by John Morgan on Sep 27, 2008 at 2:55 pm ET
When NBA legend Michael Jordan stepped away from basketball in the prime of his career to pursue a job in baseball, many questioned his sanity. But for Jordan, failure wouldn't result in broken limbs or concussions.
But at 41-years-old, six-time kickboxing world champion -- and former WBC boxing champion -- Rick Roufus (4-3) is seven months into his search for an MMA light-heavyweight title. Roufus recently told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com
) he's enjoying the challenge.
"It's a new challenge to me," Roufus said of his decision to pursue MMA success. "Something to conquer -- a new belt, a new goal, a new direction. I'm going to be the only guy to go from American kickboxing to boxing to Thai boxing and to MMA, winning titles in all of them."
Roufus is currently working with the world-famous Lion's Den in Scottsdale, Ariz., and he credits UFC veterans Joe Riggs and Edwin Dewees for his growth as a mixed martial artist.
"I've got to be honest, in the beginning it was intimidating being in the cage," Roufus admitted. "It was different. You get thrown, and you're not used to it. You throw a technique, a kick or a punch, and the next thing you know you're on the ground. But now I'm doing it, and I'm not afraid to throw techniques and say, 'Hey, if you want to try and take me down, come on in.'"
Though Roufus holds 57 professional kickboxing wins, along with another 13 professional boxing victories, the Wisconsin native admitted his growth process has required restraint on his part.
"Patience is a virtue," Roufus explained. "I guess sometimes you want to leap before you can jump.
"I'm learning a lot from Edwin and Joe. Both of those guys have been in the UFC, and both of their knowledge has helped me tremendously. I've pulled my laurels out when I came in this, and I was like, 'Hey, it's a new fresh start and a new beginning.' I'm excited, so the sky's the limit."
And despite starting his MMA career so late in life, Roufus refuses to set his goals any lower than when he was among kickboxing's most dominant fighters.
"To win that 205-pound belt, that's my goal right now," Roufus said. "Ideally the public wants to see the best fights. If Chuck (Liddell) is still around, Wanderlei (Silva), and I get a chance in the UFC, great. But I guess we'll see what happens after this fight. I love fighting big fights. I love the challenge, and I love the opportunity."
Roufus' next test on his path to major organization is a bout with UFC veteran Hector Ramirez (7-3-1) on Oct. 11 at the recently announced "Night of Combat II" in Las Vegas.
Roufus admits to knowing little about "Sick Dog." Roufus assumes Ramirez would like to take advantage of any holes the former kickboxing champion has on the ground, but he admits that some MMA fighters seem willing to try and test themselves against a striker with such an elite pedigree.
"He's a banger and he's a wrestler," Roufus said of Ramirez. "That's all I know. He's probably going to try and get me down to the ground.
"But then again, some of these MMA guys may want to stand with me. A lot of these guys, that's what they're trying to do with each other. I don't know if he'll try and stand with me."
Roufus knows many MMA fans may not be aware of his legendary résumé. But Roufus believes he can convert those fans with what he brings to the cage.
"A lot of action," Roufus said. "I never know what I'm going to hit, how I'm going to kick. I come from all different directions, angles. I'm very awkward, deceptive. Just don't blink."
And though Roufus has his sights set high, the wily veteran knows not to look past his next challenge.
"Right now I'm going to worry about Hector," Roufus said. "My goal is to get to the UFC or Affliction. Before I do any thinking ahead, I'm going to win this fight right here and not worry about what comes next.
"This is going to take me to where my goal is, and that's to get the 205-pound belt."