Making his UFC debut, the former WEC standout Shane Roller was able to cement himself in the minds of UFC fans everywhere by knocking out Thiago Tavares at UFC Live on Versus: Sanchez vs Kampmann. Down on the judges scorecards, Roller unleashed a vicious straight right on Tavares, ending the fight and stealing the $40,000 knockout of the night honor.
MMANUTS.COM’s James Cahilellis was able to sit with Roller before his fight and talk about his management team, his opponent, and the difficulties between being a UFC fighter and a dad.
James Cahilellis: I’m on the phone with WEC standout Shane Roller. Shane has an overall record of 9 and 3 and will be making his UFC debut this Thursday at UFC Live: Sanchez vs Kampmann. Shane, thanks for speaking with us.
Shane Roller: No problem, thanks for having me guys.
James Cahilellis: Lets start by asking you a question about your team, Team Takedown. I’ve been hearing a lot about Team Takedown in the last several months and it seems like you guys are gathering an elite group of fighters.
Shane Roller: Yes. We have Johnny Hendricks, Jake Rosholt, and just recently signed Jake’s younger brother Jared Rosholt who was a NCAA runner up last year for Oklahoma State Wrestling. He’s making the transition over. He’s pretty good, a big heavyweight, about 265 pounds. He’s looking pretty good.
James Cahilellis: Looks like you guys are definitely getting the wrestling aspect taken care of.
Shane Roller: Yeah, that’s kinda the whole basis behind the management group. They wanted to get some college wrestlers that can dictate where the fight goes. Their whole game plan was if something was happening and we couldn’t get the better of someone on our feet, that we can use our wrestling to get it on the ground. We have a great jiu jitsu coach in Mark Laimon, whose moved down from Vegas. We were out there with him for 2 or 3 years, now we’re all down in the Dallas area. He’s teaching us [jiu jitsu] to go along with our wrestling, now we got some good submissions.
James Cahilellis: That’s good. Definitely submissions on your end. 9 and 3 overall record but 6 of the 9 from submissions. Definitely good with the rear naked and the guillotine.
Shane Roller: Yeah. The jiu jitsu kinda plays well with how my wrestling style was. I like wrapping the head a lot in wrestling and kinda the same thing in jiu jitsu and fighting. I like to get peoples backs. That’s how I wrestled in college too. I roped my legs a lot so it just translates well with the rear naked choke and also just wrapping the head for a guillotine. It feels pretty natural to me.
James Cahilellis: Now this Thursday you’ll be fighting a very tough UFC veteran in Thiago Tavaras. On paper, the fight looks like it’s going to be a back and forth, grind ’em out ground war, with you being very good at wrestling and Tavaras being very good in BJJ. How did you prepare for a guy like Tavaras and is that where you see the fight heading?
Shane Roller: I definitely think it’s going to see the ground at some point. I’m not necessarily saying that in the first 10 seconds of the fight, someone’s going to try and shoot and take it to the ground. I think we’re both getting better. I watched a lot of his fights, and in his later fights he stands with people. He’s not scared to stand as well as I’m not. I can stand with people, and when the opportunity presents itself, then I will look for the takedown and get it to the ground. But I definitely think my strong-suit is on the ground, and his strong-suit’s on the ground, so I know it’s going to end there at some point.
James Cahilellis: You are coming into this fight as a relative unknown to casual UFC fans. I mean…in a sense you shouldn’t be. In the WEC you were 6-2 with your only two losses coming from arguably the number 1 & 2 in lightweight division; Ben Henderson and Anthony Pettis. In many eyes, and in my eyes, you were at the top of the heap coming into the merger. Is that where you see yourself?
Shane Roller: You know, I don’t look into that stuff very much. I just train and prepare myself [and do] whatever I need to do to prepare myself for the fight and get after it. I think my college wrestling background has helped me with that. Stay focused, not really worried about who I’m fighting or what tournament it’s in or whatever. I’m out there to prove a point and to make a statement. I’m definitely looking forward to fighting for the UFC. That’s one of my goals when I started fighting was to be the best fighter at 155 and I think that the UFC has the best fighters. So it’s definitely a step closer to my goals and I’m really looking forward to fighting for them.
James Cahilellis: I want touch on kind of a sensitive subject. One of your fights I did watch was when you fought Anthony Pettis. It was a real heartbreaking loss, and it seemed like you sorta gassed at the end of the fight. I only mention this because out of Thiago’s 9 UFC fights, 6 of them went to a decision. Is conditioning something your worried about in this fight?
Shane Roller: You know, I’ve always felt fine. I’ve gone to decisions before or late in the third rounds and I’ve felt fine. That was one of those nights [in which] I just had an off night. 10 seconds into the fight I felt tired. I don’t know what went wrong. I had my diet a little messed up, I tweaked it around and I was feeling really good in my last fight, it ended in the first round… I felt different, I could tell when the fight started… I always had a good work ethic. I work hard and prepare myself right. I think if your body don’t have the fuel it needs to burn then it kinda shuts down. I think that might have been what happened that night. Not making any excuses, but I’m trying to put a finger on something on why I felt that way. I think Pettis is a great fighter and a tough guy, but that night I just felt off.
James Cahilellis: Kinda following up on that question, not looking past Tavaras at all, but further in your UFC career, would you like to have a redemption fight with either Pettis or Henderson, or is there someone else your eying in the UFC?
Shane Roller: The only guy that I’m eying at is the guy with the belt and that’s what I’m working to get to… I don’t have any grudges against anybody as far as wanting to fight them or suggesting to fight someone else. As far as Pettis or Henderson, if they match me up with them great, it would be nice to avenge a loss, but I’m not calling them out or anything. I just got to fight whoever they put in front of me and keep getting “W’s” and keep get closer to getting a chance to go after that title shot.
James Cahilellis: One subject that I do want to get into is the fact that your married with 2 children. How do balance being a UFC fighter and a Dad? Like, do they get nervous for you when you fight, or do you even let your kids watch your fights?
Shane Roller: As far as my wife, she gets pretty nervous, but not as bad as some of my friends wives. She’s watched me compete since I was little in wrestling. Obviously it’s a little different but I think it’s helped her since she’s been around wrestling her whole life, she kinda knows what I go through. She don’t get to bad. My kids, I don’t let them watch my fight live, I usually have it recorded. They’ll be at home with a babysitter or my parents, and if it’s not bloody or something like that, then I’ll definitely let them watch it, and they enjoy watching it.
James Cahilellis: Understandable. That’s just one thing I’ve always wondered about. How do kids view what Dad does for a living and if a fighter would let their kids watch them train?
Shane Roller: I think it probably depends on the kid. I think my boy would be fine watching it. He goes and watches me train all the time. He sees me spar all the time and he don’t get scared. Like if I am going with someone who is beating me up, say Johnny [Hendricks] is getting the better of me in practice, he is right on the side. He’s not scared for me or worried about what happened, so I think he would take it fine if he did see [one of my fights live].
James Cahilellis: How old is your son, if you don’t mind me asking?
Shane Roller: He just turned 6.
James Cahilellis: Are you thinking of him definitely getting into wrestling or even brazilian jiu jitsu?
Shane Roller: Yeah, he already started wrestling. He’s got a state tournament this weekend actually and he’s been doing pretty good. He’s placing in all his tournaments, he got second at regionals last weekend. He’s going to state so he’s pretty pumped for it. Jiu jitsu wise…I take him to the gym all the time. He rolls around and does some things but I haven’t had him compete or anything like that yet.
James Cahilellis: Gotcha. Well, before I let you go Shane, is there anybody you want to give a shout out to, anybody you want to thank?
Shane Roller: Yeah. I’d like to thank my management company, Team Takedown. You can visit the website and follow us four fighters, Johnny Hendricks, myself, Jake Rosholt and Jared Rosholt. The website is www.ttdmma.com . And also I want to say thanks to Ecko. There a great sponsor for me, they always sponsor me in all my fights. I appreciate them, and check them out. They always have good deals and have a new MMA line going on.
James Cahilellis: Thanks again Shane.
Shane Roller: I appreciate it James. Take care.