With about one month before his scheduled Octagon debut at UFC 122, Kenny Robertson (10-0) had his big opportunity put on hold.
Robertson had been preparing to face fellow newcomer Pascal Krauss, but a broken toe forced him to back out of the most important fight of his career.
“It felt pretty bad,” Robertson told ProMMAnow.com of the moment he realized he couldn’t go through with the fight. “I was in pretty good shape for it already, but once the injury happened, I could barely walk.”
Finally, on Feb. 5 at UFC 126 in Las Vegas, Robertson will get to finish what he started a few months ago, taking on Mike Pierce (11-3, 3-1 UFC) in a preliminary bout.
Despite the bigger stage, he isn’t nervous. And at the very least you would expect Robertson to be a bit anxious, with so long to think about his first UFC fight. But, believe it or not, Robertson is about as calm as can be.
“I’m usually pretty calm as it is,” he said. “I always just go out there and fight.”
To get acclimated to the atmosphere of a UFC event, Robertson went to see UFC 123 in person in Detroit.
“I went and watched the UFC up in Detroit, and that helped,” Robertson said. “Watching that event, when it’s all said and done, it’s just another fight.”
It’s been said time and again, but going through the rigors of amateur wrestling provides a great foundation for an MMA career. Robertson is yet another in a long line of fighters that proves that theory, having competed collegiately at Eastern Illinois University.
“It’s a huge factor, just because you compete so many different times,” he said. “You get used to the weight cutting, the one-on-one competition, and the aggression you need as a fighter.”
Although he’s only been fighting professionally since 2008, Robertson has already been tested in more ways than one. He has notable wins over UFC veteran John Kolosci, Gerald Meerschaert, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt Igor Almeida, and M-1 and Bellator vet Herbert Goodman.
Robertson also knows what it takes to get the win under less than ideal circumstances. A full-time high school teacher and wrestling coach in Peoria, Ill., he didn’t always have the luxury of a full training camp. In November 2008, Robertson needed every ounce of will he had to go the distance against LeVon Maynard.
“LeVon Maynard would probably be my toughest [fight] just because I was out of shape for it,” he said. “I’ve probably got better training habits now than I did then.”
Although he has his training routine mastered nowadays, it helps to have an understanding spouse.
“It’s a lot of time away from the house, which always makes my wife real happy,” he said jokingly.
In Pierce, Robertson faces someone with a similar style and strong wrestling base. To prepare, Robertson has worked with UFC welterweight contender Chris Lytle, his MMA manager Nick Thompson — also an experienced fighter — and a slew of others.
“That really helped out a lot,” Robertson said of his recent training sessions with Lytle and Thompson. “I’ve also got some really good Division I wrestlers up here that I train with a lot.”
With a bout between two wrestlers that have worked to expand their MMA game, the fight could come down to who can dictate where the action goes, and Robertson is preparing for exactly that.
“I’m sure that both of us are going to try and do what we’re better at than the other,” he said. “If one of us is getting the better of the stand up, we’ll try and keep it there. If the striking isn’t working, we’ll both be looking to get it on the ground and work from the top.”