One of the most established gyms in MMA, Team Alpha Male is often in the headlines for multiple reasons but one guy who doesn’t get the deserved credit is Head Boxing Coach Joey Rodriguez.
The man behind the mitts has proven to be a secret weapon for the gym’s continuous success as he continues to corner and help prepare the team’s top athletes.
Most recently signed through Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series is Benito Lopez, an undefeated Team Alpha Male standout that Rodriguez feels is one of many fighters that we’ll be seeing in the UFC in the near future.
“I feel like the team has always been successful,” Rodriguez said. “Our newest batch of Alpha Male fighters are now breaking into the scene because they have been developed through the same program Urijah started 10 years ago. We’ve always dominated the region, it’s just now we’re getting guys signed to bigger promotions so people are starting to see them more.”
A young fighter that notoriously rose to the spotlight is bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt who Rodriguez doesn’t usually individually work with but has seen develop through the years.
“Cody’s looking great. When he’s healthy he’s a very dangerous man to have in the room. Besides advice and coaching during sparring, I don’t work one on one with Cody and haven’t worked with him like that since he first came to the team. He’s always had his uncle as his boxing coach and they’ve been very successful so there’s no need to change that.”
Garbrandt is set to defend his title versus TJ Dillashaw at UFC 217 in a rivalry that stemmed from Dillashaw leaving the team. Having been around both guys through the years, Rodriguez broke down the fight technically and admitted that watching the fight will be a little difficult.
“The Cody and TJ match-up is a very interesting one. TJ likes to move a lot, switches stances, and uses his kicks more. Cody is very aggressive and doesn’t waste a lot of movement. He relies of course on his great boxing; he is extremely fast and powerful with both hands.”
“He likes to get right into the fight and engage and I think TJ likes to take his time and break his opponent down. Both are great at what they do. It’s going to be hard for me to watch this fight because I am friends with both of them and don’t want to see either one of them get hurt, but this is the game and they’re both going to make a lot of money so I’m happy for that.”
With Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor set to throw down tomorrow night, Rodriguez believes that Cody Garbrandt who went 32-0 as an amateur boxer has what it takes to try his hands at a pro boxing fight himself.
“Cody is a very good boxer,” Rodriguez said. “He has the speed and the power, along with the high fight IQ to be able to compete in professional boxing. If the money is right, I can see him taking a professional boxing match or two and having success there too.”
One guy that Rodriguez does work closely with is multiple time title challenger Chad Mendes. Mendes is currently serving a 2 year suspension for a failed drug test that he said stemmed from his use of a skin cream to treat plaque psoriasis.
Mendes has taken this time off to recover from a few classic wars as well as focusing on his business and personal life. With his suspension coming to an end this coming May, he has been spending a lot more time in the gym, preparing for his comeback.
“Chad is a phenomenal athlete,” Rodriguez said. “It won’t take long to get him back to the level of fighting he was at. We have a ton of top level training partners to give him the looks he needs to get him ready to compete at the highest level.”
For someone like Mendes, who’s been at the top of the featherweight division for so long and has come so close to claiming gold on multiple occasions, Rodriguez feels it’s better if Chad takes his time upon returning.
“I would still like to get him a tune up fight just because he’s been out of competition for so long,” Rodriguez explained. “He’s been in the gym staying in shape and we’ve been working one on one as well to keep him sharp.”
Rodriguez has been coaching at Team Alpha Male for over 5 years and has worked closely with the majority of the team. He is often seen working one on one with the likes of Chad Mendes, Josh Emmett, Cynthia Calvillo and many more. For Rodriguez, the ambition has always been sharing his knowledge with others.
“I never went pro as a boxer but I was trained and groomed to be a coach by the great Ray Woods,” Rodriguez said. “I feel like he is the most underrated coach in boxing. Back in 2012 I was using Urijah’s gym to train a fighter for a boxing match and I was approached by Fred Aquitania, a heavyweight MMA fighter who asked me if I could help him with his boxing. I did, and then I was able to work with Danny Castillo, then Josh Emmett, David Mitchell, TJ, Cody, Chad, Joe Benavidez and all of them. They liked my style and it just trickled up to becoming the head boxing coach.”
Over the past couple of years there have been many signings from Team Alpha Male to the UFC. There are currently over 12 Alpha Male members in the UFC and Rodriguez believes we’ll be seeing multiple world champions within the next couple of years.
“We have a lot of up and coming talent on the roster now so it’s hard to pinpoint one breakout star, but definitely Josh Emmett is going to make waves soon as well as Bopo Morales, Tyler Diamond, Angelo Trevino, Benito Lopez, and Andrew Coyne. All championship caliber fighters.”