When Dan Root showed up for a recent training session at his gym, Ground Control Baltimore, he probably wasn’t expecting to be offered a title shot. But that’s exactly what happened.
John Rallo — founder of Shogun Fights, head trainer at Ground Control and Root’s coach — offered Root a lightweight title fight against Rob “Ares” Watley at Shogun Fights 13 in Baltimore after Watley’s original opponent, Cole Presley, had to withdraw because of injury.
“I haven’t had the chance to fight for a title yet, so I thought it would be great,” Root told Combat Press. “If you’re not in this to be the best, then why are you here?”
A New York native who currently resides in Baltimore, Root has a unique approach to his fights, which is why he’s not too concerned about stepping up as a late replacement to fight Watley.
“No offense to any of my opponents, but I don’t study any of them,” Root admitted. “I only focus on what I can control. I’m a proactive fighter, not reactive. If someone beats you at their best, then they’re the better man.”
That approach seems to work for Root, as he sports a record of 10-2 as a professional after going 3-3 as an amateur. Root has fought nine times for Shogun Fights, going 8-1 with six of those victories coming by submission.
Root believes his evolution from an amateur fighter to a pro comes down to confidence.
“I put in the work, and all the sweat and the work has prepared me,” he said.
Root attributes his proclivity for submissions to his background as a wrestler. He started wrestling at age 5 and continued all the way through college. He started training in jiu-jitsu not long after deciding that making a living as a teacher wasn’t for him, and soon thereafter he made his mixed martial arts debut.
“I’m good at getting people to the ground,” Root said. “There’s a lot of skill for knockouts — a lot of angles and sometimes it’s just pure, blind luck. But you actually beat someone into submission. Aggressively controlling the fight plays to my strengths and my pace.”
Root describes Watley as a “young, athletic fighter.”
“He has a good team, and he fights the same style as me,” Root said.
Root has had a front-row seat to the growth of Shogun Fights over the organization’s first 13 fight cards, and he credits Rallo with bringing in great talent for each event.
“Each event is bigger and bigger, and I think we draw more knowledgeable fans,” Root said. “The fans understand the nuances of fighting and aren’t just screaming for blood. I’ve been to some other regional shows and they’re not as well run. As more people will get involved, I think [Shogun] will continue to grow.”
While Root’s short-term goal in MMA is to win the lightweight title at Shogun Fights 13, in the long term he would like to fight at least once in the UFC.
“I want to know I could fight with the best in the world,” he said.