Ring of Combat's Gian Villante (top) is Strikeforce bound. | Keith Mills/Sherdog.com
With more than 35 events to its name and hundreds of fights, Ring of Combat has established itself as one of the preeminent MMA organizations on the East Coast. It has been home to fighters from all walks of the MMA spectrum. Entering its 10th year of putting on fights with ROC 34 on Friday, these are just some of the men that have graced the New Jersey cage since its first event in October 2002.
Oct. 12, 2002 was the date. It was the first and only ROC card to take place outside the state of New Jersey; the card was at the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut. Two of the biggest names to be featured on that card were Luke Cummo and Chris Ligouri; Cummo endeared himself to the masses with his rather eccentric tendencies on the second season of “The Ultimate Fighter,” and got his shot on the show thanks in part to appearing on five of the first six ROC events.
Ligouri's MMA career started with his bout at ROC 1 and a win over Themi Papadimitriou. Since that duel he's fought six more times for Lou Neglia & company. Along with a brief stint in the UFC and the defunct EliteXC, Ligouri returned to his roots in 2009 at ROC 26.
With 12 seasons of “The Ultimate Fighter” completed, being a veteran of the show hardly carries the sway it once did. Can you match the former Ring of Combat fighters with their Ultimate Fighter season? Gather your friends together at your next party and make it a game.
Bonus points if you can name each of the coaches from the respective seasons.
In a UFC and Strikeforce world it becomes nearly impossible to make any significant inroads on a grand scale if you're an MMA promotion. The goal becomes just as much about being the home to future prospects as it is putting on exciting fights and great cards. Along with the aforementioned TUF veterans, there are a bevy of once considered prospects that made their debut in Ring of Combat before moving upward.
Some of those names include Jay Hieron, Lyman Good, Kurt Pellegrino, Jim Miller and John Howard. Fast rising prospect Edson Mendes Barboza Jr. turned his time with ROC into a UFC deal. Gian Villante went 7-1 in Ring of Combat, holding both the heavyweight and light heavyweight belts. His win over Joseph Reyes at ROC 33 helped earn him a birth into the Strikeforce heavyweight tournament set to start on Feb. 12. Chris Weidman fought on the same card, and the Team Serra-Longo middleweight has been tabbed as the next ROC product destined for the big shows.
December 2003 and October 2005. Before their reigns as lightweight champs in Bellator and the UFC respectively, Eddie Alvarez and Frankie Edgar both made their successful debuts for the New Jersey-based promotion. With just three losses between them, Edgar and Alvarez serve as the highlights in a long line of them for the promotion heading into year 10 starting Friday night. I’ll be cageside with live play-by-play at 8:00 p.m. ET. Join us!