Karl Roberson is just a regular guy from Neptune, New Jersey trying to find his way through the unforgiving world of combat sports using hard work, heavy hands, and a will to win.
He's had some one-of-a-kind experiences thus far and there is plenty more on the horizon for this undefeated prospect.
Roberson fights Derrick Brown this Saturday at CFFC 65 in what will be his fourth professional MMA fight. With a current record of 3-0, Roberson is just beginning his career at the ripe age of 26.
By looking at his experience in MMA one would imagine Roberson is much less seasoned than he truly is. See, Roberson is a crossover athlete that competes both in MMA and Kickboxing professionally. He has a total of twelve bouts (Amateur and Pro) between both sports. Some of those bouts just happened to be against strong levels of competition including a bout with CFFC contender Mike Wilcox, and most notably, his first pro fight against French kickboxing legend Jerome Le banner.
That's right, Karl's first fight inside the ring as a pro was a short notice bout in France against perhaps the most recognized French fighter in history with more than 100 fights prior to facing Roberson. As you can imagine this was quite a daunting task, but Roberson was up for the challenge. What he could never have been up for was the rough road he faced just getting to the fight. He recalled the story in vivid detail while chatting with CFFC.tv.
"That was one of the craziest experiences of my life," said Roberson. "The first thing I had to worry about was traveling. The trip there was horrible. We were on the move for like 24 hours straight. First we got on the plane to go overseas and of course me and my coach have the two smallest seats ever all the way in the back of the plane right next to the toilet. Then we got off that plane and hopped on another plane for like 6 hours. After that we had to make a 4 hour drive up the mountains so the traveling was killing me.
Once we got there my coaches noticed I was looking kind of small. This fight was at heavyweight and I had already worked my way down to 185 for some MMA fights so I was dehydrated and I couldn’t really eat much because the food there was bothering my stomach. But we made it there and I was alright. The first thing I noticed was that like all the other kickboxing events I had been to, everyone was really nice. That’s completely different than MMA where guys are always trying to start some sh*t. So I think the French people were expecting me to be this cocky, snobby American and when they realized I was respectful and all that they were like ‘Ok cool. Good luck.’ I got to talk to Jerome Le Banner later on. Extremely cool guy, but he had that look in his eyes like ‘Aw yeah I’m big as sh*t and I’m gonna try to knock you out.’ So we’re giving each other that look.
After that it was time for weigh ins so we did them out on this huge yacht. Sure enough I got handed these little underwear shorts and I was told they were a sponsor and I had to wear them. I was like ‘What is this! I can’t fit into these!’ But they made me squeeze into it anyway and I almost fell walking up to the scale. So, I step on the scale and when I look into the crowd I see everybody lookin' at me like ‘He is very small.’ They were figuring this has gotta be a gimmie fight.
The next day I get to the arena on fight night and it was crazy. I had never been to an arena where the whole thing was outside. We were actually warming up in the back in grass and dirt. Everyone had their shoes on kicking up dust, it was nuts. When I walked out I saw all of these people in their high end seats with all of the gourmet dining and stuff, so I knew all of these people watching had like a ridiculous money. I stepped into the ring and after Jerome walked out we got to stand face to face. That’s when I realized how much bigger he was than me. I was looking up at him and now I’m getting antsy. I was bouncing around ready to go because now I felt like he was looking down at me like I was an easy meal.
So the fight starts and the first thing he throws is a left high kick. Now Jerome Le Banner doesn’t fight in the states anymore because he has a metal plates in his shin and arm from getting shattered back in the day. So when he kicked me, it hurt to the highest degree of pain. I could actually hear my coach say ‘I know it hurts, but it’s whatever just bang out!’ So, from there I just started throwing heavy leather. I guess he didn’t expect me to his as hard as I did. So I dropped him the first time and the ref pushed me back to a corner and I figured they’d start counting and they didn’t. They let him right back up and the ref actually smacked him to wake him up a little bit. They called it a slip and I thought to myself ‘That’s a little suspicious.’ But I was in my zone and I just wanted to keep fighting. Next round I came out and got hit with a low blow. The ref starts counting me and I’m like ‘Are you kidding me? That was clearly a low blow.’ I knew I had to get up and we just kept going at it.
Then I dropped him again. I expected them to start counting, but they didn’t. The ref was telling me to move to a neutral corner. Usually when that happens there’s someone else outside of the ring that should have been counting so the ref can catch up, but there wasn’t so he got like a 30-second count. He got up, we finished the round, and when we went back to our corners you could actually see it on the big screen, they started using smelling salts to wake him up. At that point I’m like ‘Oh man, you can do that out here?’ Then I realized a lot of things were going down there that wouldn’t happen in the states, so I was sure that if I didn’t knock him out I was going to lose the fight because that’s how they were doing things. It ended up going to decision and I lost it, but I think I earned a lot of respect in that fight more than anything. It was a great experience, I got to fight a legend and I did my best against him."
An incredible story. Although the result was not what Roberson was looking for, it's great to see has has taken the positives out of it and moving forward. That's all you really can do in a situation like that.
Shifting focus back to his martial arts career as a whole, Roberson explained that he is not done with kickboxing just yet. He loves both sports equally and he wants to go out on his terms...eventually.
"I'm a kickboxer at heart, but I love MMA too. I’ve always been a fan of MMA ever since I watched some of the older days of the UFC and PRIDE, but kickboxing—watching all of those old K1 days where guys just brawled it out was amazing too.
I’d like to crossover one more time before making it to the UFC. My last few kickboxing fights didn’t go my way and I want to show what I’m truly capable of and go out on a better note. For right now though, I’m pretty much solely focused on MMA."
With his eyes set on the UFC, Roberson is training with some of the very best under the Killer B Combat Sports Academy and Nick Catone MMA. Humbled by the presence of his elite training partners, Roberson credits them for changing his outlook on the sport.
"For me I’ve got a long ways to go. I’m still a newbie in the game. I train with guys like Frankie Edgar, Corey Anderson, and Chris Weidman and when you work with those guys you think to yourself ‘Yeah you’re good, but you could be so much better.’ So with that work ethic and that mindset I’m training to be the best of the best and the one who’s gonna hold the belt. I wanna leave my mark on the sport and create a legacy."
When asked what keeps him motivated, Roberson stated that it all starts with family.
"First and foremost is my daughter. She loves watching my fights now. At first she didn’t, but now when I go to the gym she’s always telling me ‘Work hard daddy, but don’t get hurt.’ So her and my family having my back through everything, my love for this sport--it all just gives me the mindset to never stop going forward. I love pushing myself to the absolute limit and you can’t do that in every sport. A lot of times life doesn’t even ask that of you unless you’re in the hurt game. I love that and that’s what keeps me going."
No matter how determined you are, as a fighter you can't continue to advance if you are not inside the cage/ring. That has been somewhat of a problem for Roberson. Not because of injuries, or reasons beyond fighting, but rather because Roberson just isn't someone many people are willing to fight.
"I get a bunch of Yes/No guys that try to say yeah I will fight you, but then two weeks out they get mysteriously injured. I’ve had like six scheduled fights where the guy has pulled out on me. That’s what messes up the weight cut because I stop cutting for a minute and then I get a short notice replacement and I feel like I gotta start over. That messes with your body a lot."
Roberson is thrilled that he found a game opponent for CFFC 65 at light heavyweight and he was adamant that he believes Cage Fury deserves the reputation as an elite regional promotion.
"Truthfully, I’ve fought for a lot of promotions and CFFC is one of the top ones. Just the people, the appearance, the ring, the whole show is high level. It makes you feel like you’re in the big show like the next step right under UFC. The lights, the cameras, how they organize, everything is just on point. They make sure you got your stuff together, make sure medicals and everything is good and you don’t run into that a lot. A lot of times you get the half-*ss shows with fake tarp rings and people not being real with you. It’s just awful."
Prior to wrapping things up Roberson made his shoutouts...
"Shoutout to SuckerPunch Entertainment, my coach Brian Wright, Nick Catone MMA, Ricardo Almedia BJJ, and my boy Corey Anderson for always being there for me."
Standing room only tickets are still available for Saturday's event at the 2300 Arena on 2300 S Swanson Street in Philadelphia, PA. Come out and see Karl Roberson alongside a stacked fight card featuring three CFFC title bouts! To order yours click the link below!