally, I don’t care if I have to tap. I have had to tap 3 times, but I would rather fight again than not tap.
TCD.net: What do you think about these amateurs who refuse to tap even though this is not their job yet?
Rocky: Jason Frank’s first fight there was a kid who had got his arm broke by refusing to tap. He came to the back afterwards moaning and in pain, and I am thinking to myself you should have just tapped. I’m nobody to tell you what to do. But look at you know. It’s worse when you are a pro. You get injured because you refuse to tap, and now it’s a longer time till you get that next paycheck. Your arm’s never the same after it breaks.
TCD.net: Here we are 2010 and your 44 fights into your career. What keeps you motivated to keep going?
Rocky: I like those trophies. (Laughs) I have a few belts out there collecting dust, and I keep thinking I might want to get another one. I do it now just because I want to. Not because I have to. Like this fight against this Russian. They came to me to help match make for this event. Then, they thought it would be great to have Rocky versus the Russian. I feel like I’m representing the country this time. Last year I had not fought in a year, and I came back to fight Chris Manuel for the Texas Featherweight Title. I had this new gym in the woodlands, and I wanted to show the guys that I was not just barking orders at them. I wanted them to see what I can do. I wanted to show them that I do everything that I put them through. It was hell, after the third round, I thought to myself â€œwhat the hell am I still doing in here?â€ I don’t need to prove anything. This next one is USA versus Russia and I have stepped up a weight class even though I said I would not do that again.
TCD.net: You have been around the Houston scene for a long time. Who is the best fighter to come out of Houston?
Rocky: I was in the first full blown MMA event in Texas. It was the first one to allow closed fists. I also fought in the first cage fight ever in Texas, so I guess I have been around awhile. The best fighter to come out of Houston has been Yves Edwards.
TCD.net: Who is the top fighter in Houston right now?
Rocky: I’m not really sure. There are a lot of good fighters. There could be better fighters if we worked together as a team. You go to Florida, and these gyms work together, and they are kicking everyone’s butt. The Houston guys used to travel around to different shows, and we always had a good showing. It was Carlos Prater, Lee King , Randy Howard and myself on the Renegades Budweiser tour. It was great. We were fighting every other weekend, and we always kicked butt. I went to Dallas not too long ago, and all the Dallas guys smoked the Houston guys. They were getting submitted left and right. We used to be the top in Texas. Things need to change over here. We need to get Houston back together. American Top Team, Jackson’s in New Mexico, we have people flying all the way to the camps to train instead of staying here. All this gym rivalry crap is bullshit. I’m not down with that. If there was a way, I would go toe to toe with whoever is starting all this crap. You don’t like my gym then lets settle it right now. We need to be fighting people from out of state, and showing them how tough Texas is. I want my gym to be the established gym where everyone will come from around the nation to train here.
TCD.net: What’s keeping the Houston scene from coming together?
Rocky: It’s an ego thing. Everyone thinks they are so good. You can learn something from everybody. People get in this I hope to fight the guy so I can’t train with him mindset, and you can’t do that. Go learn what you can. I was scheduled to fight Urijah Faber a few years back, but I turned it down to fight here in Houston. I won the World Extreme title here in the Toyota Center. Representing the city of Houston was great.
TCD.net: Who are the guys to look out for next year in Houston?
Rocky: Ike Villanueva is one of the best guys in Houston. We are going to get him down to 185, so he is healthier and for the cardio. Nick Mitchell knows how to stay composed in bad situations, and he does not get rattled. His last amateur fight he got knocked down and mounted, but he fought his way out and fought his way to a win. One day he will be fighting the big name guys out there. Tim Synder, Steve Garcia, are both great. Mike B from Metro. When I am getting ready for a fight, I go to Metro, and they have some great guys. Saul was Yves trainer back in the day, and he helps me get ready. Daniel Pineda is solid.
TCD.net: You’re coming up on 10 years in MMA, how much longer do you keep fighting?
Rocky: I don’t know. If I put it on this 155lb Russian, then it will be great. Then I fight Derrick Krantz on April 3rd. The only reason I am fighting him is that someone asked him after he lost to Rich Cleminte what he thought about fighting Rocky Long, and he replied that it would be a good win for him. So we will see about that. I like to stay at 145 though. If someone wants me to fight the top 145lbers, I am ready. You see these guys like Mike Brown knocking people out, but he couldn’t knock me out when we fought. He capitalized on a mistake I made and landed a submission. If someone wants to push their star featherweight, then give me a call. If not let them keep fighting kids.
TCD.net: Who is your favorite fighter to watch?
Rocky: My son. He won golden gloves in boxing. He is my favorite to watch. He wants to train more MMA, but I want him to keep to boxing for now. They already have a kid’s MMA in Louisiana. They want to do one here in Texas with improved rules, so the kids stay safe.
TCD.net: What do you know about the guy you’re going to fight on Friday?
Rocky: Nothing. I don’t care. I have seen it all.
TCD.net How does it end?
Rocky: I don’t know. I don’t want to get cut though. Don’t want to mess up that Krantz fight. God willing I win, if he wins then it’s his time.
TCD.net: Any motto you live by?
Rocky: Don’t procrastinate and work hard. Stay strong and work hard. I’m Christian based, so that’s where I put my faith. Before I go into the cage I say a quick prayer. If he didn’t want me in there I would not be. Once the cage door closes it’s all about how much work I put into it.
TCD.net: Anyone you want to thank?
Rocky: Everyone who has helped me out. We are a family here. Rambo from Streamline Fitness, Jason Craig, We have a good thing going here, and people are starting to see it. The people in the community who come here just to train see that fighters are not mean and arrogant. We are just like you except we fight for a job.