Year of the Comeback-An interview with lightweight prospect Jordan Rinaldi
The life of an unbeaten fighter on the local mixed martial arts scene can be a both a blessing and a curse. North Carolina's Jordan Rinaldi (4-0) has felt both edges of that sword over the past 12 months. The lightweight prospect out the top gym in the state, Team ROC, gained a reputation has a hardnosed wrestler with ever improving hands on the amateur circuit.
Rinaldi scored a career defining win just four fights into his pro career after a first round deconstruction of current Ultimate Fighter 14 cast member Dennis Bermudez (7-2). A fight that took place on November 20, 2010, Rinaldi pounded and submitted Bermudez in a brief two minute span. Since the victory Rinaldi has battled through a major knee surgery, a no call from TUF 14 producers and a string of canceled bouts.
ULTMMA.com spoke with Rinaldi prior to a recent practice and days after his latest scheduled fight was scrapped. Rinaldi talks about injuries, local MMA events and breaks down his fight with Bermudez.
ULTMMA.com: How did you get started in MMA?
Jordan Rinaldi: I wrestled in high school than I guy in college who worked with me started doing jiu-jitsu, so that's how I got into the grappling than the fighting.
ULTMMA: Describe your first MMA fight.
Rinaldi: I think it was November of 08 or 09 was my first fight. I forgot who it was against, Tommy something? I was training really hard and it was like the most nerve racking thing you could do, step in a cage with someone and try to take their head off. I was really nervous going in and training for it was brutal because I hadn't trained for anything like that since wrestling and that it had been five years.
When I stepped into the cage for the first time I was super nervous but it was a short quick fight so it wasn't too bad.
ULTMMA: What made you want to take that next step from the grappling mats into the cage?
Rinaldi: The competition in MMA is more diverse I guess. There is more of a macho man or pride thing that got me into it at first. Then you have to realize that you have to be more humble than you would think.
ULTMMA: Do you recall some of those humble moments when you first began training MMA?
Rinaldi: The first day I walked into the gym at Team ROC I went in there and they threw me in with a wrestler, we weren't in the cage at the time but near a wall, and I broke something in my elbow hitting it against the wall. Than I got choked out like 30 times by a guy who was about 15 or 20 pounds lighter than me.
The one fight I lost as an amateur was the most frustrating fight I ever had. I basically gotten taken down and held down the whole time. That was when I realized that I had to get my conditioning up and get my wrestling even better than it was. You get humbled in every fight. You always come out thinking I can do better that this or I'm not good enough at that.
ULTMMA: For people who have only seen your fights on YouTube, who in the UFC do you most compare your fighting style to?
Rinaldi: I compare myself to Evan Dunham. Our styles are very similar. He's more of the new breed of fighter where they don't have just one or the other but they are just very athletic and is a person who's picked up on everything very quickly.
ULTMMA: So have you watched a lot of Evan Dunham's fights?
Rinaldi: Yeah but I really try to work more like (Georges) St. Pierre. The fact he is so militant in what he does and he's a perfectionist at everything he does. Georges St. Pierre's striking is very underrated but he is very good at it. He's very good on the ground to and that's definitely who I more style myself after.
ULTMMA: If someone gave you $55 dollars and said you could watch one fighter on pay per view who would you lay your money on?
Rinaldi: Oh, Georges St. Pierre every day, any day
ULTMMA: Have you found it difficult to find fights on a local level sometimes because you're unbeaten and come from a good camp?
Rinaldi: It's not only just the local level but my brother is trying to find me fights constantly. The problem with it is, I just had a fight cancelled on me, and that really upset me. The problem is I'm not a draw anywhere but Charlotte yet. I have fans here in Charlotte because there are family and friends that know me.
If I get shipped out to fight anywhere else I don't pull in any local fans so they don't make money off me. Than I'm winning the fight and if they bring me in to fight someone who is their top dog then it's going to make them look bad when I go in there and mop them up. It's always difficult for me to get fights in general.
ULTMMA: What happened to your fight that was scheduled for November 5th?
Rinaldi: I got a call from the promoters saying that their finical investors backed out on them, so they couldn't afford to do the show right now. A week and half before the event they had to cancel it which was horrible.
ULTMMA: Do you think you will get a fight in before the end of the year?
Rinaldi: I'm trying to get a fight as soon as possible. I'm ready right now to fight and I would like to get in at least two fights before the end of the year. I haven't fought in forever and I need to get fights in.
ULTMMA: You had four fights in 2010 but none so far in 2011, what happened with your work rate this year?
Rinaldi: What happened was in November I had that big win versus over Dennis Bermudez and then a week or two later I found out about the Ultimate Fighter tryouts. I was like alright I'm going to try out for this and I didn't want to get injured or anything so I didn't take any fights. I waited for the Ultimate Fighter tryouts and I didn't make it.
After that I was doing NAGA and I tore my knee up pretty good, so that had me sidelined for three to four months.
ULTMMA: What was the injury?
Rinaldi: I tore my LCL and my PCL on my left knee, so I had to have some pretty hefty surgery
ULTMMA: What was it like training after the injury?
Rinaldi: I was a little tentative but I was way ahead of schedule. I was supposed to be out six to nine months because it was two ligaments. I was pretty tentative because I cut the recovery time in half and I was on the mat within three months. By the four month mark I was going as hard a possible.
ULTMMA: What is it like seeing Dennis Bermudez on TUF 14 when you submitted him in the first round?
Rinaldi: It doesn't bother me that much. It's a little frustrating to see that, but we both have the same agenda and we're trying to make a living doing this. He works hard, I beat him but he has the good personality for it and that's fine with me. Honestly I just hoping he does the best he can so it makes me look better.
If he wins the whole show than I appreciate the good mark on my record.
ULTMMA: Can you breakdown that fight and describe the finish of the bout.
Rinaldi: I was already watching his fights versus Drew Fickett and Shannon Gugerty constantly. What he liked to do is whenever he got tagged he looked for that takedown. I wanted to keep it standing or take him down.
I came out with a push kick than I came with a jab-cross and that cross hit him pretty good so I knew right off the bat that he was going to go for the takedown. I saw him change levels than I hit him with a feint jab than an uppercut. That uppercut staggered him than I swarmed on him for a minute but I got caught with a pretty nice short right hand and I had to recover from that.
I really didn't have the choke all the way under the chin but I just squeezed real hard I knew it would pop his skull or he would tap. I knew he was going to tap.
ULTMMA: What is your ideal 2012 as far as who you fight and how many times you fight?
Rinaldi: 2012, I'd like to start out fast and maybe fight every six weeks but that is a very ideal world. I'd like to have three to four fights by the end of March. Than hopefully by then I'll be getting calls from bigger promotions like Bellator, UFC and Strikeforce if they are still around.
There is no one in the local scene I really want to fight. I just want to fight guys with good records, whoever will give me a good challenge and put me over in my career. I don't want to fight any bums just to inflate my record and look good.
ULTMMA: What is the Team ROC gym like and how does your training schedule work?
Rinaldi: It is located in Charlotte, North Carolina and my main training partner is Rodney Wallace. He is a UFC veteran and is at 185 right now. My main trainer is Hallie Hair he is a brown belt under Royce Gracie.
I train two or three times a day depending on what day it is. Normally it's lifting in the morning and then 11-1 I'm usually training after that its 6-9 I'm usually training. I do a mixture of Gi jiu-jitsu, Muay Thai and then No-gi plus wrestling all together.
ULTMMA: Any sponsors or people you need to thank?
Rinaldi: Jesus is the first the one, my lord and savior Jesus. I have one sponsor called Shock Doctor. My twitter is @JordanRinaldi and my Facebook is the same.