Chad Robichaux (photo courtesy of fighterportraits.com)
He has been training in martial arts since he was just five years old, competition becoming a way of life. But in his MMA career, finding a willing opponent has been tough for Chad Robichaux.
On occasions it’s been because of his undefeated record, other times because of his submission prowess. Then there was his time in the military that took him overseas. Upon his return, fighters just didn’t want to square off with him. Robichaux has always been willing to take a step up in competition, he just couldn’t find an adversary.
That all changes Saturday night.
The undefeated 35-year old jiu-jitsu ace will make his Bellator debut in grand fashion when he takes on bantamweight champ Zack Makovsky in a non-title super fight at Bellator 41. An August 2010 victory over touted prospect Humberto DeLeon at “Strikeforce: Houston” pushed Robichaux’s record to an unblemished 11-0 and endeared him to the Bellator brass, who thought enough to sign him to face the promotion’s first bantamweight champ in Makovsky.
“(Bellator) was interested in signing me and I wanted a tough opponent,” Robichaux said. “They offered Zack in a super fight and it was the perfect matchup. Because of my record I’ve had a hard time getting tough matchups. I get mostly guys looking to make a name for themselves by cutting into my record and trying to knock me off.”
After fighting in regional circuits in the southern United States since 1999, Robichaux got his biggest chance when Strikeforce came to his home town of Houston. He defeated DeLeon by split decision at a catchweight of 130 pounds, and six months later got the call from Bellator. Now he gets the step up in competition he has been seeking in Makovsky. A former EliteXC competitor, Makovsky became Bellator’s inaugural bantamweight champion by winning the season three bantamweight tournament via a trio of unanimous decision victories. The former NCAA Division I wrestler for Drexel University is 12-2 in his MMA career with seven wins by decision and five by submission.
Styles make fights, as the saying goes, and Saturday night’s showdown between Robichaux and Makovsky is ripe with possibilities of how the fight will go based on who can impose their will. Makovsky has been able to use his wrestling skills to bully opponents around the cage and then take them down and work them over. Nine of his fights have made it to the final round with three others ending in the second round. Makovsky has proven he can finish with a submission, but is more than comfortable using his wrestling and cardio for the full 15 minutes.
Robichaux’s career line has been a polar opposite. His split-decision win over DeLeon was the first time he had seen the third round in his career. His prior 10 bouts each ended by submission with just two reaching the second round.
Something has to give.
“The short version of my game plan is just to keep it active,” Robichaux said. “(Makovsky) is a really smart guy and a very talented fighter, and he tries to drag fights out and win by decision. I want to try to put constant pressure on him.
“To me, when I look at the matchup, it’s certainly a contrast of styles. It’s about who can get their game plan going. Can he drag it out, or can I force him?”
Makovsky’s wrestling has been a factor in almost all of his fights as he has been able to take his opponents down at will and then control them on the ground. Robichaux doesn’t fear Makovsky’s biggest strength, however. In fact, if the fight goes to the ground, it falls right into the hands of Robichaux, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt under the legendary Carlos Gracie Jr.
“I don’t think he’s had anyone come at him like I will,” Robichaux said. “People have been afraid of his wrestling to the point where they are scared to go after him and they just stall out.
“If he thinks he can take me down, great. If he does, even better. I definitely think I’m the superior grappler. His wrestling is great, but I don’t think it’s stages above mine, and I’m certainly comfortable on my feet.”
Don’t be surprised if the fighters remain standing for a good portion, though. There’s a good chance their grappling will cancel out and they’ll have to trade strikes. If that’s the case, Robichaux is eager to show the striking aspect of his game that is often overlooked because of his great jiu-jitsu.
“That’s what I’m really excited about, people finally getting to see my entire skill set,” Robichaux said. “It’s actually a bit frustrating because in the past organizations classify me as a jiu-jitsu guy and they don’t want to give me an opportunity because of that label. But if you look past my record and watch the fights you would see I knock people down before I submit them. I’ve been striking as long as I’ve been grappling and that’s 30 years.”
In preparation for facing Robichaux it is obviously a good idea to work on jiu-jitsu, but if that is the only area a fighter focuses on against him they are going to be vulnerable to his “secondary” arsenal.
“The way Zack trained for me, I think he may have not had the clear picture of who I am and might not have been training accurately for me,” Robichaux said. “I’m going to throw some things out there that he doesn’t expect. He’s a pretty composed dude, but I’m going to shock him in some areas.”
Robichaux is also eager to take his game to the next level after what he deemed to be a bit of a disappointing victory against DeLeon. Robichaux normally wouldn’t have fought at 130 pounds because it is a difficult weight cut for him, but saying no to a bout in Strikeforce just wasn’t an option.
“It was a good performance but it wasn’t my best, and mentally I almost took it as a loss.”
It was the first time Robichaux had not finished his opponent, and he was frustrated to see his streak broken. But on the positive side (besides it being a victory) was that Robichaux picked up the experience of fighting for a full 15 minutes.
“I do it in the gym all the time, but if you don’t have that experience in a fight you’re always going to wonder in the back of your mind if you can do it,” Robichaux said. “At the end of the last fight I was just getting started and I felt great, so it helps to know I can go out there and still perform if it goes the distance.”
Another advantage Robichaux has is the perspective he has in a fight. He has served as a member of the United States Marine Corps, Special Operations Force Reconnaissance Marine and as a Federal Agent. There isn’t anything in a fight that is going to scare him and there isn’t much that can throw him off his game mentally.
“MMA is a sport and the consequences aren’t as high as some of the things I’ve done in my life in the military,” Robichaux said. “I’ve had a lot of life experience and that has poised me and made me really downplay the seriousness of something like a fight. I think I’ve always had that composure because I’ve been competing so long, but the military training definitely helped.”
It’s safe to say Saturday’s fight with Makovsky is the biggest of Robichaux’s career. A win over the bantamweight champ would obviously throw him right into the title picture. For the longtime martial arts competitor who is finally getting his big chance, this is his time to announce himself to the MMA world.
“For me (a win) would just validate me and everything I claim, that I’m at the top level and that I belong there,” Robichaux said. “I know I’m not getting the belt if I win but I don’t care. I just want to show I can compete and win, and not only win but clearly show that my skills are on that level.”