The Rocky Mountains are home to one of the most promising welterweights in all of MMA, but unless you’ve followed the Denver fight scene closely, you may not be aware of it.

That’s about to change on Friday, March 22, as 27-year-old Brandon “Rukus” Thatch returns home to headline Resurrection Fighting Alliance 7 live on AXS TV from the 1stBank Center in Broomfield, Colo., against Mike Rhodes.

After establishing himself as a staple of the Ring of Fire promotion from 2007 until 2011, the Grudge Training Center product made his way north of the border to compete in Canada’s Instinct MMA promotion.

“It just so happened that they were offering me some really decent cash to be out there, so at that point in time it was the best decision for me,” Thatch told The MMA Corner of his journey to Montreal. “I’ll fight wherever it’s going to further my career.”

Thatch (Isaac Hinds/Sherdog)

As an added benefit of his trek to Canada, Thatch was able to train with one of the sport’s biggest names: Georges St-Pierre. Thatch hunkered down at the Tristar dorms not only for his Instinct bouts, but also before his current RFA fight.

“There’s a great group of guys up there,” he explained. “The athletes and the coaching are amazing. Firas Zahabi is an MMA mad scientist. There’s a lot coaches out there that are strictly strikers or strictly jiu-jitsu guys, but he’s a true all-around coach. It upped my game immensely.”

Now, Thatch is returning to the friendly confines of the 1stBank Center, where he’s notched four of his eight career victories—all by knockout. Yet, despite the familiarity, Thatch is encountering a whole new challenge.

“You don’t feel it as much when you leave Colorado, but coming back to altitude is a bitch,” he admitted with a laugh. “I’ve been in Canada for the last six weeks and it absolutely affects you. I’m still acclimating, but I’ll get my lungs where they need to be.”

If things go as planned—or perhaps, as they usually do—for the fighter, he won’t have to be concerned with his conditioning. All of his eight wins have come in the first round, with six coming inside the first minute. With his opponent, Rhodes, replacing original foe Leandro Silva on just a week’s notice, Thatch will be dealing with a lot of unknowns.

“I think this is going to be a first-round fight,” said Thatch. “I feel like if I stick to my game plan and fight clean, I’ll be fine. I’m not a timid fighter. I’m ready to strike.”

With so little actual cage time and a lone defeat by decision, it would be easy to question how Thatch will respond if a fight goes beyond a round. But after growing up under the tutelage of his adopted father, seven-time Sabaki champion and ISK heavyweight contender Clarence Thatch, and then making the jump to MMA, the Colorado product is confident in his abilities.

“I train with some of the best in the world: Georges St-Pierre and the Tristar family, Nate Marquardt and Eliot Marshall in Colorado, all of these high-level athletes,” Thatch noted.

“Not having that ring experience has been in the back of my head for a few fights, but if I can feel comfortable in the gym and handle myself during training and hard sparring, I don’t see any reason why I couldn’t do the same in a fight.”

Even with the limited cage time, Thatch’s success has drawn the attention of the sport’s largest promotion, the UFC. The welterweight was very close to joining the cast of The Ultimate Fighter, but things didn’t work out.

“I went through everything. They had me back for the medicals. They pretty much told me I was in, but I don’t know why I wasn’t picked,” he revealed.

“At the same time, I’ve heard a lot of horror stories about being in the house. I’m not a meathead. I don’t like being around tough guys. I’m not into the tough-guy mentality. It would be hard for me to be in that type of atmosphere for that long.

Thatch (Isaac Hinds/Sherdog)

“Maybe it was a blessing in disguise that I didn’t make it. I know I’ve been on the UFC’s radar for a while. All I need to do is make sure that I keep winning in an impressive manner and it’s only a matter of time before I’m there. It’s going to happen when it happens.”

Come Friday night, Thatch can take one more step toward the highest level of competition. And he’ll do it with added motivation.

“Every time I get to fight at home, I get that boost of adrenaline,” he said. “I feel like I’m fighting for something. I have to put it on for my city, my family, my friends.

“Even the haters that are there to see me lose; I’m fighting for them. I want to make sure I have an impressive showing.”

Barring an upset in his own backyard, expect the Coloradan to bringing a “Rukus” to the confines of the UFC Octagon sooner rather than later.

Brandon would like to thank his father, Clarence Thatch for getting him into the sport. His training partners at Grudge Training Center. His coach, Trevor Wittman. Everyone at Tristar and coach Firas Zahabi. BAMMA champion Tom Bresse, who kept him sane in Canada. His sponsors: Max Muscle Sports Nutrition, Pink House and Pour Kids/Boone’s Tavern. Follow him on Twitter: @RUKUSMMA303

Top Photo: Brandon Thatch (Isaac Hinds/Sherdog)

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