Following his highly controversial loss at Shogun Fights 15 last year, Rob Sullivan strongly considered walking away from competing in his home state for good.
Sullivan, a native of the Baltimore, Maryland area, lost a split decision to Shaun Spath at Shogun Fights 15, even though it was rather obvious to everyone in attendance at Royal Farms Arena in Baltimore that Sullivan should have been declared the winner. When the result was announced, Sullivan stormed out of the cage, not sure if he wanted to compete in Maryland ever again.
“I was waiting for a matchup with CES MMA,” Sullivan said of the Rhode Island-based promotion that he previously competed for. “But nothing panned out at that time, and Shogun Fights came to me with a good match-up that and when I look at it, it made sense financially to compete at home rather than out-of-town. This is my career.”
“It felt like I was running from the problem a little bit,” Sullivan added, when talking about his previous loss. “A lot of people claimed they wouldn’t come back after the last decision losses. But I felt it was the right decision to make to move forward and fight here. It’s the only way to get closure.”
Sullivan also lost a very close, controversial decision to Myron Baker at Shogun Fights 14 in 2016. He re-watched his fight with Spath and though he still thinks he won, Sullivan moved on from blaming the judging and looked to make changes in his preparation for his next fight at Shogun Fights 16 on Saturday, April 8.
“The judges have motivated me to finish and go out on my shield if need be,” Sullivan said. “I had to change up my training and my life. Now, I never leave the gym. 2016 sucked for me; I was spreading myself way too thin. Now I’m always around the same thing and staying in the same little universe, and I feel a lot better.”
Sullivan did explore filing an appeal of his loss to Spath at the behest of his coaches, “but the state was not making it easy, and it wasn’t going to be a smooth process,” he said. “I decided I just didn’t want to deal with it anymore.”
Sullivan watched videos that were posted online of his fight against Spath and while he wanted to just move on to his next fight at Shogun Fights 16, watching his last fight kept Sullivan’s motivation high and showed him he needed to take more chances in the cage.
“I know I tend to play things safe,” Sullivan said. “I’ve never been taken down, and I only have one submission loss on my record, and I was unconscious when that happened. I need to take risks and know that if I hit someone, I know I can knock them on their ass. It was time to change things and let go.”
Sullivan’s fight against Spath was his third since suffering a serious knee injury, and in preparation of his fight against Chris Rollins at Shogun Fights 16, he’s been incorporating more conditioning into his training.
“I’m leaner now than I was even before my injury,” Sullivan said. “I feel great.”
Sullivan, who stands 5 feet 6 inches tall, gives up a big height advantage to Rollins, who stands at 6 feet, 1 inch tall. “He’s the tallest guy I’ve ever faced,” Sullivan said. “I know he wants to keep it standing and probably is focusing on wrestling defense. He’s fought against a lot of strikers but struggles against grapplers. He never looks tired, so this is a good matchup for me.”
Sullivan expects Rollins will stick with his “Diaz-ish” approach to this fight, he said. “He will try to walk me down and throw punches and bully me. I’m ready for him, and I’m no stranger to tall opponents.”
At 33 years old, Sullivan would still like to make a run at competing for the UFC or Bellator MMA. Sullivan previously competed for Bellator in 2013 and won a unanimous decision. While he said he “hates how UFC does things” with its business model, “why would you turn down that opportunity?”
“Bellator feels a lot like Strikeforce 2.0,” Sullivan said. “But I think there’s a place for all organizations. The UFC wanted to be the NFL, but they’re a niche market and I hope they realize it. MMA will grow in miniscule amounts and the focus on “money fights” dictates a lot of how WME-IMG manage fights. They also employ fighters as contractors, and that’s odd to me. It’s a strange situation UFC is in. Someone paid a lot of money, but they realized it may not be worth it so they’re trying to recoup their money as quick as they can.”
But at the same time, Sullivan knows he won’t fight forever and finds enjoyment in not only being a coach but also in his endeavors outside of fighting, including performing with his band Ruiner.
“I like being a coach and I hope to open my own gym,” Sullivan said. “Being a successful fighter can help with that; I don’t want to be a gun-for-hire.”
Photo Credit: Crossface Promotions