Posted 08/21/2013 by admin in Featured Fighter
 
 

Vagner Rocha headlines Fight Time Promotions 16 with lightweight title defense

By Jon Lane, August 21, 2013

Fear led Vagner Rocha to a devastating loss and left him planted at a crossroads in his Mixed Martial Arts career. Rocha had been a student of the game since the age of 16 and at 29, he was left wondering if fighting was something he truly wanted in his life.

Rocha’s biggest fear was getting knocked out. In nine professional fights he had yet to taste the canvas, but entering his UFC debut as a featherweight against Ultimate Fighter Season 12 winner Jonathan Brookins, Rocha’s demons came to the surface. Enduring a wicked weight cut, Rocha couldn’t shake those visions. And sure enough, Brookins knocked him out in 1:32 of their February 2012 bout in Omaha, Nebraska.

Subsequently released from the UFC, Rocha flirted with quitting. Instead, the knockout served as a reality check he parlayed into what’s been a turning point.

“I had to really think about what I really wanted to do, if this was really what I wanted to do,” Rocha said. “I put that behind me and I said you know what? That was my biggest fear and it wasn’t that bad, so let’s train harder and make sure that never happens again.

“It’s very rare that you don’t see a professional fighter go through his career without getting knocked out. It’s almost unheard of. You make a mistake, you’re human, and you’re going to pay for it. It was always a fear, and I’m having many other fears in MMA, so it’s basically behind me now.”

Adding new twists to his training that he learned from friends, Rocha signed on with Howard Davis Jr.’s Fight Time Promotions and won the Ft. Lauderdale-based promotion’s lightweight championship. He takes a three-fight winning streak into Friday’s title defense against Randy “Venezuela” Barroso at the War Memorial Auditorium.

Since hitting rock bottom, Rocha has improved his standup game along with his confidence and what he has going for him is experience under the bright lights. Out of Rocha’s 13 pro fights, six have been for either the UFC, Strikeforce or Bellator. A fourth straight win would not only be another boost to Rocha’s morale, it will take him one step closer to a second chance with MMA’s top promotion.

“I definitely want to return to the UFC, to tell you the truth,” Rocha said. “If I keep winning, there’s no way not to see that. I’d deserve to be that.”

He’s had time to reflect on what went wrong during his first Zuffa tenure. Following a unanimous-decision loss to Donald Cerrone in his debut, Rocha bounced back with a second-round submission win over Cody McKenzie. Then he decided to drop to featherweight and take a fight with Mike Brown until Brookins stepped in as an injury replacement.

That weight cut proved to be Rocha’s downfall.

“I didn’t train well, I didn’t feel like I was getting good training and I think it might even led to some people mentioning it might have led to the knockout that I suffered by being dehydrated,” Rocha said. “I cut a lot of weight already even to make 55. I was cutting a lot more to make 45.”

The journey itself has presented its share of challenges. A native of Nova Friburgo, a mountain region city in the state of Rio de Janeiro, Rocha found himself relocated in Pembroke Pines, Fla., at the age of three. Growing up in a rough neighborhood, Rocha got into his share of fights, but was never shy about knuckling up, and his viewing of Royce Gracie performing inside the UFC’s Octagon caught his interest.

Before taking on fighting as a career, Rocha worked in construction before opening Vagner Rocha Mixed Martial Arts, a place where the learner can learn and the teacher can teach.

“I definitely wanted to focus in on doing what I really liked,” Rocha said. “It wasn’t about the money. It’s more about what was going to make me happy, so I decided to start teaching jiu-jitsu and built a nice following at my school in Pembroke Pines. As I was doing that, I also decided I was going to take my spare time and focus in on getting ready to fight.”

Backed by the support of his family, Rocha won various awards in grappling and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, a bronze medal in Abu Dhabi World Pro, earned victories in Grapplers Quest, a Pan Am championship as a brown belt and third place in the BJJ Worlds. These days Rocha continues to teach, to study and overcome fear, all while helping represent Florida MMA.

“I’m very excited to see this fight,” said Davis Jr., gold medalist in the the 1976 Olympic Games in boxing and Fight Time Promotions CEO. “Vagner and Randy have been very successful in our cage and both men deserve this opportunity. I’m so happy that we can continue to provide Florida fans with a consistent home for MMA fights. Randy and Vagner are two gentlemen outside of the cage, but they’re warriors inside of the cage.”

 

Follow Jon Lane on Twitter: @JonLaneNYC

 

 

 

 


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