‘MMA Hasn’t Had My Level Of Grappling’ – Kade Ruotolo Speaks To Demetrious Johnson Ahead Of His MMA Debut At ONE 167

Kade Ruotolo Francisco Lo ONE Fight Night 21 60

Before his first professional mixed martial arts fight at ONE 167: Tawanchai vs. Nattawut II on Prime Video, BJJ superstar Kade Ruotolo trained with one of the best to ever do it – Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson.  

Following their training session, the reigning ONE World Champions sat down on Johnson’s “Mightycast” show to discuss Ruotolo’s transition into the all-around sport and his MMA debut against Blake Cooper in U.S. primetime this Friday, June 7. 

The reigning ONE Lightweight Submission Grappling World Champion couldn’t contain his excitement as he gears up for the clash at the Impact Arena in Bangkok, Thailand – and he told Johnson that the move was inevitable.  

Ruotolo said:

“We’ve grown up watching MMA. Even though I knew I had to do what I had to do in jiu-jitsu first, it always excited me that one day I was gonna be there.

“I knew for sure. It was a bucket list thing. I had to fight MMA.” 

The 21-year-old grappling phenom had toyed with the idea of a switch for several years, but he finally bit the bullet to kick-start his new venture this year.  

With three successful defenses of his ONE submission grappling gold and an ADCC World Championship to his credit, Ruotolo already has a resume that few could ever hope to match and feels like this is the perfect time to compete in mixed martial arts.

He explained: 

“As of the last couple of years, that urge has been growing more and more.  

“I honestly think I fought so many times for free with my brother. I wanna get paid now! I love fighting, I’m a fighter. I love jiu-jitsu, but I just don’t feel like it’s a fight. It’s a match, it’s not a fight.

“I’m so excited to show what I can do in MMA. In the most humble way possible, I genuinely believe that MMA hasn’t had my level of grappling and my level of jiu-jitsu ever.” 

Ruotolo ‘Not Scared’ Amid High-Profile Switch To MMA

After reaching the pinnacle of submission grappling, Kade Ruotolo is buzzing at the chance to climb a new ladder in mixed martial arts.  

Although he already has a deep skill set that he can employ against Cooper on June 7, there are lots of new elements that he needs to learn, and that quest has rekindled his passion for combat sports. 

Ruotolo told Demetrious Johnson earlier this week: 

“Every time I train MMA, I’m learning something new, and it’s refreshing being a student again. 

“I like to think the transition is going well. I think the main thing is I feel comfortable in my sparring rounds and live drills. I’m not very fearful, I have a lot of heart, I’m not scared of a lot of things. My coach and my family are happy with the progress.” 

The Hawaii-born athlete started Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu when he was 3 years old and can’t remember a time when the sport wasn’t the main focus of his life.  

That has made him an incredibly accomplished grappler at a young age, but he’s still found some blind spots while committing himself to MMA.  

Although he’s content with the strides he’s making, Ruotolo revealed the most difficult element he’s found while making the transition – and it was an answer that took “Mighty Mouse” by surprise:

“The hardest thing was the cardio on my legs. It’s the last thing you expect. I can go all day in jiu-jitsu. The hopping is different. The calf muscles. It was something I didn’t have built up in jiu-jitsu. The cardio for the footwork was one of the biggest shockers.  

“I felt cardio-wise I could go another 100 rounds, but my calves were just tired before everything else!” 

Check out the full conversation between Ruotolo and Johnson in the video above, which also covers topics that include his start in martial arts, the sibling rivalry with his World Champion twin brother Tye Ruotolo, and his upcoming match with fellow BJJ megastar Mikey Musumeci

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