Roller finds his balance
Story by Anthony Springer, Jr.
Photos by Chris Cozzone
While training for fights, Team Takedown’s Shane Roller fights two battles every day.
His first battle takes place in the gym. In an effort to be the best, Roller knows he must work on—and improve—everything: striking, grappling, jiu-jitsu and conditioning. One look at his record, an impressive 8-2, reveals that the hard work has definitely paid off.
The second battle the Las Vegan faces after leaving the gym might be slightly tougher than the sparring partners he faces on a daily basis. Roller consistently fights off sleep and exhaustion to balance his dual roles of fighter and father.
And the latter is definitely harder than getting punched in the face for a living.
“It’s really tough,” Roller, a father of two reveals. “Trying to get the rest in between practice and coming home to play with my kids. Sometimes I just want to get in the bed, but my boy will want to wrestle or my daughter’s all over me.”
The 31-year-old’s rise up the ranks in the WEC has been nothing short of a team effort. He credits his wife for holding down the fort while he’s training.
“My wife is very supportive. She does a lot for me she’s pretty much alone with the kids for my training camp. It’s a team effort on her part. She does a great job with it.”
Roller also credits Team Takedown, his camp and management company for a great deal of success. The company scrapped conventional MMA wisdom, giving all of their fighters a salary, a home and a car in exchange for a percentage of earnings from fights. The result, Roller says, is less stress going into fights; the family won't be missing any meals if he comes up short.
“It makes things easy for my family. I couldn’t afford to put them in a situation where I wasn’t making an income. [Team Takedown] take[s] care of us a lot and it’s a great situation for us.”
Because of the team atmosphere surrounding Roller, he’ll walk into the cage this Wednesday at The Pearl at the Palms Hotel and Casino with a clear mind for the biggest fight of his career. Sure, every fighter says the next fight is the biggest of his career, but Wednesday’s bout really is the biggest of Roller’s career.
After disposing of Anthony Njokuani at WEC 48, Roller was all but certain that a title shot was coming. The WEC matchmakers had other plans and Roller finds himself in a likely number one contender bout with a fellow rising star in Anthony Pettis.
With four wins by KO and five by submission, Pettis is equally dangerous on the feet or on the mat, but the man who made his mark in the sport as a wrestler is unconcerned.
“He’s finished fights on the feet and on the ground,” Roller says of Pettis. “But I think I have an advantage on the ground with any fighter. I don’t care who it is.”
Though Pettis posterized Danny Castillo with a vicious head kick that woke up the division at WEC 47, Roller isn’t going to revert back to his wrestling days and go for the immediate takedown.
“I’m not going to be afraid to stand with him and when I see an opening,” says Roller, who routinely trains with high level boxers and kick boxers. “I’m going to try to take it to the ground, get dominant position and finish the fight.”
A win over Pettis allows Roller to potentially kill two birds with one stone. On one hand, he’ll have a shot at WEC gold. On the other, he’ll be in position to avenge his only WEC loss to current 155-pound champion Ben Henderson.
“I’ve definitely thought about it because he’s got the belt and that’s what I want. It’d be sweet to get a rematch with Henderson and get the belt.