An Inside Look At Kade Ruotolo’s Training Camp Ahead Of His MMA Debut At ONE 167

Kade Ruotolo Francisco Lo ONE Fight Night 21 43

Kade Ruotolo is busy gearing up for his hotly anticipated MMA debut, and the reigning ONE Lightweight Submission Grappling World Champion is sharpening his tools in all areas of combat.

On June 7 in U.S. primetime, the 21-year-old Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu prodigy will lace up the 4-ounce gloves for the first time when he takes on Hawaiian slugger Blake Cooper at ONE 167: Tawanchai vs. Nattawut II on Prime Video, live from the Impact Arena in Bangkok, Thailand.

Given his lengthy list of accomplishments in BJJ and his status as one of the planet’s top pound-for-pound grapplers, Ruotolo’s transition to the all-around sport has naturally drawn the attention of martial arts fans around the world.

While he continues to work on his ground game at the famed Atos Academy in San Diego, California, he has branched out for his MMA and striking training, learning from Tyler Wombles at Classic Fight Team and legendary MMA pioneer Erik Paulson at Combat Submission Wrestling.

One of the sport’s earliest stars and now an internationally respected coach, Paulson comes from a catch wrestling background – a grappling art that is similar to BJJ but puts more emphasis on takedowns, pinning, and unique leg locks.

As a modern practitioner of BJJ, Ruotolo admitted to that he was initially skeptical of Paulson’s teachings:

“The first time I ever worked with Erik Paulson, we went to go over leg locks, right? And I’m thinking, man, in the most respectful way possible, it’s a new age.

“My brother and I, we’re always very open-minded, but when it came to leg lock talk, I’m like man, there’s these leg lock specialists nowadays, and the defense and everything…”

Indeed, Ruotolo and his twin brother, current ONE Welterweight Submission Grappling World Champion Tye Ruotolo, are two of grappling’s most savvy leg lockers.

Kade, for example, claimed his ADCC World Championship and his ONE World Title with devastating inside heel hooks.

However, the lightweight submission grappling king says that Paulson, with his catch wrestling approach to submissions, opened up his mind to new ideas:

“He went and showed me three techniques that I had never seen before that blew my mind, that I’ve been using in training till now.

“He really is a true legend. He’s got so many techniques up in his mind. And that’s why it’s so important to keep an open mind in jiu-jitsu because it can get blown.”

According to Ruotolo, catch wrestling could be the next step in the evolution of submission grappling – and it’s something he expects to see more of at the prestigious ADCC World Championships later this year.

He explained:

“It’s almost like catch wrestling is what we’re starting to see it lean towards at ADCC. You used to get away with being a specialist, being a guard player, this or that, but every ADCC, we see more and more how important wrestling is becoming.

“If you don’t have good wrestling, it could be your demise, right? Catch wrestling is a really good way to train for a format like ADCC, where you’re really focused on wrestling but still adding your submissions.”

Ruotolo On MMA: ‘Jiu-Jitsu Doesn’t Work Without Wrestling’

Obviously, Kade Ruotolo has been diligently working on his striking, ground-and-pound, and overall MMA game ahead of his showdown with Blake Cooper at ONE 167.

Considering his background in BJJ, though, his easiest and quickest path to victory would seem to be a submission on the ground.

Ruotolo agrees with that assessment, but unless he has the wrestling chops to get the fight to the canvas, his world-class submission skills won’t get him far.

Wrestling, he says, will be critical in his move from BJJ to MMA:

“You being a black belt in jiu-jitsu means nothing in MMA if you don’t have wrestling. It means the opposite, honestly.

“If you’re a jiu-jitsu guy, and you don’t have good wrestling, and you’re planning on fighting MMA, you better hop in a high school wrestling class, whatever wrestling class you can get in, and start wrestling. That’s the first thing because jiu-jitsu doesn’t work without wrestling.”

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