If Dana White had any doubts about Raul Rosas Jr., they were quieted in a hurry.
The 17-year-old phenom became the youngest UFC fighter in history Tuesday night after inking a UFC contract with a win over Mando Gutierrez at the promotion’s Contender Series. White acknowledged that he was hesitant about signing Rosas Jr. at the event, as he was born Oct. 2004,. However, he and Gutierrez flew home after UFC President Mark White watched what he thought was a far superior performance to Rosas Jr. in his years.
“For a 17-year-old to conduct himself the way he did in this fight, I was blown away by it. White stated that he was “blown away” at the post-fight press conference.
“After what I just saw, this kid’s ready to fight in the UFC.”
Competing in the night’s co-main event, Rosas Jr. outworked, out-grappled, and ultimately outclassed a 25-year-old seasoned fighter in Gutierrez, who held a 7-1 record heading into the bout. He won the three rounds according to the judges and displayed a bright and energetic style, including a Suloev stretch in the first round and a stunning takedown from a fake flying knee in the second.
All in all, it was an eyebrow-raising performance from Rosas Jr., who moved his unbeaten record to 6-0 with the all the poise and composure of a veteran more than twice his age.
“That’s one of the things that impressed me the most,” White said of Rosas Jr.’s attitude. “And I loved how active he was. He’s not one of these guys that’s a jiu-jitsu guy that just lays around and whatever. His determination to do something is evident in his slickness and how he holds the back. He can be free when you have his back. I was impressed by everything that he did, especially with his cardio. There was never an adrenaline dump where he looked exhausted at one point. There were never any pauses in fighting .”
Of course, it’s fair to wonder whether a UFC contract is too much too soon for an athlete as young as Rosas Jr. There are very few names in the UFC — if any — who represent an easy fight, especially in the 135-pound division.
White admitted that he wasn’t certain about the promotion’s matchmaking strategy for gradually allowing the bantamweight prospect to climb the ladder, but that he was still sold on the possibility of Rosas Jr. becoming a champion.
” We probably shouldn’t be fighting him in Vegas for awhile — he would be bored as hell here,” White joked. “He’d have to sit in his room the whole time. This kid is amazing. He’s absolutely special. I was blown up by the number of fighters who were slamming my face, saying, “Oh my god, this kid is real. This kid’s legit.” [it’s] Impressive.
” This isn’t the [to bring a young fighter up slowly], place, but [young talent] is where you will find it. Look at Mickey Gall. Mickey Gall wasn’t 17, but Mickey Gall came in here at 1-0. I brought Mickey Gall in off Lookin’ For A Fight to fight CM Punk, and he had a pretty good career here. He hung out here for a while and had some good fights and did pretty well. If you find these kids that you think are talented and you end up being right, they’ll last here. This kid looked very special .”
, as I witnessed it tonight.