written by Jennifer Anderson
photos by Angelo Carchesio
Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series is a place where fighters dominating the regional circuit get their big break. New Jersey fighter Karl Roberson was one of the fighters chose to get that chance. An opportunity to put on a show for the man himself, Dana White, with the potential to win a coveted contract with the UFC. The tough part is, you can’t just win, you have to show up and show out. After all, professional fighting is entertainment, not just sport.
This is where Karl found himself – this was his chance. This was the once-troubled kid’s big break and he ran with it. Facing a much taller fighter in Ryan Spann, he knew he was in for a challenge. Fortunately, Karl is the kind of fighter that never shies away from challenges. Spann, perhaps wary of his opponent’s striking, instantly shot in on a takedown and put Karl on the cage – a common tactic used to stifle a strong striker. Karl stayed calm under pressure and threw some of the nastiest short elbows I’ve seen as a fan, right to the temple of his opponent and instantly dropped him. The fight was over just like that with a first round KO via elbows. Karl now had his ticket into the UFC.
For Karl, the road to the Contender Series was a frustrating one. When I first met Karl he was coming off a devastating torn bicep injury and trying to make a name for himself. After a brief stint with Glory Kickboxing, Karl was still trying to find opponents that were willing to fight him in MMA. One opponent after another pulled out and his UFC dream was delayed with every fight that fell through. His reputation as a dangerous striker had preceded him and no one wanted to take the chance. He went 3-0 as an amateur and was struggling to get fights as a pro. Training out of Killer B Combat Sports Academy in Oakhurst, NJ, he started making the trip to Nick Catone MMA to train with the likes of UFC top ten light heavyweight, Corey Anderson, and PFL middleweight Rex Harris, who were able to give him a lot of advice about the business, expose him to his weaknesses as a fighter, and more importantly, show him that he could hang with the best of them. It was only a matter of time until he got his chance.
After finally earning his way into the UFC, Karl passed yet another test – his UFC debut. How did he do it? Another first round finish, but this time he secured his victory with a rear naked choke. Yes, he can finish on the ground too… not too shabby for a newcomer. With five out of his six professional fights ending in first round finishes, no one can complain about him being an exciting fighter. Karl Roberson has all the makings of the next big thing in the middleweight division: exciting finishes, speed and athleticism, and most importantly, mindset. Karl is the kind of fighter who is ready for whatever, never afraid of a challenge, and willing to push himself outside of his comfort zone.
This Saturday, May 12th, Karl will get his next big opportunity in the TUF: Brazil winner, Cezar Ferreira at UFC 224 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. A Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt, Ferreira is no slouch. Touting a 13-6 record, he has much more experience than Roberson, but that is just the kind of challenge Karl likes. Will Karl rise to the occasion yet again? Tune into the FX prelims at 8pm EST this Saturday to see.
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