Shane Roller had his education (master’s degree), a young family (married with two young children) and was starting a career in business when opportunity came knocking.
Roller, an Oklahoma high school wrestling legend at Bixby and an All-Ameican at Oklahoma State, didn’t know a lot about mixed martial arts fighting. He watched it on television and thought it was interesting.
But, while he was doing some business in his hometown, he got a call from a former teammate at Oklahoma State. Would he be interested in getting into MMA fighting?
“It was one of those things that kind of intrigued me,” Roller said. “I knew I just couldn’t drop everything and go do it. I had too many things to do with a young family and just getting started out.
“But, it was one of those things that you looked at it and wondered what it would be like. I didn’t want to someday look back and wish I had at least given it a good try.”
So Roller embarked on what has been a two-year odyssey in MMA fighting, which is wildly popular with young fans.
Roller, 5-2 in his MMA career, has an Aug. 9 fight against Marcus Hicks at the Las Vegas Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. It is tentatively scheduled to be televised by Versus as part of the undercard on the WEC bantamweight championship fight between titleholder
Miguel Angel Torrres and unbeaten Brian Bowles.
“This is a very important fight because I lost my last time out and so did my opponent,” Roller said. “So, we’re both kind of in the same boat. We both need a win pretty bad.
“That’s the thing about this sport. Everyone in this sport is a tough guy. And, if you start losing a few fights, they’ll just drop you. It is a tough business.”
Roller fights for Team Takedown, a management group that includes former OSU wrestlers Johny Hendricks and Jake Rosholt.
He lives in Las Vegas and trains for about five hours each day. Included in his training schedule are different days at different gyms, including twice a week with the famed MMA gym run by former OSU wrestler and MMA legend Randy Couture.
“To be honest, I don’t think the intensity of the training for MMA is much different from wrestling,” Roller said. “I think that’s why wrestlers have been able to successfully transition into MMA. Wrestling requires such an intense training that you already have that when you come to MMA.
“The difference is that there are so many more different aspects to MMA. You can’t just rely on wrestling or any one discipline. You have to be able to do a lot of different things. It is important to have a good basic knowledge in all of the types of fighting.”
Roller, who was known for his superior conditioning and determination as a championship wrestler, has been able to make the transition “because it is similar in a lot of ways to the basic conditioning.
“It is the kind of training that takes a toll on your body. From that perspective, it is very similar to wrestling. There is just so much more to know, to learn in MMA. That’s been the biggest thing, learning everything from boxing to jujitsu, all of those things.”
Roller started in the sport about two years ago, moving to Dallas and training to get into the sport. He moved to Las Vegas, the true home of the sport, about 18 months ago.
“One day I’ll go to the boxing gym,” Roller said. “Then, on the next day, I might be at the jujitsu gym. Then, I’ll be at Xtreme Couture, Randy Couture’s gym, for a couple of days a week.
“You have to get in there with the best guys in the sport to get better. But having wrestling as a base for this sport is the best. I think it is easier for guys to predict success for wrestlers. Anyway, that’s been the history of the sport. A lot of wrestlers have been very successful making the transition.”
Roller has no idea what the future may hold. He’s determined to give it his best shot and see how it goes.
“I’m very dedicated to it; you have to be,” Roller said. “Everyone in this sport is tough, so you have to get an edge in knowledge or whatever you can.
“I’ve lost twice (in seven fights), and both times I felt like the referee should not have stopped it. But that’s why this has become a much more accepted sport. It is not the brutal thing it was when it first started. There is a pretty technical aspect to it.”
Learning all of those secrets and putting them to work in the ring is the key.
“I’ve learned an awful lot,” Roller said. “I feel good about where I am.
“But, I know, the pressure is on. This is like any sport. You need to win.”
By JOHN KLEIN Senior Sports Columnist