UFC middleweight Rob Kimmons (23-5) is 3-2 now in the Octagon, but even he admits that he gets nervous fighting for the biggest promotion in mixed martial arts.
“To be honest, my first fight in the UFC I felt the calmest,” Kimmons told ProMMAnow.com as he prepares to face Kyle Noke (17-4-1) at UFC 122 on Nov. 13 in Oberhausen, Germany. “I really had nothing to lose. I didn’t know what to expect, so it was really like I was just happy to be there.”
As it turns out, Kimmons’s UFC debut went smoothly. He defeated Rob Yundt by first round submission via guillotine choke. However, his fight three months later against Dan Miller couldn’t have gone much worse.
Miller forced Kimmons to tap at the 1:27 mark of the first round with a rear naked choke. With a 4-3 mark in the UFC and having gone the distance with Demian Maia, Chael Sonnen, and Michael Bisping, Miller is no slouch. But that performance still haunts Kimmons.
“Dan Miller would be the number one guy I’d want rematch with” out of the guys I’ve lost to, Kimmons said. “I got caught in really bad spot. Sometimes I’m a slow starter. I took his back and tried to pick him up and slam him and for some reason let go.”
From there, Miller transitioned and took Kimmons’s back and latched on for the choke. “I’ve been doing Jiu Jitsu for almost ten years and I’ve been in that position a hundred times…Now every time he fights, I’m his f***ing highlight.”
Kimmons is working on finding a happy medium between being too cautious and lackadaisical and throwing strategy out the window and fighting too aggressively. It’s something that most every fighter deals with but rarely admits.
“Tomorrow is not promised in the UFC,” Kimmons said. “If I can take the nerves and the worrying out of the equation, I’d probably be so much more successful and I know that factors into my performance.
“When I’m fighting at my very best level, I fight with sort of a reckless style. In the UFC, I do that sometimes, but a lot of times I don’t. Hopefully this fight is going to be much better. I’m more prepared than every. And I’ve been working with a strength and conditioning coach for past six months, so I’m stronger and in better shape.”
He added, “There’s a fine line between taking risks and being foolish.”
Of course, some mixed martial artists really do let it all hang out, consequences be damned. Win or lose, they just want to put on a show. But Kimmons is a fiery competitor that can’t stand to lose.
After earning All-America honors as a high school wrestler in Kansas, Kimmons had the option of wrestling in college, but instead took an academic scholarship at a community college rather than travel far from home.
“I’m really very competitive, so I knew I had to find something,” Kimmons said.
That led him to a local Jiu Jitsu facility, where he quickly excelled on the strength of his wrestling base.
The sport still wasn’t sanctioned at the time, so Kimmons took up pankration — basically a form of MMA with open-handed striking — as a physical outlet. When MMA finally became legal, Kimmons hit the ground running and began competing as an amateur before making the move to the professional ranks.
Being involved for so long, Kimmons truly appreciates the recent growth of MMA and the UFC. Even since he first competed in the Octagon back in 2008, the popularity hasn’t stopped growing.
“It’s great, seriously, because there’s getting to be more money in it, recognition,” he said. “It’s due a lot to The Ultimate Fighter. It made it real easy for people to relate to it.
They could see that not all of these guys doing it are mindless gladiator people.”
Speaking of TUF, Kimmons’s next opponent, Noke, competed on the 10th season of the show, giving him plenty of film to analyze.
“I got to watch the four fights he had on The Ultimate Fighter and the finale,” Kimmons said. “He looks like he’s pretty well rounded. He’s a tall guy, [has] reach on me. It looks like he’s probably going to want to keep me on the end of his jab, throw a lot of leg kicks, and kickbox with me. But if it goes to the ground, he has decent Jiu Jitsu off of his back.”
Where would a win leave him in the UFC rankings? Kimmons isn’t sure, but he’s ready and willing to fight anyone and understands how quickly his fortunes could change.
And as Kimmons sees it, the middleweight division in particular has a number of top fighters that rely heavily on a specific discipline. Chael Sonnen has world class wrestling, Demian Maia is one of the best grapplers in the world, and Alessio Sakara can give anyone a difficult night with his striking.
“The thing about the UFC, you can be on your way out and win a fight and be right back up in title contention,” Kimmons said. “You look at Chris Leben, he seemed like he was close to getting cut, but then he pulls two wins in a row and people are talking about him being near the very top.
“When I started fighting in the UFC at the very beginning, I was just happy to be there. I didn’t know where I matched up with everybody. Being there a couple of years now … it’s kind of like the NFL. Sometimes teams that shouldn’t be hanging with the other on paper can end up winning. I feel like I can beat Anderson Silva on my best day; I think I can do anything. If that ever happens, probably not, but I believe I match up good against everybody.”
Kimmons asked to thank the following: