I can't help but feel for George Roop. The constant underdog, Roop has been forced to overcome the odds time after time. While his spectacular headkick KO of 'Korean Zombie' Chan Sung Jung may have made the non-believers pump the breaks for a moment, it doesn't seem Roop has many fans picking him to take out No. 1 contender Mark Hominick. It's hard to blame them. On top of fighting a top notch opponent, Hominick is also Roop's current teammate and training partner.
"They know my tendencies but I know theirs. We're not super close or anything. It's not going to be a distraction getting in there and knocking him around and smashing his face in. I have no problem with that. Afterward we'll be great friends but we have to put that aside and get the job done. We're going to be on a great fight for the U.S. troops and the UFC fans."
It's one thing to have a training partner on the other side of the cage but it's another thing entirely to have your head trainer game planning against you. The man who may know George Roop as a fighter better than anyone on this planet is currently formulating a plan to destroy him. What's that like? I don't have Floyd Mayweather Jr.'s phone number.
"It doesn't bother me at all. Not one bit. I understand the relationship that Mark and Shawn have. They're like brothers, almost even a father and son type of relationship. I've only worked with Shawn for a few years so I completely respect that. I've learned a lot from Shawn Tompkins and I'm going to apply that to my fighting when I smash Hominick."
"I don't think its going to be an issue in the mental state. It's kind of a good thing and a bad thing. We each know what we bring to the table. We know each others strengths and weaknesses but when you get in there it's a whole other ball game. It's a completely different person you're fighting from when you saw him in the training room. I think it's going to make for an exciting fight. We're both going to go in there and get the job done."
Shawn Tompkins' fighters almost always look very similar. With a very traditional Dutch kickboxing style passed on from Bas Rutten, you can always count on seeing a very uniform style from the Tompkins disciples. But does that work in the favor of the gym? Or is it too homogeneous? Does it help your progression if all of your training partners present a similar look?
"I've always believed it's important to get as many different looks as possible. I think the reason you see a lot of fighters out of Tompkins look like us is because of our environment, our structure. With that being said, it works. It's been a very successful style. I almost consider myself a 'gym slut.' I try to get as many different looks as possible and train with a lot of different people. I try to do as many different camps as I can. I'm a part of Team Tompkins and I'll go back after this fight but it's nice to add to your game."
Hominick's seniority with their Team Tompkins meant Roop had to start looking for a temporary landing spot.
"I've been training at Apex Mixed Martial Arts in Tucson AZ and Boxing Inc. I'm working with my buddy Ed West who has been with me since the very beginning of my career. He was with me about a year before the 'Ultimate Fighter' show. I'm also working with Joey Rivera, Nate Vorel and Nick Piedmont over at Apex. I've also been able to add a lot of strength and conditioning to my camp by working out at the University Medical Center."
Roop fought one of my former friends and trainers — Dave Kaplan. Dave drinks on occasion and does crazy things. Any good Kaplan stories from the time they shared on the eighth season of 'The Ultimate Fighter?'
"I've got a lot of crazy Kaplan stories. I think everyone does. Being in the house with Kaplan was very entertaining. He's crazy. Let me just clear one thing up — he WAS knocked out on the show. He let a 200 plus pound man hit him in the face. Everyone is human. Anyone can be knocked out. That was great. He's a character. I've seen him drunk outside the house. I've seen him running drunk down hotel hallways, naked, stealing peoples' food. He's fun."
"After I fought him in the UFC I could see how much he improved after training with Shawn Tompkins. I decided to take a page out of his book and start training with them."
Roop has also gone through some crazy weight swings over the last few years. He started at 145, went up to 155 for a stint in the UFC, back to featherweight, down to 135 for one fight and is now back at 145 pounds. That is a lot of trauma to put a body through. I stick to the double down. My arteries are so hard.
"I started out being a 145 pound fighter. That was my weight class fighting for the Rage in the Cage promotion. I got the opportunity to go on the 'Ultimate Fighter' and it didn't matter if I had been a middleweight, I would have gone in there and fought. You have to take those opportunities and run with them. This sport has almost become professional weight cutting. I flirted with 135 and it was a terrible idea. It's something I'll never do again the rest of my life. It was the hardest thing I've ever done. Now I'm back at 145 which is a breezy cut. My weight actually fluctuates between about 165 and 155. I'm down at the end of my camp right now and I'm at 154 pounds today."
"I feel like I'm bigger, stronger and faster. I want to dominate this division. I'm 6'1 and my height is a huge asset for me to have. I can implement my reach on anyone. It's not going to be any kind of secret in a fight. Everyone knows I have a great reach and I'm going to establish it."
Roop has been pretty fortunate with his recent draw of fighters. Leonard Garcia and Chan Sung Jung are both tride and true brawlers, but what if Hominick comes out looking to show off his ground game?
"I have a very well rounded game. I work with Robert Drysdale a lot and have a great jiu jitsu game. If you saw my fight with Leonard Garcia you can see I have takedowns. I think this will be more of a striking match because of our styles. I'd say it'll be a great stand-up war."
Earlier this week UFC president Dana White decreed that Mark Hominick would get the next shot at UFC Featherweight Champion Jose Aldo if he can make it past Roop. Unfortunately a similar condition wasn't made for George.
"Nothing is for sure but who else are they going to give it to? I'm going to beat the No.1 contender. I feel like it's kind of a kick in the balls when Dana White came out and made that announcement a week and a half before the fight. Hominick gets it if he wins, but if he loses it's back to the drawing board? They're not going to have any other choice but to give it to me after the performance I plan on putting on. I plan on changing their minds; it wouldn't be the first time any fighter did. But if they don't give me the shot? Hey, Dana White is the boss. I'll be more than happy to destroy my next opponent and keep doing it until they deem I deserve a shot."
Are you happy to be back in the UFC?
"Oh man. I'm very excited to be back in the UFC. Very excited to fight in front of the troops. They'll be an unbelievable crowd. It feels good to finally be fighting in my weight class and for the lighter guys to get the recognition they deserve. I'm waiting to see a few more high caliber lightweights drop; try to make the transition down to 145. I think some guys are going to have trouble with the speed. That was my problem fighting at 135 with Eddie Wineland. It should be interesting over the next year. I think you'll see some more guys move down in weight."
"I just want to give a shout out to KO reps, all my training partners at Apex MMA and Boxing Inc. who stuck with me through the holidays and my wonderful family."
George Roop takes on Mark Hominick at UFC: Fight For The Troops 2 on Jan. 22 at Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas.