Set for January 29th, the fifth installment of the ever-popular Legacy Fighting Championships professional mixed martial arts event is set to one of its most exciting yet. Currently, the nine-bout fight card features a welterweight championship match along with several matchups that could decide a top contender in more than one weight class.
During the next couple of weeks leading up to the event, this column will be featuring interviews with many of the competitors set to hit the Arena Theatre cage for Legacy Fighting Championships. It is my hope that by sharing my in-depth discussions with these men (and women), our Houston MMA fans will be able to see what makes these competitors tick and also gain insight as to how a fighters’ mindset is before fight time.
To begin this series, I introduce to you welterweight competitor Jeff Rexroad, of Paradigm Training Center. Jeff will be taking on Elite MMA’s Ricardo Talavera in his upcoming Legacy bout. In this in-depth talk, we discussed what its been like balancing his priorities as a fighter, police officer, and new father. We also talk about his history in training the different disciplines that constitute MMA, along with what makes him tick outside the cage. Enjoy the following as you get to know Jeff Rexraod.
First of all Jeff, I want to give a heartfelt congratulations to you and your beautiful wife on the recent birth of your daughter. I know you’re a peace officer as well as a professional fighter in addition to being a new dad. Tell our fans, what’s it like juggling these responsibilities while finding time to train and grow as a fighter?
It is definitely a challenge juggling being a good father, a good police officer, and a good fighter. I have a lot of support from my wife, Danese, which is the only reason I can do all three things. She sacrifices a lot to allow me the time to be at the gym training after work so I can be the best fighter possible on fight night.
I have a set schedule now where I wake up, get the baby ready and take her to day care. Then it’s off to work and finally 2 hrs or so at the gym to finish the day. Luckily I’m surrounded by good training partners who make sure I get the most out of each workout possible so nothing is wasted time.
Sounds like you have a lot going on already with all this stuff. What type of interests do you have outside the cage when you’re not changing diapers or catching bad guys? Who is Jeff Rexroad, the person?
I’m totally the class clown. I love to crack jokes and be around people with similar personalities. Ever since we had the baby I don’t have a lot of spare time to go out and do different things. However, I love to travel…and my wife and I are heading to Belize for our anniversary in a few months. I basically just enjoy chillin’ with my friends and family. I have an awesome family who make it nearly impossible to not have a good time while being together.
Now your next fight is scheduled for Saturday, January 29th against Ricardo Talavera. Before we talk about your fight, I wanted to talk about the past and your current record. You were undefeated in the amateur ranks with a lone draw against Craig Garner. You went on to win your first fight in the pros and then lost your last fight against Craig in a closely-contested rematch. How it feel dealing with your first loss?
You know… the first loss, while frustrating, wasn’t all that bad an experience. I lost to a tough opponent and there’s no shame in that. I’ve always felt that a lot of people who go 10-0 etc. usually aren’t fighting the best guys available. I’m not afraid of a loss as long as it’s to a tough opponent and I gave everything I could in the cage. I don’t want to fight easy fights where I’m always the favorite to win. I want the tough fights. It’s the only way to actually see where you stand as a fighter.
From my vantage point, it looked like you had Gardner in plenty of trouble in the first, attacking with his arm from guard and also transitioning belly-up to a tight-looking knee-bar. I saw the grimace in his face. How close were those submission attempts and what do you think changed between the first and third round? What lessons did you take from this fight? Is it going to change your strategy at all?
Ya, I had him in quite a few bad spots in the first round. I made a mistake in letting the body triangle go. That’s one of my bread and butter moves and I have a lot of options from that position. However, for whatever reason I rushed things and let it go. I switched to a couple different armbars and then I think a triangle. But, Craig has excellent submission defense and was able to keep from being tapped. I’m not sure how close any of those submissions were to being finished…however I know I had one armbar on tighter than the others. As for the leg lock, I thought I had him with that. As you can see in the pictures I was pulling with everything I had. I thought maybe I was a little off on the angle and when I tried to reset my position Craig was able to adjust and I lost the submission. Craig showed how tough he is by not tapping on that one…you’d have to ask him but to me it felt like I had it on pretty tight.
I’m not really sure what changed between the first and third rounds. Ya know it’s hard to remember everything from a fight. Of course I was getting tired and more slippery. Craig has a style that is very slow and methodical once it gets on the ground. He likes to get a position and hold it until he’s ready to do something else. He rarely postures up to throw any real power shots so doesn’t leave you any room to escape or improve position. He uses that style very well and takes a lot of his fights to decision because it’s very hard to work through those tough positions in only 3 minutes.
As for changing my strategy, I don’t think it will have any effect on it. Of course that’s probably because I rarely have a strategy going into a fight. Of course I watch whatever film I can find so I know how he likes to fight, what his strengths are, and more importantly his weaknesses. But you can’t go changing your style to fit your opponents.
My strategy has always been to go into the cage….punch him in the mouth….and see what happens. I’ll take advantage of whatever situations he gives me.
In regards to training, you’re at a strong camp at Paradigm with Brounzoulis, Melancon, Lee, G, and all those guys. I know you were also with Metro Fight Club previously training with Saul’s team. How long have you been training altogether? What aspects of your game do you feel are a strength based on all your cumulative experience and how are your training partners helping you prepare for this upcoming bout?
I started training with Saul Soliz almost 7 years ago in early 2004. I stayed with him until early 2010 when I made the move to Paradigm. I am blessed to have, what I consider, the best training partners in the State. You look at all our fighters and you’ll see all of us are ranked in the top 10 on TheCageDoor.net and have impeccable records.
I think I’ve been training with Lee, Tim Snyder, and Mike B the longest out of the current crew. Brian Melancon came shortly afterward.
As for my strengths I think the best thing I have going is that I’m a truly well-rounded fighter. I wouldn’t say I’m great at any one aspect of the game but I’m pretty darn good at most of them. That makes it tough for other people to game plan for me. It’s a kind of pick your poison situation.
Lee, Tim and Mike help me tremendously with my stand up. Lee King is a literal Encyclopedia of knowledge when it comes to kickboxing. He’s also probably the most frustrating person on the planet to spar! Brian helps me a lot with my wrestling and Renan keeps me in check on the grappling. Like I said earlier we have so many talented people at Paradigm that no matter how many rounds we spar you face a tough partner every single round.
Luckily there are several of us on the January 29th card and other guys have fights coming up with other promotions. So there are about 10 of us all in the gym getting ready for fights. That makes for very intense training sessions where everyone is in similar condition so you can press the pace the whole time. It doesn’t get any better than that.
You and your opponent for Legacy FC, Ricardo Talavera, have a mutual opponent in Danny Taylor of Bushi Ban. Ricardo beat Taylor via decision in Nov. 2009 but you decimated him via TKO in March 2010. Did you watch videos of his bout with Taylor? What do you think Ricardo brings to the table as an adversary?
Ya, that’s true that we both fought Danny Taylor with drastically different results. But, I don’t put much weight on that stuff. In MMA it only takes one punch to change the course of a fight. Who knows how the fight would have went if I didn’t land that uppercut on Danny early in the round. You know everyone says styles make fights and I firmly believe in that. Just because Ricardo took Danny to decision and I TKO’d him doesn’t mean I think Ricardo is going to be an easy fight. I know he’s a very athletic, strong, skilled dude and I would be mistaken to think anything else.
I’m expecting Ricardo to show up in shape and ready to throw down. I have to respect that and I wouldn’t want it any other way.
You actively compete on the BJJ/Submission Grappling circuit as a brown belt, correct? Is that a skill set you intend on using in this bout?
I don’t know if “actively” is the best description! I try to do a couple (of competitions) a year but it’s hard to find time. I am a Brown belt under Ricco Rodriguez but it’s been a long time since I’ve really done anything in a Gi. Once I started doing MMA I pretty much stopped using a Gi and focused only on submission grappling. I would like to start doing more tournaments and maybe do the NAGA’s or Grappler’s Quest next year.
My grappling is definitely a skill set that I intend to use in the fight. However, I’m not going to push the issue. I’m not one of those guys, like that weirdo guillotine guy from TUF 12, who’s gonna go in there and jump guard all kinds of ways. I have no problem standing with people. I’m very confident in my kickboxing that I’m not stressing about where the fight goes.
Without giving away any of your game plan, how do you think this fight is going to go? Any predictions?
You know the saying goes that even the best war plans go out the window as soon as the first bullet is fired. I think the same is true for fighting. You can game plan all you want but as soon as the first punch or kick is thrown those plans usually go out the window.
I’m just going to go in there and see what happens. Of course I think I’m going to win…you shouldn’t be fighting if you don’t have confidence in yourself. As for how it’s going to happen…..I could care less if it’s by KO/TKO, submission, or decision. The only thing that’s important is that I have my hand raised at the end of the fight.
Any final words for your opponent before you guys hit the cage this January at Legacy FC?
I’ve never really been a smack talker in this game. I respect anyone who has the balls to get in the cage, punch someone in the face, and also get punched in the face. It’s a special breed of people that can do that. I just hope that he stays healthy and has a good training camp. I want to face the best Ricardo Talavera possible on the 29th.
Well definitely good luck in your next fight and your pro career. Do you have any parting words or shout outs you’d like to make to anyone? Any words for your fans and the fans of the Houston MMA Community?
I just want to thank my wife Danese for allowing me to pursue my passion. If it weren’t for her none of this would be possible. Also, I want to thank everyone at Paradigm (Reed Shelger, Renan Chavez, Gordon, G, Kimo, etc) for providing a world class place to train. Lastly, I want to thank my training partners/ friends who have been together for many years working on making each other better fighters. Lee, Brian Melancon, Tim Snyder, Mike B, and Chas Liberty…I couldn’t ask for better people to be around.
As for the fans, (not sure if I even have “fans” lol) please mark your calendar and come out to support all the fighters on the January 29th Legacy FC card. All these guys put in countless hours of hard work to put on the best show possible. Come out support your fighters and keep Texas MMA going strong!