LAS VEGAS — Raul Rosas Jr. strutted into the Octagon inside the Apex for a bantamweight fight Tuesday against Mando Gutierrez like he always belonged on a big stage.
He was pitted against a grappler — someone supposed to provide a stern test should the match ever go to the mat.
Rosas excelled on the ground, confidently beat Gutierrez by way of a three-round decision, and even did so while using a box of tricks that included fooling his opponent into thinking he was launching into a flying knee before shooting a takedown.
It was only the sixth pro fight of Rosas’ burgeoning career, but what made the performance even more impressive was that the Mexican athlete is only 17 years old.
He’s, by far, the youngest athlete to compete on Contender Series and, after scoring a UFC deal on the spot, he now shatters the record as the youngest fighter ever on the market-leading MMA promotion’s roster.
UFC boss Dana White unequivocally expressed how impressed he was, telling reporters that what Rosas did midweek was “special.”
There was speculation on press row that White may not give Rosas a contract because he’s so young, and would rather sign him to a developmental deal instead.
For Rosas, though, it was never in doubt.
“I knew he was going to give me that contract, otherwise I wouldn’t be here,” Rosas said after the fight, with the confidence of youth. “I’m 17, and I’m 6-0.”
Rosas said he hasn’t yet shown White what he can do, and would compete on Saturday if there was another event scheduled at the Apex. “I’m just ready to go out there and get the kill,” he said.
Rosas called his style “all gas, no breaks” and said he’d rest when he retires. “When I’m old,” he said.
He then said he’s only just getting started and has his eyes on setting another record, by winning the title quickly.
“I know it won’t be easy, nothing is easy in this life, but I will become the youngest UFC champion,” he said.
“If I could fight a top five in my UFC debut, I would, but I have to work my way up there, and I will be up there soon. I will become the youngest UFC champion when I’m like 19, 20, 21. It doesn’t matter.”
When White held a media huddle after the series of fights, he said he was blown away by what he saw.
“After what I just saw, this kid’s ready to fight in the UFC,” White said.
Speaking specifically about what he enjoyed about Rosas, White listed the teenager’s activity and added: “He’s not one of these guys that’s a jiu-jitsu guy that just lays around and whatever. He’s always going for something, how slick he is, how he takes the back.
“When you get his back, how he can get out. Just everything that kid did tonight impressed me, and especially his cardio. There was never an adrenaline dump, where he looked exhausted at one point. There was never a lull in the fight with either guy.”
White told Insider that, to secure a match for Rosas, Contender Series staff had to obtain special permission from the Nevada State Athletic Commission.
Though he did not speak to the fighter’s parents personally, White said they would have likely had to sign a waiver.
“That was some high-level shit,” White said.
When Insider asked whether he found himself more protective of Rosas because of how much younger he is compared to other fighters, White said the real question is whether he could compete at the Contender Series.
“We brought him into the Contender Series. He fought a guy whose record is close to his, and the only difference between the two was age,” said White.
“You saw during the fight they were very well-matched,” the UFC boss added. “That was as good matchmaking as you’ll ever see.”
Rosas turns 18 in October.