Note: A version of this article is also available at Combat Press.
Dan Root could see the light at the end of the tunnel. He put in a grueling camp to prepare for his first professional title fight. He was on his way to cut the last little bit of weight needed to make his fight official.
But then he got the news that every fighter dreads: His opponent was injured and had to pull out of the fight.
“I didn’t think it was possible,” Root said of his scheduled lightweight title fight against Rob Watley at Shogun Fights 13 last year. The two were going to fight to be crowned the organization’s first lightweight champion. However, the fight was postponed after Watley suffered a foot injury.
“[Shogun Fights founder] John Rallo is usually a texting guy, so when he called me the day before the fight, I knew it was bad,” Root said. “There was a little disbelief, but in this sport, anything can happen.”
So did Root take some time off and let himself pack on a few pounds? No. He did what he knew best – he went back to the gym the very next day to train for his rescheduled bout with Watley at Shogun Fights 14 on April 16.
“I pride myself on my work ethic,” Root said. “No work is really wasted. My team and coaches – we train hard. Iron sharpens iron.”
Root is a member of Team Ground Control in Baltimore, which is home to several fighters past and present who boast experience competing for Shogun Fights, including Dave Daniecki, Jesse Stirn and James “Binky” Jones.
“When you have guys like that beating on you every day, eventually you’re going to get better,” Root said. We also focus on the micro-disciplines, so we’re always getting better. Why do this if you’re not going to be the best?”
Root currently boasts a 10-2 overall record, and is on a 9-fight winning streak. Root attributes his success to the culmination of time he’s spent to be the best at anything he does and to being surrounded by the talent at Ground Control Baltimore.
“They’re good guys to beat the crap out of you,” Root said. “If you want to be good, you have to get the shit [sic] kicked out of you. You don’t get better by being a big fish in a small pond – you have to be a shark and swim with the other sharks.”
He added that he doesn’t anticipate changing his strategy much from his first planned fight with Watley, and while his ultimate goal is to take his career to the highest level, Root is not looking past his next opponent.
“My only goal is to win the title,” he said. “I want to show people that I am that good, because I bust my ass and I’m driven to succeed.”
Root has had a front-row seat to the growth of Shogun Fights as the organization embarks on its 14th card. Root notes the support of local fans with Shogun Fights’ popularity, with each card drawing more than 5,000 fans – outpacing that of Bellator MMA or World Series of Fighting.
“We’re also right behind the UFC in terms of production,” Root said. “We put on good fights, and John [Rallo] does a great job of attracting educated fans who don’t boo when fighters go to the ground.”
Shogun Fights 14 takes place on Saturday, April 16, at Royal Farms Arena in Baltimore.