george-roop-11.jpgGeorge Roop freely admits he’s not the most talented guy in the UFC’s bantamweight division, but he’s confident he’s the hardest worker. He may also be the most durable.

“If you asked me who the winner of Season 8 of ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ was, I’m going to tell you it’s George Roop because I’m the only one left in the UFC,” Roop told MMAjunkie.com Radio (www.mmajunkie.com/radio).

Although the 31-year-old Roop is leaving out the heavier members of the cast, who competed in the light-heavyweight division and still are represented in the octagon, he is the only lightweight competitor left from the season.

Of course, he long ago vacated the 155-pound class in which he then competed, cutting first to featherweight and then to the bantamweight class, where his physical gifts are the most apparent.

Gaunt at 135 pounds, Roop returned to featherweight and went 2-3-1 in the division before deciding to make the precipitous drop to bantamweight. In his most recent appearance at UFC 158, he likely saved his job with a decision win over Rueben Duran, which followed back-to-back losses.

At 6-1, Roop (13-9-1 MMA, 3-5 UFC) is three inches short of a footlong height advantage over his next opponent, ex-WEC champ Brian Bowles (10-2 MMA, 2-1 UFC), whom he meets on the Facebook-streamed preliminary card of UFC 160 on Saturday at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.

But Roop would like to do more than just beat Bowles. He’d like to go on a run in the division and cement his status as a top 10 bantamweight.

“I feel I’m a little bit under-appreciated sometimes,” he said. “And not just under-appreciated; I don’t get the respect that I deserve.

“Respect shouldn’t just be given to you. You should go out and earn it, and on Saturday night, I’m going to earn my respect. I’m going to open up a lot of eyes and show that I belong in the top 10 of the bantamweight division.”

It’s not an all-or-nothing goal. Roop said he could easily go back to the working world as a pharmacy tech, and his wife makes a handsome living in the pharmaceutical industry. He’s also been a meticulous saver, putting away money earned from his fight purses instead of splurging. He said he’d be fine if UFC matchmakers told him to hang up his gloves. But he still feels he has years left to accomplish more.

“I’ve been very inconsistent under the Zuffa banner,” he said. “I’d like to earn some consistent wins.”

Oddsmakers have him as a solid underdog in the matchup with Bowles, who’s returning from a year-plus layoff, but Roop said that’s nothing new. He’s used to fighting to prove others wrong.

“Let’s face it: I think the only fight under the Zuffa banner that I’ve had an advantage is my last fight,” Roop said.

If he’s bet on himself, that means an extra bonus if he pulls off the upset. It would also be another testament to his staying power.

“[Bowles is] going to have a terrible time managing my distance,” Roop said. “I’m better in the wrestling department. I can decide where this fight goes. I’m better on the ground than he is. And I definitely have a bigger heart, although I don’t believe that’s what wins fights. I believe hard work in the gym wins fights.

“I might not be the most talented guy out there, but my work ethic has kept me where I am.”

For the latest on UFC 160, stay tuned to the UFC Rumors section of the site.

MMAjunkie.com Radio broadcasts Monday-Friday at noon ET (9 a.m. PT) live from Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino’s Race & Sports Book. The show is hosted by “Gorgeous” George Garcia, MMAjunkie.com lead staff reporter John Morgan and producer Brian “Goze” Garcia. For more information or to download past episodes, go to www.mmajunkie.com/radio.

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