“Do you want to be a f****** fighter?”
This classic quote from Dana White instilled a movement in thousands to venture into the world of mixed martial arts and try to one day reach the holy grail of MMA, the UFC.
The feeling is no different for Roger Bontrager. A 15-3 amateur and current Michigan Fight League Champion, Bontrager will be making his professional debut this Saturday at King Of The Cage against Jason Fisher, the last man to hand him a defeat.
“I’ve been wanting this fight since I lost (to him). I feel that the pressure is on him to come and show that he is better than me. I feel a lot less pressure then any of my other fights, actually. I’m very confident that my training and my conditioning has been top notch. I feel like I can stand in there and bang and go wherever it needs to go.”
It’s been a long journey for Bontrager to get to where he is today. A wrestling standout from Brown City High School and graduate from the University of Northwestern Ohio, Bontrager never felt satisfied with the job he had, often switching career paths and picking up odd jobs before he came across a banner from a local MMA promotion. After a call to the promoter, Bontrager found himself penciled in for his first amateur fight.
With the help from his brother Alan, Bontrager purchased jiu jitsu videos and started training in his home. The idea seemed to work as he needed only 32 seconds to finish off his first opponent with a rear naked choke.
“(Winning my first fight) felt like Christmas. It was like waking up on Christmas as a kid and knowing what you wanted was under the tree.”
Four years later, Bontrager still feels the same rush as he did in his first fight. Now the current Michigan Fight League Lightweight Champion has strung up 4 straight title defenses and trains at Dragon MMA in Lapeer MI.
“My head coach at Dragon MMA is Dan Cousineau. Without Dan, I wouldn’t be half the fighter I am. Mark Henshaw has been really essential to my strength and conditioning, especially my conditioning. James Newport, Kurt, and Brice Starr have been helping out with my sparring. All the guys at Dragon MMA has been very very good. Calem WIllis is awesome. He has been doing a lot of hard sparring and jiu jitsu with me. He’s been very instrumental in my training.”
Bontrager also believes that along with a great camp a fighter needs to be surrounded by great people and support. He finds his support through his hometown, his brother, and most importantly, through the woman he plans on spending the rest of his life with.
“My girlfriend and I have been together a little over 4 years. Her and I are soul-mates. She’s really supportive and has been a driving force for me. She’s my number one fan right along with my brother. She’s always telling me ‘Honey you can do it’ and on days that I don’t feel like training she’ll ask ‘Don’t you want to be the very best you can be? Be in the UFC? Get your ass out of bed and go to train.’ …She’s my driving force and my rock.”
Come this Saturday, Bontrager will not only have the support of a small army in the stands as he fights to make a name for himself, but he also has the opportunity to meet one of his heroes, Dan Severn. “The Beast” has been making a name for himself and establishing a hall of fame resume in MMA since 1994, and will be fighting his 126th professional fight. And as one man fights what seems to be the last remaining fights of a storied career, another man looks to begin his mark in the world of MMA.