A first impression is everything.

For UFC lightweight Shane Roller, a first impression consisted of a second-round knockout victory over Thiago Tavares in his Octagon debut at UFC Live: Sanchez vs. Kampmann just over a year ago. Roller’s electrifying performance was good enough to earn him an extra $40,000 for ‘Knockout of the Night’ and a shot at UFC veteran Melvin Guillard.

If second, third, or even fourth impressions counted, Roller might be in some trouble. Roller would go on to be finished in his next two bouts to Guillard and T.J. Grant. A third straight loss would come by the hands of Michael Johnson via unanimous decision at UFC on Fox 2. It was Roller’s third straight loss in the UFC—something that doesn’t sit well with UFC President Dana White.

Roller (top) (Paul Thatcher/Fight! Magazine)

But Roller was kept around. Somehow, someway, Roller managed to remain under contract with the world’s top promotion. Despite falling short in his last three outings, the excitement Roller brings to each bout is hard to match. It’s this entertainment that the fans across the globe desire to see, fight in and fight out.

“It means a lot to me to know the UFC is willing to give me yet another opportunity to fight,” Roller told the The MMA Corner in an exclusive interview. “I’m taking the same approach as I do for every other one of my fights. It’s a must-win fight.”

“You just never know when your last fight is going to be. You never know when they’re going to cut you loose. I’d like to think I’m a pretty exciting fighter. I think that’s why they have kept me around. All my fights are exciting. I’m not going out there looking for a decision ever. I go for the finish every time I’m out there. It’s always been good and exciting fights,” shared Roller. “I really believe that’s the reason I’m still around after three losses.”

To Roller’s credit, he took his most recent bout against Johnson on short notice after Cody McKenzie suffered an injury, ultimately forcing him out of competition. Roller will look to return to his winning ways when he steps foot inside the Octagon to meet longtime MMA veteran John Alessio at UFC 148 on July 7.

The bout will also mark the first time Roller has had a full training camp in almost a year.

“One thing about my last loss is that I took the fight on short notice. Because of this, I wasn’t able to get a full camp in. I thought I was ready, but I didn’t have the performance I would have liked to see. I moved my training camp back to Tulsa, Okla., and I’m able to turn all my focus towards this fight and getting my career back on track,” said Roller.

“This fight I’ll be prepared to go the distance, but that’s never my mentality. I go into every fight thinking I’m going to finish my opponent before the third round comes to an end. I enter each round thinking this is the round I will finish my guy off. That’s just my mindset and that’s the mindset I’m going to have in this fight. I’m ready to roll on July 7.”

Roller (R) (Jeremy Botter/Heavy MMA)

An Oklahoma State graduate, Roller is often overshadowed by his longtime friend and college teammate, UFC welterweight contender Johny Hendricks. But let it be known, Roller is destined to leave his own mark on the sport. Through years of studying his father and grandfather’s work ethic, Roller now understands what it takes to be successful in life.

“The first thing that pops into my mind when I begin to think about my dad and grandpa is their work ethic. That’s something they’ve instilled in me since I was just a young kid. My grandpa is 82 years old and he’s still out in the fields working. My dad grew up the same way and now he’s running his own successful wrestling company. They model what hard work and dedication looks like.”

“They have always supported me and helped me evolve into the man I am today.”

Top Photo: Shane Roller (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

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