UFC fighter making a difference teaching others

UIW graduate and U.S. Army veteran teaches MMA while training for fights.

Ray Rodriguez shows off some of his belts as he prepares for his next UFC fight in Las Vegas. (Mark Mendez, Copyright 2021 by KSAT - All rights reserved.)

SAN ANTONIO – San Antonio has a long boxing history but over the last two decades, more fighters and fans are taking up mixed martial arts. With the new passion, participants are also turning on the television and enjoying the competitiveness that is the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

This coming Saturday, the Alamo City has a local fighter to root for.

Ray Rodriguez, who was born in San Antonio but attended high school in Floresville, will be traveling to Las Vegas to compete in UFC Fight Night 187. Rodriguez, who goes by “The Judge,” will face Rani Yahya in a bantamweight contest airing on ESPN+ Saturday afternoon.

“I’m going to be fighting a Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion who has been in the game for a really long time,” Rodriguez said to KSAT 12 Sports last week. “I’m looking forward to showing him what we have been working on here in San Antonio.”

“The Judge” has a professional record of 16-7-0 with three knockouts and eight submissions. Just like in boxing, the pandemic stopped a lot of fights from happening in 2020. Rodriguez fought three times in 2019 but only once last year.

“There is no end in sight as far as my career,” Rodriguez explained. “All of my fights, I really don’t take a lot of damage. I move a lot in my fights and I attribute that to my coaches. I plan going at this for a long time, being able to be a full-time UFC fighter which is the elite, I’m proud to be part of that alumni.”

Rodriguez has been fighting professionally for the last seven years. He’s also a United State Army veteran who had been station at Ft. Hood. It was during that service that Rodriguez, who reached the rank of Specialist, found a calling to mixed martial arts.

“I was doing Combatives in the Army and I made it all the way to the highest level of Level 4 Combatives and just fell in love with it,” said Rodriguez. “I was a Combative Instructor for three years at Ft. Hood. Once I finished my term in the military, I told myself I would go professional and go all the way to the top.”

The 33-year-old graduate from the University of the Incarnate Word, who finished college with a degree in Kinesiology and minored in Nutrition in 2018, owns his own gym called the Ultimate Submission Academy, located at 610 SW Military Drive.

“When we opened this academy, there wasn’t many martial arts in the South Side of San Antonio, jiu-jitsu specifically,” said Rodriguez. “We wanted to make this cost-effective as well. We lowered the prices of our memberships and we just wanted to open the doors to those who may have had to travel all the way to the north side or even another city. We wanted to place our stamp here on the South Side, teach kids self-defense, leadership, integrity and really just believe in themselves as well.”

Rodriguez will be opening a second location soon down in Floresville with a grand opening scheduled for April 1.

“To be able to be a professional fighter, to have this gym as well, it’s a beautiful thing. It really makes me happy, I’m absolutely blessed to have the people that I have around me. There’s no end in sight, I’m healthy, I feel good and I just want to keep going.”

Daniel P. Villanueva has worked with KSAT 12 Sports for over 17 years and is an award-winning sports producer. To submit story ideas, email dvillanueva@ksat.com

About the Authors:

Daniel P. Villanueva has been with KSAT 12 since 2003 and is the producer of our weekly sports show, "Instant Replay." Villanueva is a graduate of St. Mary's University and is a TAPB and Lone Star Emmy award winner.