Ground and pound

Ryan Rohovich throws punches at his opponent during a MMA fight. --Photo courtesy of Ryan Rohovich/Facebook

Local MMA fighter looks to go 4-3 with Friday night fight in Saskatoon

You might not know it to look at him, but Ryan Rohovich cut his teeth on the streets and rinks of Prince Albert.

“I was born and raised in P.A. I grew up on the East Flat of P.A.; I grew up playing hockey. I was always into hockey,” the mixed martial arts fighter said.

Now 30 years old, Rohovich is set for his seventh professional bout, Friday night in Saskatoon. He’ll be fighting Brandon, Manitoba’s Josh Goodheart.

Growing up, it was all hockey for Rohovich, despite his interest in marital arts and combat sports.

His family could only afford one sport for their son at the time.

He pushed his hockey career as far as he could, up until he was 25 years old.

Looking for something to do, he decided to try his hand at kickboxing.

He was instantly hooked.

Six months later, he won his first amateur MMA fight by knockout.

In 48 seconds.

After four more amateur fights, he got his first invite to a professional bout.

The call came from TriStar Gym in Montreal, the same home gym for famed Canadian MMA fighter Georges St-Pierre.

In Saskatoon on Friday, he’ll look to improve his professional record to 4-3.

Asked if he sees his progression from hockey to pro-level MMA fighter as a quick one, Rohovich said his experience extends well before his last year in hockey.

“Everybody says that. When I first started kickboxing and jujitsu, fighting was always my thing – I fought a lot in hockey, I fought in school, on the street, having to defend myself.

“When I started kickboxing and jujitsu, I had a knack for it. I fit in. They said I was a natural, right off the bat. Yeah, it progressed quickly.”

Come Friday night, Rohovich is the first fight on the card, which is part of a larger event put on by Modern Fighting Championship, a pro-level MMA organization.

There are six MMA fights on the card, plus one boxing match to cap off the night. Fighters will square off in a boxing ring.

Looking ahead to his opponent, Rohovich said that Goodheart is a kickboxer who prefers to stand while fighting.

“He’s tall and long, so I expect he’s gonna use his reach on me, and try to keep me on the outside. He’s a technical guy, so I expect a lot of strikes; I expect I’ll be on my feet longer than usual for most of my fights.”

That’s fine by him, because he likes to stand and strike while fighting, if he has that option.

“It seems that when I engage in striking with guys, if I hit them, they don’t want nothing to do with my striking. So it usually ends up they’re trying to take me down to the ground, and I’ll get taken down, or I’ll reverse it and I’ll end up in the more dominant position.

“I’ll just work my ground game, my submission game, using my jujitsu,” he explained.

Most of his wins are by grappling submission through groundwork, he said, but he’s not afraid to use his hands and feet for striking.

“I do have a couple wins by knockout, and I do have a win by TKO. So I do have power in my hands, and everybody in the gym always says I have this natural power. I don’t try to hit (opponents) hard, but it seems like I do,” he said.

He made sure to give a shout out to his home gym, too, LDP Martial Arts.

“To all the guys down at the gym who helped me train, pushed me through and helped me get to where I’m at.”

Rohovich will be fighting in the lightweight category, which is 155 pounds.

On Friday, he was driving down to Saskatoon for weigh-in at 6 p.m. He still had to cut six pounds of weight to make the weight limit; he was on his way to the sauna for that.

Right after he steps off the scale, he’ll start eating as many carbs as he can to climb back up to the 172-175 pounds range, all before 7 p.m., Friday evening.

This past weekend, he was at 177 pounds.

That aspect of the sport – gaining, losing and the gaining weight – is one of the tougher parts of it that other people may not be aware of.

“It takes a lot of  dedication. For five days you have to cut out all your carbs and salts, and drink a ton of water, and it’s hard to do when everyone else is eating, you know, nice meals, and you have to sit there and eat your plain chicken breast and salad with nothing on it,” he said.

“That’s a lot of weight you have to cut and stress you put on your body over the course of that five days. 

“It’s tough mentally. You’ve got to be dedicated.”

The Modern Fighting Championship events start in Saskatoon Friday at about 7 p.m. The event is scheduled to go until about 10 p.m. The event will be held at the city’s SaskTel Soccer Centre, off Attridge Drive in the city’s University Heights neighbourhood.

Tickets can be purchased by visiting www.martialartsevents.ca, or by calling (306) 262-7920.