Former OSU Wrestler Moves From Dominating the Mat to the MMA Cage
Ben Rebstock - FOXSportsSouthwest.com
Ben Rebstock: Johny Hendricks, "King Mo" Lawal, Jake Roshalt, yourself....all extremely successful NCAA wrestlers turned great MMA fighters out of Oklahoma State University....what the heck is in the water up there?
Shane Roller: I think it's just the mentality you have when you compete for a program like OSU wrestling. The drive to be the best and being pushed to the extreme is what we went through while competing there. That drive and the mentality of how we approach things stays with you and it makes you stronger. The work ethics that OSU demanded out of each one of us carries over into our MMA careers as well. These things make the transition to MMA a bit easier in my opinion.
Did any of you guys start preparing for your MMA careers while still wrestler for the Cowboys or did the MMA bug bite you after your college career ended?
None of us ever seriously thought about fighting, especially while still competing for the Cowboys. Mo Lawal and I played around with some jiu-jitsu after our college careers and we were still there helping coach, but still nothing serious. We would just roll around and do some of the things we saw being done on the previous UFC's.
As a 3-time NCAA All-American and Big 12 Champion, how closely are you following the NCAA wrestling scene these days? Do you ever go back to OSU and work with the wrestling team?
I still follow wrestling quite a bit at all levels. My father puts on the largest youth wrestling tournaments in the country and I try to attend these events whenever possible. I run a youth wrestling camp in the summer and love working with the kids. I went to 2 OSU duals this past year and went to the wrestling room over Christmas break to workout with the team. I would like to go back more often to help out, but it's hard when I live out in Las Vegas. OSU wrestling played a huge part in my life and I'll always follow and keep up with the program.
It always seems to fluctuate in MMA where one style will be the dominate style in the sport. Right now, when you look at the champions and all of the young prospects in the sport, wrestlers are on a roll. How much pride do you take in the wrestling fraternity showing how dominate that skill is when matched-up with other fighting techniques?
I obviously take pride in my wrestling background and think it is the best sport in the world. However, I think this question reflects my answer to the first question. A wrestler's mentality is extremely unique. Most people who have had success in the sport of wrestling have a number of qualities that make them champions. The sport of wrestling has taught me discipline, work ethic, dedication, and character just to name a few. The transition to MMA for wrestlers is easy because we've already trained like this before and we know what it takes to be our best. I feel this is why wrestlers have success in the sport, but it also doesn't hurt to be able to dump people on their head whenever you want to.
Besides your wrestling pedigree though, you've really adapted to the submission game. This is something that many wrestlers struggle with. But, four of your seven wins have come back submission. Who are you training with to learn these skills and why do you think they've come so easy to you?
I'm learning under Marc Laimon at Cobra Kai in Las Vegas. He is an awesome coach and is always learning new techniques to the MMA game and passing them down to me. He has more MMA knowledge than anyone I have ever met. He breaks things down and makes them easily understood.
Besides your wrestling pedigree though, you've really adapted to the submission game. This is something that many wrestlers struggle with. But, 4 of your 7 wins have come back submission. Who are you training with to learn these skills and why do you think they've come so easy to you?
I've always been told that I had an unorthodox style of wrestling at the collegiate level. I went for a lot of high risk moves that consisted of grabbing the head (similar to a guillotine position) and was always looking to pin people. Some of the submissions I was learning felt like I had been doing them since I started wrestling when I was four. It just felt natural to me. But, learning how to stay out of armbars and triangles was very frustrating to say the least.
You are 4-1 in the WEC, with your only loss coming to current WEC Lightweight Champion Ben Henderson. On April 24th, you are fighting Anthony Njokuani in the first ever WEC Pay-Per-View, which is also your PPV debut. What did you think when they called you up to book you on this historic card for the company?
Just excitement. I'm always ready to fight and it's gonna be an awesome card to be a part of.
How has your training been for this fight? I know you've had an illness that has sidetracked things a little bit. How much does that hurt the training?
My training has been great and I can't wait to let it show when I get in the cage. My illness was just a little stomach virus that lasted two days, and I trained right through it. I actually just got sick the day you contacted me for the interview. That definitely doesn't play a role in the overall outcome of my camp. But, I got to say the training was a little tougher for those two days.
Covering the Big 12 here on FOXSportsSouthwest.com, we know we have a lot of wrestling fans that are being exposed to MMA for the first time because of wrestlers like you making an impact. For the fans getting to know the sport, what does the training camp process look like for Shane Roller as he prepares for a fight?
I work out three times a day on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I train two times a day on Tuesday and Thursday, and then one intense workout on Saturday morning. I do jiu-jitsu, boxing, kickboxing, Olympic-style weight lifting, more specific weight training and sprints with my conditioning coach. Oh, and lots of running.
Anthony Njokuani has won his last three fights in the WEC by knockout (All three KOs winning the "Knockout of the Night" bonus), including an impressive victory in his last fight against Chris Horodecki. Would the smart game-plan for you be to get this fight to the ground as soon as possible with your wrestling or do you think you might stand and exchange with Njokuani, testing out your striking?
I'm confident in my striking, but like all my fights I think my greatest advantage is on the ground. That being said, I'm not gonna run out there and try to force a takedown when it's not there. I'll stand and when the opportunity presents itself I'll take him down.
Many have talked about the winner of this fight being in line for the next WEC Lightweight title shot. If you defeat Njokuani, do you think you should face the winner of the Henderson/Donald Cerrone fight which is also featured on the same card?
After this win I definitely deserve the title shot. Not saying that's what will happen, but I deserve it. But the task at hand right now is Njokuani and he's tough and I'm not looking past this fight.
Speaking of which, who do you think will leave WEC 48 and ARCO Arena as the WEC Lightweight Champion on April 24th, Henderson or Cerrone?
They're both great fighters, but I think that Henderson's wrestling will win him the bout similar to last fight.
And while we are in the prediction business....how is the outcome of the Roller/Njokuani fight playing out in your head right now?
I'm not going to predict how, but I'm definitely going to end this fight early. That's what I aim to do every time I step into the cage.
How much longer do you want to fight in the WEC before testing the waters in the lightweight division in the UFC?
WEC is an awesome organization to fight for and I'm happy representing them. I'm still fairly young in my career and who knows what the future will bring. There were rumors at one time about a WEC/UFC merger, who knows if this will ever happen. I personally would like to see this happen as I think there are some great fighters in the WEC who would add excitement to the UFC. The UFC is the biggest fighting organization in the World and I'd love to be a part of that someday. As far as a certain timeframe, I couldn't tell you, preferably before I get too much older.
Shane Roller is represented by Team TakeDown Fighters and sponsored by Ecko MMA, Centruy Martial Arts and Fight2train.com. You can follow Shane Roller on Twitter: @shaneroller