Kade Ruotolo Targets MMA Debut Next After Submission Grappling World Title Win Over Tommy Langaker

Kade Ruotolo Tommy Langaker ONE 165 2

At just 21 years old, reigning ONE Lightweight Submission Grappling World Champion Kade Ruotolo might be the planet’s top pound-for-pound Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu competitor – but he’s already looking ahead to the next step in his career.

This past Sunday at ONE 165, the American phenom soundly defeated Tommy Langaker to successfully retain his gold in front of a packed house at the Ariake Arena in Tokyo, Japan.

That contest was a rematch of the pair’s thrilling June 2023 encounter, which was named ONE’s most exciting submission grappling match of the year.

And while their most recent bout was equally high in pace and action, Ruotolo secured a much more decisive victory, consistently forcing the Norwegian on the defensive as he relentlessly attacked with submissions – a performance that earned him a US$50,000 bonus.

After the match, the titleholder recapped his work and opportunities during the 10-minute contest:

“I think I was positionally dominant from the crucifix, side control, a lot of strong positional dominance. I have to rewatch the footage, but a lot of submission attempts and a lot of very close ones for sure.

“That D’Arce [choke] was super close. That was probably the closest. I remember I got into a really tight armbar, that triangle right at the end.”

Indeed, Ruotolo’s top game, back attacks, and submission attempts were on point all night. 

Despite that dominance, he was unable to find the finish for the second time in a row against Langaker, who came into the match riding high after winning an IBJJF No-Gi World Championship.

Never satisfied with a decision victory, the Californian vowed to review the contest and make the necessary improvements:

“I’m going to have to rewatch it and, yeah, I really gave it almost everything I have out there. And coming into the future, I know exactly what adjustments to make to 100 percent get that finish.”

Ruotolo Was Willing To Make MMA Debut Against Aoki At ONE 165

Beyond his impressive victory over Tommy Langaker in Tokyo, Kade Ruotolo was prepared to take on an even bigger challenge at ONE 165.

When fellow American star “Super” Sage Northcutt withdrew from his lightweight MMA tilt against former divisional king Shinya “Tobikan Judan” Aoki just moments before the show, Ruotolo offered to step in and make his much-anticipated MMA debut against the Japanese icon.

In fact, the Atos representative was ready to fight Aoki – a man he defeated under submission grappling rules in 2022 – and still defend his lightweight submission grappling crown against Langaker in the co-main event.

That plan didn’t come to fruition, and “Tobikan Judan” went on to submit former bantamweight MMA titleholder John Lineker in an openweight MMA bout.

Afterward, Ruotolo spoke about his vision for two fights in one night:

“I figured, as long as I don’t get too hurt in the MMA match, I’d have been able to get it done with Tommy as well. You know, I have so much respect for Shinya. He’s pretty much my hero. He’s such an absolute legend, and he took on such a big risk taking on John Lineker too, switching up an opponent last minute.”

Even though Ruotolo didn’t end up making his MMA debut on Sunday, he’s been training in the all-around sport and hopes to debut in the first half of 2024.

More than just dabbling in the sport, he ultimately envisions holding a ONE MMA World Title in addition to his submission grappling crown:

“I’d really be stoked to get it done by March or May. It’s kinda been like my time frame. I know it’s coming up really quick, but my dream is to become the double-champ for ONE Championship – jiu-jitsu and MMA.

“I’d like to consider myself as a true martial artist, you know? I don’t think I’ve ever turned down a fight, and I feel like I just love to fight.”

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