Mike Rodriguez's Mr. Miyaga was the HS IT guy

A lot of MMA fighters found the sport after years in a traditional martial art - maybe karate, judo, or most commonly wrestling led them to the cage. Other found MMA from seeing the Ultimate Fighter for the first time, or an event at a friend’s house. UFC on ESPN+ 35's Mike Rodriguez, found the sport from his high school IT guy, as he explained during a recent appearance on Flo Combat's Top Turtle podcast.


“I got into a fight in high school and I knocked this kid out," began Rodriguez. "A teacher of mine, Alex Costa, he fought pro, but I think more in Brazil. He was the IT guy in our school. He grabbed me and pulled me to the side and was like ‘listen, you’re going to be suspended, but I’m going to introduce something to you that I think will help you because you have some talent.'”

Before Rodriguez was ushered away from the building for the next few days, the school employee managed to get something into Rodriguez’s hands. While the young scrapper didn’t at first know what he hads, he'd be all about it in the near future.

“He gave me these Pride DVDs," said Rodriguez. "So while I was suspended I watched all of them and I saw the Shogun [vs. Lil Nog] fight.” said Rodriguez, admitting that he ‘geeked out’ about what he had watched, and needing to know everything there was to know about Shogun. “From there he said to me, ‘One day after school, I’ll pick you up and show you something.'”

Rodriguez was immediately interested to know more about this new world, and his internet searches were no longer quenching his thirst. So after he was allowed back in the building, he agreed to meet his IT guy after school one day.

“He showed me this Muay Thai gym which was literally right down the street from my house,” said Rodriguez. “I just fell in love with it. I was skipping school to go there - it was bad. I was trying to get there anyway possible.”

The rest, as they say, is history. Rodriguez rode that excitement to an 8-2 record and an invitation to fight on Dana White's Contender Series. After landing a brutal flying knee in the first round and cashing in on the contract, Rodriguez was able to see the man who had gave him a nudge in the right direction.

“The last time I spoke to him was two or three years ago," recalled Rodriguez. "I went to go visit the high school and I saw him and we’re a talking a bit. It was like right after I won my Contender Series fight. He was so happy. He had this big grin and was like ‘You don’t understand how happy I am. This is amazing!”

Rodriguez hopes to keep that excitement going as he faces Ed Herman as part of the main card of UFC Vegas 10 this Saturday on ESPN+.

Cool story but Ed Herman is gonna starch him.  

You don`t post much.

It’s so great to hear about school personnel helping a kid like this find his calling even if it’s not academia.