(Roop battles Leonard Garcia this weekend – photo Hedges/Zuffa)
Some say the measure of a man’s strength is determined not by his physical abilities alone, but by the size of his heart and his willingness to take big risks.
Not many would be eager to accept a fight against a knockout artist such as Leonard Garcia on merely two-week’s notice, but for George Roop the decision was easy. The former UFC lightweight competitor instantly agreed to the contest for the undercard of WEC 47 on March 6.
“With big risks, comes big rewards and that’s how you get that big name when you step up on short notice and you take those big fights” Roop told Heavy.com. “I’m taking this fight more on heart than anything else. I’m going in there and didn’t have a whole lot of time to put a good camp together, but I feel stylistic wise that I really match up well against Leonard Garcia.”
The bout will be Roop’s second appearance in the WEC and his first in the featherweight division. Last month Roop made his WEC debut in the 135-lbs weight class, losing a unanimous decision to former bantamweight champion Eddie Wineland at WEC 46. That contest was also a fight that Roop took with very little time to prepare.
As he explains, his readiness to step up on short notice stems back from an outlook that has been with him since he was a child.
“I’m definitely one of those guys that you can count on. I don’t need two weeks notice for a fight, just give me 24 hours and a plane ticket and I’ll be there” Roop said.
Born and raised in Tucson, Arizona, Roop found his passion for combat sports very early in his life. Roop knew he wanted to be a fighter since watching the very first UFC in 1993.
After an impressive run in the Arizona-based Rage in the Cage promotion, Roop landed a spot on the cast of season eight of The Ultimate Fighter on Spike TV. It was there when fans were introduced to his never-say-die warrior mentality.
Roop had the unfortunate luck of breaking his hand prematurely in the competition. Nevertheless, even with a broken hand he continued fighting for his UFC dream, making it all the way to the semifinal round before eventual finalist Phillipe Nover stopped him in his tracks.
After the filming of the show, Roop relocated to Las Vegas to train full-time with former heavyweight champion Frank Mir, who served as Roop’s coach on season eight.
As a person, Roop describes Mir as a very kind and humble human being that loves being around his family first and foremost. Those words may surprise a lot of people considering Mir’s recent tirade towards arch-rival and current UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar. Roop believes that the whole ordeal was completely blown out of proportion.
“I tend to disagree that he took those comments too far because there’s stuff like that said all the time” Roop said. “I think that anyone who says that they think he meant that in an actual matter is lying to themselves. B.J Penn has said stuff very similar and in boxing stuff like that is always said, so I don’t think it was really wrong to say. It was a poor choice of words and Frank Mir is a very intelligent person so when he says stuff it sounds different. Frank is really a great guy. If anyone knows him as a person, they’d know he is a really nice guy. He’s all about his family and he sits down and watches cartoons with his kids all night long.”
Despite training alongside a world class fighter such as Mir, Roop has struggled to make a serious impact in the cage. He was dropped from the UFC after going 1-2 in the organization with losses to fellow TUF housemate Shane Nelson and a submission defeat at the hands of lightweight contender George Sotiropoulos.
Few can deny Roop’s heart, but he has yet to look especially impressive in the eyes of pundits. This is a position that the blue-collar featherweight is very comfortable being in.
“I like being the underdog. I like being in situations where I feel that I am under pressure because that’s when I rise to the occasion. If I’m the underdog, then good, because that just means when I win this fight I get to steal the thunder.”
And steal the thunder Roop shall if he is victorious over the heavy-handed Leonard Garcia. Coming off of a loss in his last trip to the cage against Manny Gamburyan at WEC 44, Garcia is still widely recognized as a dangerous contender.
It was not long ago when Garcia was competing for the WEC featherweight title so a victory over a recognizable opponent in Garcia would be just what Roop needs to get his career on the right track. And even though Garcia is known for his thunderous knockout power, Roop welcomes a standup battle.
“I definitely feel like I will be able to stand with Leonard Garcia. He has a lot of power in his hands and he’s almost a walking highlight reel when it comes to his hard strikes and everything. If you want somebody that’s going to go in there and brawl with him and make it a fight than you definitely have the right opponent.”
To some fighters, the thought of accepting back to back fights on short notice is ludicrous. But in Roop’s eyes, stepping up where others will not is what will make him into a great warrior.
“This is a risky fight for me since I took it on barely a week’s notice. But like I said before, with big risks come big rewards. I think with true champions, this is where they’re born. This is how champions are made when they step up to take big fights.”