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MMA For Real Exclusive Interview with Rodney Wallace

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27 year old Rodney Wallace is a fighter that MMA fans may one day see competing at the highest level. The 5'9" light heavyweight fighter based out of Salisbury is quickly making a nice reputation for himself while also continuing to raise the profile of one of the better fight teams in the state, Team Roc. In addition to being a talented fighter, Wallace is also owner of possibly the best nicknames in all of combat sports: "Sho Nuff The Master." It's easy to see why someone might give the guy a nickname like that. Wallace was a three time state wrestling champion at Ehrhardt High School in his hometown of Bamberg, South Carolina. But it was football that Rodney decided to pursue and eventually wound up in Salisbury, North Carolina where he played collegiately at Catawba College, a Division II school.  In early 2008 he began competing in mixed martial arts and has compiled a 6-0 professional record. He also holds a 4-1 professional boxing record. Now competing for M-1 Global, Wallace is a guy that fight fans across the Carolinas will want to keep an eye on. I recently caught up with him to find out more about this promising young light heavyweight fighter:

Rich Wyatt: How did you get into training for mixed martial arts?

Rodney Wallace: Well, I started out having a background in wrestling. Eventually I saw MMA on TV and was interested immediately and talked to some folks about how to get into it. First, I knew that I needed to join a school. I found Snake's (trainer Hallie Hair at Team Roc) school in Harrisburg, affiliated with Royce Gracie, and started learning jiu-jitsu. I also got into boxing. I'd already won some Toughman competitions but also started training up in Greensboro. I liked boxing and had some professional fights but ultimately decided to get back to focusing on jiu-jitsu again. I made a contact with a group from Winston-Salem that put on the show in Concord last year and the ball got rolling as far as opportunities to get some pro MMA fights.

Rich Wyatt: Tell us a little about the team that you're training with now. Who are your trainers and sparring partners?

Rodney Wallace: I train with Hallie "Snake" Hair and Team Roc in Harrisburg still. Most of the guys that I train with regularly are amateur fighters. I usually train at a different time than when they have classes. I train in the afternoon and it's usually just me and some other guys that compete. We've recently also had some guys come in from a boxing background and train with us. It's a good mix at our school with a bunch of guys that just learn from each other. I've got a pretty good boxing and wrestling background but my jiu-jitsu needed work. Hallie and some of the other instructors have really worked with me recently and I'm a lot more comfortable with my jiu-jitsu now. Now I'm comfortable on my back or anywhere on the ground. We believe that working the transitions, though, is the most important part of MMA. It's not enough to work just one specific area of fighting: ground, boxing, etc... You've got to be able to seamlessly switch from one to the other. That's what makes a fighter dangerous.

Rich Wyatt: It sounds like that you devote a lot of time to working on improving your jiu-jistu skills. How would you describe your fighting style?

Rodney Wallace: Yeah, jiu-jitsu is what I'm working the hardest to improve. I don't look at myself as having a specific style. MMA is a chess match. I like being able to do everything. I adapt my gameplan to the person that I'm fighting. I'll feel an opponent out in a fight. I'll read my opponent and adapt accordingly: my emphasis is on in-fight strategy, not pre-fight strategy. I feel comfortable standing in the pocket with a guy and boxing, against the cage in the clinch, on the mat or wherever, man. I've seen pro boxers that get in this game and lose, I've seen accomplished wrestlers that lose and I've seen good jiu-jitsu guys lose. It's the ability to transition from one area to another that wins fights. Our whole team works on that.

Rich Wyatt: What is your typical training week like?

Rodney Wallace: Mostly we come in and stick to a routine. Monday, Wednesday and Friday we use the 1st hour to work standup and after that grappling and wrestling. Leading up to a fight it's a little more structured, making sure that I'm going the amount of rounds I need to go and switching sparring partners more. I'm training more than coaching, too, closer to fight time.

Rich Wyatt: Your most recent fight was in Kansas on a M-1 Global card. How did you get hooked up with M-1?

Rodney Wallace: A lot of times your involved in fights and you get to meet people that want you to fight on other cards. My first fight was in Miami and the guy that was the promoter there eventually ended up affiliated with the M-1 folks and was helping them put together teams for their international tournament. He asked me if I wanted to join Team USA East. I flew over to Spain and fought over there for my second fight. The guy I fought was 15-7. So there I am fighting a guy who was a 22 fight veteran and it's only my 2nd fight. I got the win and it was a cool experience, though. Most recently I was supposed to fight in Aruba but it was canceled so I was able to get on the M-1 event out in Kansas.

 Rich Wyatt: In that last fight you won a decision against a 6'4" 9-0 fighter from Finland (Marcus Vanttinen).Tell us a little about how that fight went.

Rodney Wallace: I'd seen some film on him online before I went out there. I like to see how guys are out there and you can see their mindset as far as whether or not they want to do standing, grappling, etc.... I had a good sense of what his preferred fighting style was. I saw some things in the film that I could take advantage of, especially standing. I mostly wanted to stay close because of his height advantage and ranginess. His takedown defense was strong so I give him credit for that. I'm not stubborn, though. I'm not going to waste tons of energy on something that isn't there. I'm going to take what someone gives me. In that fight I was able to beat him up inside and was able to take him down after he tried some knees.

Rich Wyatt: You've been fighting for about a year and a half now. What's next for you?

Rodney Wallace: I'm going to keep rolling. I try to keep fights scheduled and I've got a couple possibilities right now. I'm going to keep moving up the ladder. The more fights I have the more I have the leverage to call somebody out.

Rich Wyatt: Well, you're certainly off to great start having won your first six fights and competing on shows like M-1. Who has been the toughest opponent that you have faced thus far?

Rodney Wallace: I'd say the last fight against Vanttinen. All of my fights have went by fairly smooth. I haven't lost a round yet so I feel like I've got a good idea of what the judges are looking for. I'm a pretty cerebral fighter. I try to learn in my fights and try to use the things that I've worked on in practice, not just try to go in and rush it immediately. I could tell that some of my previous opponents didn't have much of a gameplan but I could tell that my last opponent did come in with a good one.

Rich Wyatt: What are your long-term goals in this sport?

Rodney Wallace: Well, obviously I want to do what I can to make it to the top. It's a young sport still, 15-20 years old, and it's just recently gotten past the one-dimensional stage. Now the transitions have come into play in the game and I want to be one of the pioneers in this new phase. I want fans to say "I like his style, how he fights."

Rich Wyatt: Who is the fighter that you enjoy watching the most?

Rodney Wallace: I'd say Georges St. Pierre. That's a fighter that transitions from one part of the game to another effortlessly. He doesn't even have that much of a wrestling background but he's also outwrestling guys all the time. He's definitely one of my favorites to watch.

Rich Wyatt: MMA has really begun to catch on in the state of North Carolina since it was recently legalized. Are there any other North Carolina based fighters that you would recommend that our readers be on the lookout for?

Rodney Wallace: I really don't follow the amateur scene around here that much but as far as Team Roc goes, I know we're always producing good fighters. I've been to other schools and I've seen how they train and I know that we're doing the right things to get better. We train technique the right way: boxing, wrestling and everything. The guys on our team are well trained and I've got no doubt that you'll see even more guys from Team Roc making a name for themselves.

       Rich Wyatt: Thanks for taking the time to talk with MMA For Real.

Rodney Wallace: No problem, thank you. I'd also like to say thanks to everybody at Team Roc and also to Scrap Fightwear, my sponsor.

MMA For Real thanks Rodney Wallace for taking the time to speak with us and we wish him the best in his upcoming fights.