Ricco Rodriguez clean, facing Big Hurt

Friday, July 10, 2009

Not long after shocking Mixed Martial Arts fans with his verbal submitting of Ultimate Fighting Championship legend Randy Couture in UFC 39 in 2002 and winning the heavyweight title, things went awry.

That hands on experience included a Las Vegas mansion, cars, women and recreational drug abuse. He became the first UFC fighter suspended for cocaine abuse after testing positive for both cocaine and marijuana. Time in therapy, which included Celebrity Rehab, has led to 2 1/2 years drug free.

Tonight, he faces another demon: The state of Florida.

Rodriguez (35-10) will face Port St. Lucie’s Mario Rinaldi (8-2) in WFC’s “Battle of the Bay 8” at the University of South Florida’s Sun Dome. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the action begins at 8. A portion of the proceeds will go to Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America.

See, it’s not totally Rinaldi that poses as that career hurdle. In his previous three MMA appearances in the Sunshine State, Rodriguez has walked away with three losses. His last bout in the state came December 13 in Miami where he suffered a unanimous decision loss to Jeff Monson, someone he beat by technical knockout in 2002.

“You start questioning your ability and I’m superstitious,” Rodriguez said. “I just haven’t had any luck in Florida.”

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