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Tye Ruotolo Talks ONE Fight Night 23 Performance, Possible MMA Future

Tye Ruotolo
Black Belt Plus

ONE Fight Night 23 marked the first meeting between grappling wunderkinds Tye Ruotolo and Jozef Chen.

The July 5 meeting started methodically before Ruotolo scored a takedown and looked for submissions the rest of the way. The aggressive nature of the American led to a unanimous decision win in the catchweight contest.

But he still wasn’t satisfied with his showing in Bangkok.

“I could have performed a lot better. It’s not a performance that I’m very proud of. I didn’t have the best camp, and I didn’t feel the best way going through the fight. It’s the fact that I won even on my worst day – it makes me happy,” Ruotolo said after ONE Fight Night 23.

“But that’s not a performance that I like to have, especially in a place like Lumpinee. I have so much respect for the people in the audience and the stadium, so I always do my best to give a good show.”

Anytime two athletes compete, they learn from each other. The preconceived notions go out the door, and that can be said for Ruotolo’s experience with Chen as well.

After the 10-minute battle, Ruotolo talked about what he took away from his experience with the South African.

“You know, he looks like a nerd online, to be honest with you. But he’s a little bit stronger in person. But yeah, all respect to Jozef. He’s such a good representative of jiu-jitsu. [He has] really amazing technique, and [he’s] a really good kid. I’m really grateful to have the match with him,” the ONE Welterweight Submission Grappling World Champion remarked.

While Ruotolo got his hand raised, part of his disappointment was not entering the match at 100%. After the event’s close, the Atos BJJ star revealed he had been dealing with a few nagging injuries leading up to the match.

“Just within my camp, I was sick for most of it. And even before the fight, I really was feeling a bit off. I’ve been going through a couple little neck things. It has kind of been affecting a little bit of my nerve, the vagus nerve,” Ruotolo said.

“I really wasn’t feeling great going into the match, but even on all my worst days, I just gotta man up and get it done, and that’s what I did. I’m stoked to get it done, and in my next performance, I will be better. I’m going to go home and get in front of everything that would prevent me from having a great performance in my next one. I’ll perform how I’m supposed to.”

In his post-match interview, Ruotolo explained that his work wasn’t done and that he wanted to compete against other elite grapplers. Building an enduring legacy as one of the all-time greats is a driving motivation.

The allure of MMA also captures some of his attention, especially after watching his brother Kade’s MMA debut in ONE.

“I can’t wait to do MMA, you know, I’m so excited to go. I’ve been watching my brother’s last fight, it got me so fired up. It was so rad to see him. We always grew up watching MMA fights, and we always knew that we wanted to be MMA fighters one day, too, not just [become] fighters, but the best. So I’m happy to get this win in jiu-jitsu. One more for the legacy. My legacy is not done. I want to be the best in the world of jiu-jitsu. No questions, no matter what. I know I’m on my way,” the American stated.

While Ruotolo stands atop the BJJ mountain, he is driving towards becoming known as the pound-for-pound best in the world. Until that goal is met, MMA will have to wait. No matter how much he is being drawn to the sport.

“I think right now, we’re probably considered the best, my brother and I, for sure. But I want to be pound-for-pound, the best in the world. So I’m not going to stop until I get to that. But an MMA fight, that’s such a big thing for me, so I’m excited to be a part of the race there too,” Ruotolo said.

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