WSOF 6 Primer: Veteran Chad Robichaux a True American Hero
ust two pounds shy of completing his flyweight weight cut goal and Chad “Robo” Robichaux was in agony. The veteran former U.S. Special Forces RECON Marine, Law Enforcement Medal of Valor recipient and accomplished mixed martial artist is no stranger to the rigors of sweating out the water weight necessary to compete at his optimum 125 pounds. He’d done it on 21 previous occasions during a professional 19-2 career, however this time he felt an acute pain while finishing his cut in the sauna and, after he began defecating blood, he was rushed to the hospital.
“I just felt like somebody stabbed me in the back or something; it was a really sharp pain,” he says. “Obviously that took me out of the fight.”
It took three IVs of fluid to get his pulse back on track. His blood pressure had dropped dangerously low. A subsequent MRI revealed that he had a kidney stone which, as a result his dehydrating weight cut, had perforated his kidney, sending him into kidney failure.
“It was definitely a real scare,” he confides during an exclusive interview with MMA Owl. “It was just a series of events that was unforeseen, kind of a freak thing. The biggest part was I felt terrible for my opponent, Will Campuzano, who was training so hard for that fight.”
It’s been more than a year since he was forced to withdraw from his July 13, 2012 fight at Legacy Fighting Championship (LFC) 12. While recovering, Robichaux ballooned to 160 lbs. in a week and a half because his body wouldn’t pass fluids. He was sidelined from training in any capacity for roughly a month and a half.
Now fully rested and recovered, Robichaux is back. He’s signed an 18-month, four-fight deal with the World Series of Fighting and is set to make his debut at Saturday’s WSOF 6: Burkman vs. Carl at the BankUnited Center in Coral Gables, FL. Having previously fought for premier organizations including Strikeforce, Bellator and Legacy, the 38-year-old mixed martial artist is enthusiastic about fighting for the burgeoning organization.
“They all are great organizations, but I feel like with World Series of Fighting – and I’m not just saying this because I’m with them now, it’s just based on my experience with other organizations – they’re just putting together a really solid team,” he says. “A lot of their staff there comes from the UFC or Strikeforce. They bring a tremendous amount of experience. They’re really a new label, they’re not a new company because of the experience they bring. Guys like Ali [Abdel Aziz], the matchmaker, he’s very experienced in the management side of the house. He’s an athlete, an Olympian in judo representing the United States. He manages Renzo [Gracie], Frankie Edgar, so he’s been around the game for a long time. He knows how to put matches together and recruit top fighters, not just fighters or martial artists but the right character. They have guys like Keith [Evans] who does operations, and that guy had been with the UFC since the very beginning. These guys just bring a tremendous amount of talent, and it shows in how they treat you. Even though I haven’t fought there ‘til this time, I had the chance to experience World Series of Fighting 4. I went there and did the whole event with them, spent a week with them, and they really know what they’re doing. They have themselves wired tight. I’m very excited to be a part of that.”
This Saturday will mark the first time Robichaux steps inside the WSOF cage. His bantamweight (135 lbs.) opponent, 24-year-old Andrew “The Golden Boy” Yates, is undefeated in his seven-fight professional career and has the experience of 28 amateur bouts to bolster his professional combative acumen. Both men appear to favor the submission and, as is sometimes the case with fighters of a mutual stylistic propensity, the fighters may circumvent the ground game and the bout could end up being decided on the feet. Robichaux holds that, despite conceding a six-inch height advantage, he is more than willing to let his hands and feet go if that’s where the contest naturally takes him.
“Because of my record, I get labeled a lot as a submission guy and, truth is, I am a second-degree Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt – it’s my primary style – but man, I love to get in there and I’ve done karate since I was five years old; I’ve done martial arts my whole life, standing and ground,” he says. “I do believe, in this fight, that I have a strong advantage on the feet. I have a 68-inch reach – a very long reach – and I’m a very dynamic striker. Most people think that most of my finishes on the ground came from me taking them down, but actually my recollection of my fights is me knocking the guy down. So, because of my fast pace, when I knock guys down I jump on top of them and it just so happens that instead of getting on top and TKOing them I snatch a submission. I’ve never run out and chased people’s legs and I’m not going to do it this time.”
Looking at his professional record, a couple of gaps stand out. It was during these three and four-year stretches of time that Robichaux, who in addition to his service in the Marines also was involved with Special Operations Command (SOCOM), the Department of Defense, the U.S. Federal Air Marshal Service and for the U.S. State Department as a senior program manager, was deployed overseas. Upon returning, the proud soldier, husband and father of three found himself experiencing difficulties readjusting to civilian life. After seeking help, he was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
“I didn’t know what it was,” he says. “It sounded to me, in my mind, like something I had contracted from eating the local food overseas and I thought I’d get a shot for it and go back to Afghanistan where I belonged. But PTSD was something real, it was something my family would have to deal with in a very harsh way for three years, and even now there are still things that my family has to struggle with because of problems in our lives and certain things that I’ve experienced that will never go away.”
Robichaux was wrought with panic attacks, unable to sleep and couldn’t focus. There was an gloom that followed him wherever he went, engulfing him, making it feel as if his body would shut down at any moment. He found salvation – to some extent – in grappling. While on the mats he was forced to focus on the moment lest he get choked out for lack of presence of mind. It was his medicine, something that provided a healthy outlet, a therapy. He had just opened a school and had more than 1,000 students under his tutelage. He’d just captured the Legacy FC bantamweight championship from Lewis McKenzie in a first round rear-naked choke submission and won his subsequent fight in Strikeforce. Behind the scenes, he was abusing his outlet, averaging 11 hours daily in the gym. Sensing the impending tailspin, he righted himself.
“I was undefeated and I was doing really well, but underneath the surface I’d never dealt with the PTSD and I was fully relying on this thing that was really good for me, but in the same way that if you get a cold you take medicine but if you overtake the medicine you abuse it it’s bad for you, that’s what I did with jiu-jitsu,” he says. “Full circle now, I have balance in my life. Jiu-jitsu’s still good for me – if I have a bad day I go and grapple and feel better – but I know my boundaries now. I know the balance I have to have in my life. And that’s part of being a martial artist: to have balance.”
Upon acknowledging his ordeal and taking the necessary steps to correct his path, he became prominently involved with the Roever Foundation’s Operation Warrior RECONnect, a nonprofit organization founded by Vietnam war vet and faithful patriot Dave Roever whose goal is assisting wounded veterans and their families, help them find a new life purpose and to serve as a central hub for connection. Robichaux founded his own branch of the organization, The Mighty Oaks Foundation, which integrates his Christian faith, his mixed martial arts background and his insight as a veteran himself into a program that oversees weeklong trips during which time veterans are take out to ranches and taught how to take their lives back and how to reintegrate back into society through fight clubs and marriage retreats. Considering a divorce rate of 90 percent and a suicide rate of 22 Iraq and Afghan war vets per day, it is among the noblest of services provided to our soldiers who have offered to make the greatest of sacrifices to ensure our freedom abroad.
“Everything I do in my life is connected,” he says. “If it doesn’t connect then there’s really no place for it. I’m a very strong Christian and so I believe that everything I do has to represent who I am as a Christian, in my work and sharing my life with other people, so martial arts did that for me. It’s a very successful program, and we’re winning. Out of 1,500 graduates we have zero divorces and zero suicides. We fundraise through the sport of MMA, so me being able to fight for them as an athlete, I’m able to advocate and support what we do.”
Earlier this year Robichaux, who earned a Ph. D in business management and an M.B.A. from New York Tech, added another title to an already lengthy list of introductory descriptors: bestselling author. He and fellow Afghan war veteran Brian Fleming, who was blown up twice while deployed, released “Redeployed: How Combat Veterans Can Fight the Battle Within and Win the War at Home” to great critical acclaim.
“We were able to take each chapter and write from our own perspectives, our own experiences and our own struggle and try to give a road map to our own personal victories in our lives,” he says. “The book has been a great way to reach guys coming home, and wives, and give them a sense of hope. People who wouldn’t volunteer to come to our programs, maybe they feel like there’s no hope out there. When they read our book they’re able to connect.”
Robichaux reached out to another fellow soldier and mixed martial artist to write the forward to the book, a man whose name would garner immediate attention: former UFC heavyweight and light heavyweight champion Randy “The Natural” Couture.
“When you have a guy like Randy Couture putting a forward on a book, there’s a lot of young men and women who come back from combat and pick up the book just because of that and the next thing you know they’re reading a story of hope and find hope for themselves,” he says. “From there, they come to our program and turn their lives around.”
As important as it is to treat PTSD and assist veterans in healing their war wounds – both physically and mentally – Robichaux stresses the importance of dismissing common misconceptions of what PTSD truly is.
“The guys who have PTSD aren’t crazy,” he says. “They’re hurt, and when somebody’s hurt they tend to not know how to display that hurt. If you look at any kind of relationship, when you’re going through life with somebody, when somebody’s hurt emotionally or physically they tend to hurt other people around them because they don’t know how to express that hurt. For veterans, I hate the words ‘Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.’ The word ‘disorder’ is a complete contrast of definitions because the definition is the body’s normal response to an abnormal situation. So if my body responds normally – the way it’s designed to function – to an abnormal situation, it’s not a disorder at all. I’m actually functioning exactly the way my body’s supposed to. The only thing wrong was the experience itself.”
The risks of overmedication are severe as well, he explains.
“Most veterans believe they’re being treated for PTSD and they’re not; they’re being treated for symptoms of PTSD,” he says. “The pills are for insomnia, anxiety, depression, the wake up pill, the go-to-sleep pill, and two years later they’re taking 20 pills a day and their teeth start falling out. There’s no pill, there’s no medicine, for actually diagnosed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, because there is none. It’s a wound from an emotional experience and it’s your body responding normally to these symptoms, and if you numb yourself with these medications there’s no hope to heal. You have to be able to feel to heal.”
Chad Robichaux will be fighting on the prelims of World Series of Fighting 6: Burkman vs. Carl this Saturday, October 26 at the BankUnited Center in Coral Gables, FL. Tickets start at $25. Watch the prelims streaming online at 6 p.m. ET/3 p.m. PT and the main card on NBC at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT.
(All photos provided and approved by Chad Robichaux for use with this article.)