Although drastic weight cuts are anything but uncommon in MMA, UFC welterweight Mike Rhodes may have taken things to a whole new level for his octagon debut in January.
Rhodes accepted a short-notice bout against George Sullivan at UFC on FOX 10 and had just 11 days to tip the scale at the 171-pound welterweight limit. Even though he initially tipped the scale at more 200 pounds when he agreed to the contest, Rhodes did everything possible to make the cut and was ultimately successful.
But it came at a cost.
“I cut 36 pounds in 11 days,” Rhodes, who returns Saturday at UFC Fight Night 43, told MMAjunkie. “It was very mentally draining. I had to pretend to everyone that I was OK. I was trying to tell myself that I was OK by telling other people that. I was trying to make myself believe it, but it’s something I hope I never have to do again, but you can’t say no to the UFC.”
Despite some pre-fight buzz, Rhodes ultimately suffered a decision loss and looked underwhelming in the process. With the knowledge of his hellacious weight cut now public, it’s more understandable why Rhodes didn’t look his best. Still, though, the idea of turning down the fight was not an option, he said, and he’d do it again.
“You have to do certain things to get where you want to get in life, and that was something I had to do,” Rhodes said. “It tested my mental capacity – my mental toughness – and I overcame it.
“My fight that night was with the scale, and when I made weight, that kind of hit me on fight night. I was excited, but my body didn’t react well to cutting that much weight. On fight night I looked like how I felt, which was horrible. I just hope I never have to cut that much weight again ever.”
Rhodes hesitated to reveal the methods used to drop such a substantial amount of weight in the 11-day timeframe, but he’s not hesitant to label the experience as one of the most trying of his life.
The 24-year-old went through something similar when he was fought under the RFA banner; however, the weight cut was not quite as extreme. He lost that fight as well, though, which has taught him short-notice bookings may not be the best choice for his career.
“I don’t like to make excuses or anything like that, but my two losses are short-notice fights,” Rhodes said. “I took a fight against Brandon Thatch, who is on a tear in the UFC, on eight days’ notice, and I cut 23 pounds for that. I had to fly to his home state of … Colorado and had to fight at elevation while cutting that much weight.
“It seems like short-notice fights with big weight cuts aren’t good to me. I could be one of those guys with a padded record, but those are the fights that have done the most for me even in the loss.”
While Rhodes fell flat in his UFC debut, he’s determined to show his full potential in his sophomore effort. The Duke Roufus-trained fighter is a teammate of UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis and said if spectators like the offensive-minded style of “Showtime,” they’re going to enjoy what they see at UFC Fight Night 43.
“Fans should expect a very aggressive fighter,” Rhodes said. “My style is usually to let my opponent fall on his own sword, but they can expect my movement to be very aggressive. I don’t get tired in fights. Cardio is a big part of my fight game and my strategy. Expect me to apply pressure and be very dynamic, powerful and technical with my striking. I can get in there and get dirty as well, so expect a complete fighter from every aspect of MMA. I’m going to put it together, and I’m going to put on a show.”
While Rhodes won’t be spending the final days before the fight cutting an absurd amount of weight, he will spend a considerable amount of time on a plane. UFC Fight Night 43 takes place at Vector Arena in Auckland, New Zealand, and marks the first time Rhodes has ever fought outside the U.S. The entire event streams on UFC Fight Pass with Rhodes (6-2 MMA, 0-1 UFC) scheduled to meet “The Ultimate Fighter: Smashes” winner Robert Whittaker (11-4 MMA, 2-2 UFC) in the main-card opener.
Traveling to another continent and another time zone forces its own series of challenges, but after pushing his body to its limit for his UFC debut, Rhodes is confident he can handle any situation put in front of him.
“Everything’s a new test, every obstacle is something that you’ve got to try to overcome,” he said. “I try to explain that to people that the fight is the fun part. All this stuff we have to go through to that point is actually the most difficult part. Cutting weight while having to travel so far, flying and trying to get my body used to the time. It’s just a part of the game.
“I’m going over there with all these things I have to conquer and also him as an opponent. It would be a huge feat for me in what I’m calling my actual first fight in the UFC where I’ve got time to prepare. I’ve never lost a fight in my fight career where I’ve got to prepare for an opponent. So I’m going to make sure I keep that streak alive.”
For more on UFC Fight Night 43, stay tuned to the UFC Rumors section of the site.