The reason that fighters participate in mixed martial arts varies depending on location, upbringing and opportunity. For Las Vegas’ Robert Drysdale, it’s pretty straight forward.
“I do it for the challenge, above all,” he told The MMA Corner in an exclusive interview.
“I didn’t start fighting because I want to make money. If I wanted to make money I’d be on Wall Street right now. It’s out of passion. It’s very challenging; that’s why I like it.”
However, Drysdale is anything but your typical fighter. The 29-year-old Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt possesses a world-class grappling arsenal that includes an Abu Dhabi Submission Wrestling world championship.
“The way I look at it, it’s the same thing except that the rules are different,” Drysdale explained of the two sports. “The timekeeping is little bit different and I get to punch people in the face, but those are about the only differences I see.”
Now, carrying an undefeated record into his fifth professional fight—with all four wins coming by submission—the fighter is working hard to evolve his game on a daily basis.
“It’s all about constant improvement,” he said. “You never stop learning. I get better everyday. I’ve gone from a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu background to a complete MMA fighter.”
Getting to this point in his career has come with the help of some of the biggest names in the sport, including former UFC champions Frank Mir, Forrest Griffin and Randy Couture.
“It’s certainly a privilege to train with them,” acknowledged Drysdale. “It builds confidence training with the best in the world, and you can learn a lot from them. There’s a lot of experience and knowledge accumulated by all of these guys because they’ve been training their whole lives.”
Drysdale himself has been training for a large portion of his life, having spent a good portion of his youth in Brazil before returning to the United States for college. Even with his transition into MMA, he firmly believes that his original passion of BJJ will benefit from the growth of his new sport.
“I think they can grow together,” he declared. “Outside of MMA, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is the fastest-growing martial art in the world. I think that they feed off of each other. I don’t see them as competition. I see them as complementary.”
His viewpoint is largely based on his own experience with the two forms of competition. And as the owner of his own jiu-jitsu school, he sees it every day.
“When I started training, they were one and the same,” he recalled. “If you did jiu-jitsu, you did MMA (or Vale Tudo). There was no distinction between the two.
“Now when you go into my gym, part of my students are only into MMA and part of them are only into jiu-jitsu. Jiu-jitsu has grown enough to have its own niche. It has its own magazines and websites. It has a world of its own.”
As both sports continue to expand, Drysdale’s attention is firmly planted on his new trade. After a series of injuries suffered by other fighters, he now finds himself headlining the upcoming Legacy Fighting Championship 15 event on Nov. 16 in Houston.
“I’m pretty immune to the fact that there are people there watching, the lights are on, the cameras are on; I really don’t care,” he said of the pressure of being the main event. “The only thing on my mind is the fight that’s coming up. I could have a million people or three people watching me and I’d still be just as excited.
“From an exposure and professional point of view, it’s better [to be headlining], but as far as making me fight any differently, it’s not going to change a thing.”
Standing across the cage from Drysdale will be former police officer Chris Reed, who has earned three of his four wins via TKO. While it’s unlikely that Drysdale will look for a firefight on the feet with his opponent, he’s not ready to rule it out.
“Whatever he gives me, I’m taking it,” said Drysdale. “I’m not the type of guy who says I’m going to do this just for the experience. I’m taking the win whenever I see it, whatever that may be. If it’s a punch, it’s a punch. If it’s a kick, it’s a kick. If it’s a submission, it’s a submission. I don’t care how I win. I’m just looking for an opening.”
So, if Drysdale leaves the cage with his perfect record intact on Friday night, should fans expect to see him gracing the UFC’s 205-pound division any time soon?
“I don’t think too far ahead; I don’t think it’s helpful,” said the fighter. “I’m just focused on my next fight. The best thing to do is just focus on the things you can change right now. My biggest concern is to improve as a fighter. Everything else is a consequence.”
With another impressive win over Reed, Drysdale may find his next challenge on a bigger stage, even if he’s not ready to admit it just yet.
Top Photo: Robert Drysdale (R) works for an armbar (Mike Calimbas/TXMMA)