Fighting is a fickle mistress. Being a professional fighter is no easy task. During a fighter’s short shelf life, he is sure to experience some of the biggest highs as well as some of his lowest lows. Absolute euphoria can come with a huge victory or the realized goal of reaching the UFC. But a tough knockout loss or a losing skid can certainly mess with a fighter’s head.

Mike Rio is in one of those lowly periods right now. The South Florida native reached the premier spot in the sport. He was a contestant on The Ultimate Fighter, and although he didn’t win the show, he did enough to impress at his fight in the finale for the UFC to keep him under contract. Rio went right into the fire, though. He faced three killers in Fransisco Trinaldo, Tony Ferguson and current rising star Daron Cruickshank. He fell to each of those foes in succession . What followed was his subsequent release from the UFC.

When a fighter is released by the promotion, there are certainly a lot of options on where to go next. Promotions such as Bellator, the World Series of Fighting and Titan FC have all been known to scoop up Zuffa exiles. Certainly, Rio could have landed in one of those organization or, with his notoriety as a TUF contestant, he could probably have headlined a card at any local promotion across the United States. However, Rio wanted to come home.

That is what he will do when he fights in the main event of Fight Time Promotions 19 on Friday night at the War Memorial in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

“The biggest reason why I chose Fight Time is because I really wanted to fight in front of my home crowd again,” Rio revealed to The MMA Corner. He also admitted to feeling more fresh and comfortable going into his first post-UFC bout. “I think it is because of the comfort of doing everything in my own neighborhood. In the UFC, they fly you out a week early and you have to worry about finding food and all that stuff.”

Rio is truly fighting with a home-court advantage. He only lives about 35 minutes from the arena and will sleep in his own bed on fight night. Rio is excited about returning home, but his release came at a bad time. Had things turned out differently, he could have been fighting inside the Octagon near his own stomping grounds.

“The closest I could have got was the Orlando card,” Rio said. “When I was released before then, I was like, ‘Crap!’”

Now, Rio gets his wish with Fight Time. He expects the building to be full of rabid fans. Some fighters claim that they don’t really hear the crowd and it doesn’t change the way they fight. Rio is a different kind of cat.

“The closest thing I can compare to is the cartoon Bane from Batman,” Rio explained. “When he gets the venom shot in his veins and just gets three times bigger and stronger—that’s how you feel when the crowd is screaming your name.”

Rio has that as a huge motivating factor, but it might not even be the biggest driving force for him in this fight. Some fighters might make excuses or drown in their own sorrows when they are on a losing streak. Not Rio.

“I am pissed off,” Rio confessed. “Losing is not something that is part of my vocabulary. This three-loss thing is bull crap, and I’m going to go in there and do what I’ve got to do to get my hand raised. The goal is to get back to the UFC, run through the division and bring the belt back home to Miami.”

RIo’s first obstacle on his path back to the Octagon is Avery McPhatter. The Orlando-based lightweight is a Bellator and XFC veteren, but his record, which stands at 3-4, isn’t really anything to write home about. Rio isn’t taking his opponent lightly, though. He is viewing it as a challenge to get inside and take the fight to a much taller guy who has some good boxing skills. Rio has even drawn inspiration from a certain UFC fighter on how he wants to dominate his opponent.

“I am going to go in there and dominate like Daniel Cormier did Dan Henderson,” declared Rio. “When I saw that fight, it lit a fire under my ass, and that is exactly how a grappler/wrestler should fight.”

Cormier now awaits a UFC light heavyweight title shot after that third-round submission victory. Rio wants to “Cormier” McPhatter, but he wants to do it in shorter order than “DC” was able to accomplish against Henderson. When asked for a prediction on how or when the fight would end, Rio responded with just one word: “First!”

Mike would like to thank his sponsors: Miami Total Sports Medicine, Speak the Truth Clothing, Sports Food, RevGear, and Advocare. He would also like to thank all of his teammates and coaches at Zen Jiu-Jitsu, ATT Kendall and ATT Miramar. He would also like to thank all of his fans, especially those in the Fort Lauderdale area who are coming out to his fight on Friday. Follow Rio on Twitter: @MikeRioMMA

About The Author

Trey Downey
Staff Writer

A Central Florida native, Trey Downey's interest in MMA came after a trip to Blockbuster and the rental of UFC 47 on VHS. He has been blogging about the sport since 2011 and hosted a podcast called The TD Experience focusing on football and MMA (touchdowns and takedowns). Trey studied radio and television at the University of Central Florida and will soon be attending the Connecticut School of Broadcasting. Trey enjoys watching sports, pro wrestling and is an avid runner.