Former Godby wrestler Valdez making move to pro MMA
By St. Clair Murraine Outlook staff writer
The question whether he should begin a professional mixed martial art career tormented Rafael Valdez so much that he was having sleepless nights. His conundrum was whether to continue being a supervisor on his day job or take another position that would allow him time to train.
He opted for the latter and on Jan. 21 he will make his debut on the first professional card staged by Combat Night at The Moon.
“It’s something that I feel is going to help me sleep at night,” said Valdez, a former high school wrestler for Godby. “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. If I’m going to compete and I’m going to compete more than once that should be my long-term goal.”
Valdez is moving into the ranks of paid MMA fighters after spending the last six years honing his skills at the amateur level. He compiled a 6-5 record, fighting throughout Florida.
Valdez said he was conflicted over his decision to go pro because he knew he would have to spend more time training. He couldn’t do that before he gave up his supervisor position a month ago.
At age 26, Valdez figures his timing is right in order to attain his long-term goals. Ultimately, he said, he would like to follow the path of his former mentor Josh Samman, who died this summer.
“The ultimate goal is to perform at the highest level,” he said. “I’m all about competition. I started this for competition so I want to see the best competition out there. I don’t care who I fight as long as it’s somebody worth fighting.”
But his path to the top will be methodical, said Sky Rudloe, who has assisted with Valdez’s training since he began his career. He expects Valdez to adapt to the pro level quickly because of his lengthy amateur career.
“The only difference between pro and amateur is that losses start to matter,” Rudloe said. “You have to be a lot smarter about your fights. You can’t take injuries (into the octagon) that you might have taken into an amateur fight with you. It could be critical to your career.”
Rudloe said Valdez has the tools to be successful, not just because his wrestling experience gives him a strong ground game. He’s developed his stand up tactics and has been able to apply many martial arts disciplines as well as boxing.
“When I put my mixed martial arts to use that’s when I’m at my best; when I can punch, kick takedown and put it all together at once,” Valdez said.
Rudloe added: “His hands have gotten really, really violent, but all across the board he’s become a much, much better stand-up fighter.”
One of the changes that Valdez will have to adjust to is longer rounds. Unlike fighting three rounds of three-minute durations, he’ll have to endure five-five-minute rounds.
It’s a big change, but one that Valdez said he’s been looking forward to since he first started competing.
“I love the sport,” he said. “I’m going to do it regardless; whether amateur or pro so why not make a few dollars for doing it.”