When Ricco Rodriguez finally got on the scales at last night’s weigh-in, he answered a lot of questions without ever saying a word. For most fighters, the weigh-in is pretty routine. But with Ricco, who has struggled with fluctuating weight gain, you could almost hear the collective sigh of relief from the crowd when they saw what appeared to be a well-conditioned version of the former UFC champ.
Simply put, Ricco looked strong, like a fighter who’s actually been training full-time. Renzo Gracie told me afterwards that Ricco had been training for a different fight that fell through, so it was a no-brainer when he found out that Tom Sauer was hurt.
It’s difficult to read how Ben Rothwell is taking all this. Some sources claim he’s upset about the change of opponents, though others say he’s just very focused, having realized the importance of this bout. I can’t say, except that he’s not as eager to talk to members of the media as he usually is.
Before yesterday’s weigh-in (which was moved from Hooters to a conference room by the finicky Athletic Commission in order to accommodate the large crowd), I saw him trying on gloves and attempted to lighten the mood by remarking that for twenty dollars I could find him a brake pad to put in the padding of his gloves. Not even a smile from Rothwell, who replied, “You think I need it?”
I left it alone at that point and went to stand next to Maurice Smith, who never fails to entertain. This time Maurice entertained us all by asking pointless questions after the weigh-in somehow turned in to an impromptu rules meeting by the referees from the Athletic Commission, thus making the whole thing take even longer. I was amused by Maurice’s antics, but Matt Lindland seemed less so.
Maurice and I, along with IFL Commissioner Kurt Otto, were guests last night on The Ron Show — an internet radio show that, for reasons I can’t explain, continually shows up at our events. We talked about O.J. Simpson, about Maurice’s fondness for leather, everything except tonight’s fights. That’s generally how it goes with Maurice. At least you’re never bored when he’s around.
I have to say that I genuinely have no idea what’s going to happen tonight. The Rothwell-Rodriguez fight has stolen the spotlight, and not many people are even talking about which team might win the championship at this point. It could come down to who wins in the heavyweight division, but all the other fights are tough to pick, too.
One side bet I have going is on the lightweight bout. I’m picking Bart Palaszewski over Deividas Taurosevicius, but IFL publicist Greg De Sanctis (seen here with his new friend from Hooters, where we reconvened after the weigh-in to watch UFC Fight Night) is taking Taurosevicius. I just don’t see how he’s going to beat Bart, who is as tough as anyone in the 155-pound division when he’s healthy. The guy’s a great striker and a strong wrestler. As long as he’s not still dealing with nagging injuries, I think he should take it.
As usual, we’ll be doing a live play-by-play of the event on IFL.tv tonight, though I’ll try and post some quick results here as well. After the event I’m sure I’ll get a chance to sit down and lay out a more detailed description of the evening’s festivities. Until then…