The time was late-January of 2006 and a Hawaiian promotion was about to start a tournament that included one of the best in terms of talent in MMA history. Amidst the promotion’s 29-events, Rumble on the Rock 8 & 9 definitely stand out as monumental and historically significant moments and one of New Mexico’s very own was part of the epic storyline. The Penn family (of the B.J. Penn kin) had their hands tied into the Hawaii-based fight promotion and they had already had notables such as Ricco Rodriguez, Kendall Grove and “Tank” Abbott.
The 175-pound, 8-man tournament to be held over the course of two events would begin in Honolulu on January 20th, 2014. The quarterfinals would feature eight fighters all billed as champions in past promotions. Amongst the crowd, Albuquerque’s Carlos Condit entered into the tournament with a record of 13-2 and arguably the most unknown fighter in comparison to the other seven competitors.
Cage Rage Champion Anderson Silva (16-3), fresh from fighting the young Georges St. Pierre, Frank Trigg (12-4) and former Shooto Champion Jake Shields (12-4-1) were the tournament favorites heading in to the Rumble on the Rock 8 event. Silva was considered one of the best foreign talents, Trigg had just fought several times for the rising in popularity promotion, the UFC, and Shields was already a seven-year veteran of several premier promotions.
The other competitors were Renato Verissimo (5-2), a three-fight UFC veteran; Dave Menne (42-12), who was the former UFC Middleweight Champion; Yushin Okami (13-2), a K-1 and Pancrase veteran; and Ronald Jhun (22-15), a former King of the Cage Champion.
For fight fans that don’t recall the landscape of New Mexico MMA from over 8-years ago, Condit trained with FIT NHB and his Head Coaches, Tom and Arlene Vaughn. Condit entered the tournament winning his last five of six and would arguably be the underdog to Verissimo. The hometown-Hawaiian fighter Verissimo was a knockout specialist who had dropped two of three in the UFC and held a notable win over Carlos Newtown. Condit needed only 17-seconds to brutally dispatch Verissimo; Condit caught his foe with a counter knee to the chin as Verissimo came swinging, finishing the fight with knees and punches to the turtled Hawaiian.
In Condit’s portion of the bracket, Frank Trigg had just won a unanimous decision over Ronald Jhun which would match Condit with the second straight UFC caliber opponent and a chance to get to the Rumble on the Rock Tournament finals.
Fast forward four months to April of 2006 and tournament would continue at Rumble on the Rock 9. The event would host the semifinals and the finals of the 175-pound tournament. Condit would now have the task of taking on Frank Trigg who had just bounced back from two consecutive losses against Georges St. Pierre and Matt Hughes. Trigg was considered one of the UFC’s top Welterweights and a perennial title contender.
Condit would need more than 17-seconds in the semi-finals but not by much; 82-seconds into the opening round, Condit locked in a fight ending triangle-armbar submission that forced Trigg to tap-out. Trigg charged Condit as soon as the bell sounded and blasted through a takedown, Condit would stay busy and eventually find the opening to set-up the triangle. While the choke was tight, Condit really torqued on the trapped arm of Trigg to secure the win. The fight signifies the last time Condit has ever finished a submission off of his back as he would go on to make a habit of finishing opponents standing.
In just a span of 99-seconds, Condit had won two fights and punched his ticket to the tournament finals. The favorite to emerge from the opposite bracket was Anderson Silva. Silva was only a few months from his eventual UFC debut and the PRIDE veteran was already considered one of the most dangerous fighters in the world. As fate would have it, Silva would lose in the opening round by Disqualification when he upkicked opponent Yushin Okami while Okami’s was grounded. The fight has long been controversial as Silva has gone on record stating that the rules weren’t clear to his team. Nevertheless, Okami would go on with the DQ win and Jake Shields would defeat Dave Menne via unanimous decision.
In the other semi-final fight at Rumble on the Rock 9, Yushin Okami and Jake Shields would put each other through the grinder in a methodical fight that lead to a majority decision in favor of Jake Shields. Shields was an established MMA veteran at the time with over seven years of experience and Condit as aforementioned, was a relative unknown outside of New Mexico.
While Condit would land some vicious strikes on the feet, the fight would take place on the ground where the wrestling of Shields would stifle the striking talents of Condit and then his Jiu Jitsu skills would shutdown any type of offense Condit would unleash off of his back. Shields would win a unanimous decision victory becoming tournament champion and in defeat, Condit would announce himself to the MMA world as an emerging talent to watch out for. The 22-year old Condit went 2-1 against elite caliber talent in a four-month span and would propel himself down the path of success we all know now that he would take.
All of the fighters in the tournament went down different paths; Silva most notably would go on to become the pound-for-pound greatest MMA fighter of all-time and UFC Middleweight Champion. Okami would go on to have a successful MMA career where he would challenge for the title and end his UFC tenure with a legendary resume. Shields would go on to fight for the premier MMA promotions in the world where he would rack up a record win streak defeating such names as Dan Henderson, UFC 171 title challenger Robbie Lawler and the well-known Demian Maia.
Condit’s future would also be bright, he would go on to win eight of nine fights which included capturing and defending the WEC Welterweight title. Of course Condit would also move gyms, joining the famed Jackson-Winkeljohn gym and is still currently enjoying a successful UFC tenure that includes an Interim UFC Title and winning several top contender bouts. Condit fights tomorrow night at UFC 171 where a win over opponent Tyron Woodley will once again propel him into a UFC Title shot against either Johny Hendricks or Robbie Lawler.