It’s going to be a strange night for George Roop when he steps in the cage at UFC 137 on Saturday.
Roop has been a member of Team Tompkins for his last several fights, and outside of the time where he had to face teammate Mark Hominick, he’s had legendary coach Shawn Tompkins in his corner.
Tompkins passed away in August and it sent shockwaves not only through the MMA industry, but obviously through his entire team of fighters.
“Words can’t even express how valuable of a coach (Shawn) Tompkins is, and even more how valuable of a friend and mentor he is. So it’s a huge loss not only to me, but definitely to the whole MMA community,” Roop said about his coach when speaking to MMAWeekly Radio.
Since his time on the ‘Ultimate Fighter’, Roop has been working to become a more well rounded fighter and he knows Shawn Tompkins played a major role in that happening.
“He’s definitely help me take my game to the next level. It’s a huge loss. Him not being in my corner, there’s always going to be that void there,” Roop said.
What Roop will carry with him into the cage on Saturday night when he faces Japanese fighter Hatsu Hioki is the memory of his coach and mentor.
Roop will be fighting for more than just a victory or a spot in title contention. He’s fighting to pay tribute to Tompkins and that’s a powerfully emotional weapon on his side.
“I’m going to take him in there, he’s going to be the angel on my shoulder as I go in there and take it to Hioki and get my respect,” Roop stated.
Speaking about the fight itself, Roop is excited to face a fighter like Hioki, who makes his UFC debut. Coming into the fight, Roop is considered the underdog, but he plans on giving Hioki the rudest welcome possible when he steps foot in the Octagon.
Roop has seen all the footage on Hioki and while he definitely respects his opponent, he’s not sure the former Sengoku fighter deserves quite all the praise that’s heaped upon him.
“I think he’s a great fighter, I think he definitely earned his spot in the top ten rankings. I don’t believe he’s as high ranked as most people have him. I think there’s a few fighters that should be up there above him,” said Roop.
“I don’t think he’s overrated, but I think he’s over ranked. I think he’s ranked a little too high. I think there’s some guys that are definitely there before him. I think Erik Koch is better than him, Tyson Griffin is a serial killer, he just dropped down to the 145lb division. You’ve got a lot of guys that are overlooked in the rankings perspective.”
If the rankings are wrong, Roop is happy to justify it when he beats Hioki at UFC 137. He’ll look to do just that on Saturday night in Las Vegas.