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Roosevelt Roberts Is Right Where He's Supposed To Be

"But I got the call to Contender Series, and I got the contract. It was like a sign from them. And I was just thinking, ‘Damn, y’all boys was right. I’m supposed to be here. This is what I’m supposed to be doing.”

Speaking with UFC lightweight Roosevelt Roberts, there are definitely clues that you’re dealing with a perfectionist. Look no further than his dominant decision win this past April over Thomas Gifford in Fort Lauderdale. Following the fight, he was visibly disappointed that for the first time in his pro career, the bout had gone to the scorecards. 

“I always try to get the finish, and when I watched the fight back, I could have gotten the finish. There were certain points in the fight where I could have done a little more.” 

Isn’t there any joy in remaining undefeated in arguably the most talent-rich division in MMA?

“When I watched the fight, I also did see I put in a lot of work. I won every round, so that’s a plus to it.”

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Don’t expect too much more self-praise from Roosevelt. It’s just not in his nature. Instead, he seems to be a walking study of what can be achieved when you are your own worst critic.

Even his contract-winning appearance on season two of Dana White’s Contender Series isn’t above his own scrutiny.

“It was nerve-racking, man. I had my family there, you know? It was like a once in a lifetime opportunity, so I wanted to make sure I did the best I can. I did a lot of grappling that day, didn’t really showcase my striking. I think I let my nerves get the better of me. I knew I could beat him on the ground, so that’s where I kept it.”

If a dominant submission that impressed Dana White enough to get a contract is a case of his nerves getting the better of him, it’s positively frightening to think of what Roosevelt will achieve when he’s calm and collected.

He’ll look to show that potential Saturday at UFC Minneapolis, his fourth fight in less than a calendar year. And he likes it that way.

“This is what I want to do, just like this. Keep the money coming in, keep my name out there, keep going up the ranks.”

That ascension should continue on schedule if he can get past the always-dangerous Vinc Pichel. If he’s nervous about his opponent, it doesn’t show. His self-critique post-fight is countered by a cerebral, pre-fight confidence in his game plan.

“I think he’s just going to come in and come forward. He’s gonna try to push me against the cage, try and knock me out, hit me with some big shots. But that’s what everybody’s been doing. My last guy [Darrell Horcher] tried to do the same thing; he pushed the pace, came forward. So I think this fight is just like every other fight. I just gotta go in there and do me. Stay focused.”

Roberts certainly seems to have the wind at his back, and his story is all the more striking when you find out it almost didn’t happen. After overcoming a troubled early life to find his footing in MMA, he suffered the tragic loss of his two closest allies. Devastated, he almost gave up the sport entirely. 

“Man, it was life changing, because I had two cousins pass away that same year. Those two, Lance and Anthony, those two were my biggest supporters. They always told me I was going to be something, always told me if I keep going in this sport that I was going to do something great, like I was meant for this. And when they died, it was like, ‘Damn, what am I going to do now?’”

Then the call for the Contender Series came.

“I felt like that was a sign for me just to keep going forward, to keep using them as motivation. Because when they died I was feeling like I wanted to stop. But I got the call to Contender Series, and I got the contract. It was like a sign from them. And I was just thinking, ‘Damn, y’all boys was right. I’m supposed to be here. This is what I’m supposed to be doing.”

Steve Latrell is a writer and producer for UFC.com. Follow him on Twitter @TheUFSteve