The Ultimate Fighter 15: Mike “The Wolverine” Rio Ready For Battle Part One
If you have been reading CageJunkies for any length of time, then you know that Miami’s own Mike “The Wolverine” Rio is one of our favorite fighters. The lightweight who currently trains out of Zen Jiu-Jitsu for his ground game, Young Tigers Foundation for kickboxing and The Health Joint Fitness Studio for lifting has been selected as one of the participants in this season’s The Ultimate Fighter which makes it network debut March 9th on FX. With opportunity to be on either current UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz or perennial contender Urijah Faber’s team and fight his way into a UFC contract, Rio was preparing to fly out to Las Vegas when we spoke to him about what had led him to this moment.
Rio who is a Florida native left the state to attend school and exceeded as a collegiate athlete. Although he never competed in the NCAA’s division one, Rio has had opportunities to face those that did compete on that level and believes that he measured up well. “I never had the grades for division one, but I’ve pretty much beat every division one wrestler I’ve wrestled. My last school, where I finished off, was Lindenwood University where I was a two time national champ for them. The year before that I was at Harper (William Rainey Harper College) and I was a second placer and a national champ, so I won it three times.”
After leaving school Rio stepped up his competition by entering into mixed martial arts and bounced around between promotions before becoming the face of Championship Fighting Alliance. In his promotional debut “The Wolverine” who had amassed an undefeated record of 6-0 up to that point faced The Ultimate Fighter season 8 winner, Efrain Escudero. Escudero who was recently re-signed with the UFC gave Rio trouble in rounds one and two of their bout before the tables turned in round three. The loss, the only one in Rio’s MMA career, taught the fighter a valuable lesson in preparation for his opponents.
“Before the Efrain Escudero fight, I wasn’t sparring very much and I was focused more on grappling. [After that] I’ve revamped my entire training regimen and the way I look at fighting,” Rio said. “Now I do as much striking as possible. I think I’ve gotten better at striking. And I’ve been doing a lot of sparring. So for my last two fights (wins against Zach Juusola and John Ortolani) I’ve been ready for the hardness of the fight, not just going in there and relying on my natural wrestling talents.”
And on the loss itself? “I wouldn’t change it for the world. If I had to go back in time and do it again, I wouldn’t change anything. I learned so much from that fight,” Rio replied.
Check out the second part of our interview with Mike “The Wolverine” Rio tomorrow in which we discuss being live every week, Dakota Cochrane, the rest of this seasons cast and more!