‘I want to give a show’ – Kade Ruotolo is pumped to entertain in MMA debut at ONE 167

Reigning ADCC and ONE submission grappling world champion Kade Ruotolo spoke about his much-anticipated upcoming MMA debut.

As the youngest-ever ADCC world champion and reigning ONE lightweight submission grappling world champion, 21-year-old phenom Kade Ruotolo has firmly established himself as one of the planet’s top pound-for-pound BJJ competitors. It’s no small surprise, then, that his upcoming MMA debut has garnered plenty of attention.

This Friday, June 7, at ONE 167, Ruotolo will lace up the 4-ounce gloves when he squares off with Hawaii’s Blake Cooper in a lightweight MMA tilt in Bangkok, Thailand.

With his ultra-aggressive, submission-hunting style of grappling, Ruotolo might be the most entertaining athlete in all of BJJ. He plans to bring that same electrifying approach to the all-around sport of MMA.

“To be honest with you, I want to give a show,” Ruotolo said in an interview with ONE Championship. “I want to have fun out there. Obviously, I want to get the finish and I truly believe that I will get that finish. Just like my jiu-jitsu matches, I want there to be more than a reason than just the win for people to watch my matches. I want people to be excited, to be wowed, and I want to entertain.”

The Californian says that the transition from pure grappling to MMA has been a relatively easy one thanks to the countless fights over the years with his twin brother, Tye Ruotolo.

Both Ruotolo brothers have dabbled in striking training over the years, but Kade says that his aggression and fearlessness to trade punches come from the battles with his brother.

“Me and my brother would fight bare knuckle every single day, pretty much. We were tough and we kind of had an idea how to throw punches so a lot of our coaches were surprised to see the amount of fight – not knowledge – I’d say form in the striking. I think they were expecting us to come in as full jiu-jitsu guys and surprised a lot of people so far and looking to surprise a lot of people on June 7.”

Indeed, Ruotolo’s easiest path to victory against the hard-hitting Cooper likely lies on the ground. Because even though Cooper is a skilled grappler in his own right – a decorated collegiate wrestler – Ruotolo is a true generational talent in the submission realm.

But the BJJ black belt is excited to showcase much more than just his grappling skills. He says that a lifetime of fights with Tye has prepared him for this moment:

“I just know I will not have a fight tougher than what I’ve gone through with my brother. I don’t think it’s possible. I don’t know if it’s humanly possible. My brother and I have done what we’ve done our entire lives. There’s times where we’re handfighting… and I say handfighting where it’s basically just striking, just throat punch, hard as you can collar-tie, and it goes on 30 minutes, sometimes an hour nonstop until one of us backs down. And for us, to back down is just not an option. Sometimes people have to separate us and we’re still there an hour straight – I didn’t stop! Building that mental, I don’t think a lot of people are prepared to go those lengths.”

Now training under Tyler Wombles at Classic Fight Team and Erik Paulson at CSW Training Center in addition to his regular work at Atos Jiu-Jitsu, Ruotolo hopes to turn heads at ONE 167.

While the most likely outcome might look to be a Ruotolo submission win, he says fans might be surprised by his striking.

“A perfect night is off the first exchange, a knockout, right? That would be the best-case scenario,” he said. “I don’t think it’s impossible, for sure. I’ve been improving so much every single day and I’m confident wherever the fight goes.”

How to watch: Kade Ruotolo vs. Blake Cooper takes place on Friday, June 7 at ONE 167 and will air live on Prime Video (free with Amazon Plus subscription) beginning at 8:00 PM ET. Fans can tune in here.

Ben Coate

Ben has been involved with grappling, whether through wrestling or Brazilian jiu-jitsu, essentially his entire life. After wrestling throughout his childhood, Ben found Brazilian jiu-jitsu as a young adult and quickly fell in love. He has been training for over ten years and currently holds the rank of brown belt, and remains involved in both the MMA and BJJ scene. Ben has been writing about combat sports since 2017. He has interviewed and profiled some of MMA's biggest stars, including multiple UFC champions.

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