Duke Roufus Says Alan Belcher “Matches Up Really Well” With Anderson Silva, Discusses Evolution of Anthony Pettis and Ben Askren
By Kelsey Mowatt
There is no shortage of talented fighters training within the confines of Milwaukee’s Roufusport Martial Arts Academy these days, as from rising fighters like Erik Koch to established contenders like Alan Belcher, the gym continues to have a profound impact on the sport. Of course, one of the key figures behind the Academy’s success is renowned striking coach and founder Duke Roufus, who couldn’t be happier about the team’s ongoing accomplishments.
One of the team’s more recent causes for celebration was when the aforementioned Belcher returned from a year plus layoff due to injury, and re-established his status by quickly stopping middleweight Jason MacDonald at UFC Fight Night 25.
“I thought it was an A plus performance,” said Roufus about Belcher, who forced MacDonald to tap-out with a vicious series of strikes from the top position. “It was funny, because when he first showed up at his training camp, the fashion in which he won the fight was what he had told me he had been working on back home by himself. He said he had been really working on his top game and jiu-jitsu, and that he had discovered a new way of striking from that position…I was very impressed how easily he beat a fighter like MacDonald who has had some incredible wins working from his back.”
While the win extended Belcher’s win streak to three, much more importantly, it marked his return from a serious eye injury, which had prompted fears that the noted striker’s career could be over.
“He was definitely in a bad spot where we didn’t know if he would be able to return,” Roufus added about Belcher, who suffered a detached retina in 2010. “It was hard, one, you’re worried about the guy’s health, and number two, all the effort and sacrifice a guy like that’s put in, you want to see someone like him reach his full potential.”
Prior to his injury, Belcher had been working his way into the middleweight title shot mix with impressive wins over established fighters like Denis Kang, Patrick Cote and Ed Herman.
“He definitely has the potential,” said Roufus, while discussing Belcher’s status in the 185lb. division and the prospect of contending. “Stylistically I think he matches up really well with Anderson Silva. I think that so many guys are so scared of Silva, and rightfully so, as he’s a really dangerous striker. But what we do is train dangerous striking, so Alan would definitely be comfortable in that area of a fight, where a lot of people haven’t been. At the same time, you can’t overlook the other great fighters in the division.”
Another of Roufusport’s more successful UFC commodities is former WEC lightweight champ Anthony Pettis, who will look to rebound from his summer loss to Clay Guida on October 8th, against powerful slugger Jeremy Stephens.
“I think he’s very dangerous,” Roufus said about Stephens, who will battle Pettis at UFC 136. “He has a little bit more of a wilder style. He reminds me a lot of Patrick Cote actually; he has a granite chin and throws heaters constantly. He’s a guy that likes to fight and fight on his feet, so we’ve been preparing for that.”
Of course, while Pettis is also highly regarded for his striking abilities and will be forever known as the man who performed the flying cage kick against Ben Henderson, Roufus is quick to state that Pettis is much more than just a highlight reel kickboxer.
“Without a doubt because of his charisma, what he can do on his feet, and because he’s associated with me, people think that all we do is sit around and strike,” Roufus said. “Anthony trains with black belt, World Mundial champions day in and day out and wrestles with Ben Askren and his academy. He always says he wants to be the Latino GSP of the sport and he wants to be great at everything. I think this camp has seen the biggest evolution in his skills.”
In Askren, Roufusport added a former NCAA wrestling champion and former Olympian, who evidently has meshed well with the Milwaukee based team.
“He’s just incredible to coach,” said Roufus. “He’ll ask me an educated question about striking every day. He is obsessed with it…He is fitting in incredibly because we’re a bit of a think tank here so we try to help out each other.”
“What he’s also brought to our team is his incredible wrestling knowledge,” Roufus added. “Two, we’re also teamed up with his academy and he’s just been an incredible teammate.”
Askren has not only gone 8-0 since he transitioned into professional MMA, but the 27 year-old fighter is the reigning Bellator Welterweight Champion. According to Roufus, however, Askren’s aspirations go beyond the growing promotion.
“Ben hasn’t hid the fact that he wants to fight in the UFC,” Roufus said. “He wants to do his job for Bellator and it’s a great organization, but we all know that the true world champion of mixed-martial-arts is the UFC champion…He’ll get there. I’ve never seen someone pick stuff up as fast as he does.”
Photo credit: James Robertson