18-year-old Raul Rosas Jr. knew he would get to the UFC at a young age but even he didn’t expect it to happen while he was still months away from graduating from his senior year in high school.
In fact after winning on Dana White’s Contender Series and earning a UFC contract, the California based bantamweight had to leave his friends behind to focus on training for his upcoming debut against Jay Perrin at UFC 282.
“This is my senior year in high school,” Rosas Jr. said during UFC 282 media day. “I started doing home school so I could have more training sessions.
“I was going to school but I was missing a lot of days because I was training. So that’s why I say in between, hopefully I graduate this year.”
When he was still attending school full time and simultaneously training for a future in the UFC, Rosas Jr. says the toughest part was missing out on his favorite lunch when all of the kids in his class were racing to get a piece of pizza.
Now he’s preparing to fight on the biggest stage in mixed martial arts while also serving as the featured prelim heading into the final UFC pay-per-view in 2022.
Rosas Jr. promises he’s settling into this new reality and learning to thrive in the chaos even if it’s all happening a little sooner than he expected.
“I knew I was going to be in the UFC early, around this age, but for some reason I didn’t think I was still going to be in high school,” Rosas Jr. said. “Somehow that didn’t cross my mind.
“I had to leave school but I wish I was still in regular school cause I think it’s pretty fun hanging out with friends and I’m not training, I’m just sitting on the desk, talking and eating and stuff. I had to take that away for me to become an even greater fighter than what I am today. I didn’t know I had to make that sacrifice and at the end of the day, I realized I had to make it and that’s what I did.”
So much of the attention around Rosas Jr. leading into his debut has centered around his age and the fact that he has a chance to become the youngest fighter to ever earn a win inside the octagon.
While he certainly understands the attraction surrounding an 18-year-old kid fighting in the UFC, Rosas Jr. wants to prove that he’s definitely not just some novelty act.
“For me it’s not only about winning this fight on Saturday night,” Rosas Jr. explained. “It’s about going out there and making a statement just to prove a point that I’m ready to face higher level competition. I’m just going to show everybody that I’m levels above.
“The key to this fight is not only winning this fight but also I’m going to win impressively to show that I’m ready to fight higher level competition.”
As for his opponent, Perrin was complimentary towards Rosas Jr. when he spoke to media earlier in the same day but he also added that fighting on this stage might be too much, too soon for an athlete who is still learning the ropes without ever really facing adversity in his young career.
Perrin definitely took exception to the idea that Rosas Jr. is already proclaiming his intention to become the youngest champion in UFC history — an honor currently held by Jon Jones when he was 23 years old — and he added “everyone wants to be that, and I want to be Santa Claus.”
In response, Rosas Jr. guarantees he will fulfill his promises and he’ll even attempt to help Perrin realize his fantasies after beating him at UFC 282.
“He would actually do a better job being Santa Claus than being a fighter,” Rosas Jr. said. “After this fight, that dream can come true. His dream of being Santa Claus can come true. He can go ahead and go dress as Santa Claus and stand outside of the mall and some kids can take pictures with him. He really wants that. If he wants, he can buy me a gift. He can buy me a gift and bring it to my home or whatever he wants to do after the fight.
“I’ll make his dream my come true, too, just like he’s making my dream come true by beating him on Saturday night. It’s a win-win for everybody, right?”