Ron Waterman “H20” was one of the most dominant heavyweight cage fighters of the early 2000s. Waterman’s dominance allowed for a quick rise to the top, where he became the first and only WEC Super Heavyweight Champion. Early on in his career, Ron Waterman felt a disparity. He needed something more. In this interview I was able to dive into this challenge and more.
This is the story of Ron Waterman.
BK: Hey Ron, how are you?
RW: Hi Brian. I am Blessed and loving my life with my family in Colorado.
BK: So, Ron Waterman, the first and only WEC Super Heavyweight Champion, obviously, you didn’t start your career at the top. How did you get into MMA?
RW: Well Brian, I was a college wrestler who became a high school teacher and wrestling coach after graduating from college. After a practice one day my team challenged me to enter a Mixed Martial Arts competition in Denver where the winner would get a chance to fight in the next UFC. This was a time when Mark Coleman, Dan Severn and Mark Kerr were dominating the UFC. I was a TOP college heavyweight wrestler so took them up on the challenge. I won the Bas Rutten Invitational with 3 fights in one night averaging 30 seconds per fight. Come to find out John Peretti the UFC matchmaker was the referee of the matches that night. I was given a UFC contract that night. I met Bas Rutten that night and had no idea who he was. I ended up training with Bas a lot over the years after that and even helping him out of the octagon after he fought Randleman.
Anyway after that tournament I trained with some local friends who had Judo backgrounds for a while, then started to train with Colorado Stars in Broomfield. John Peretti gave me the name of a lady called Phyllis Lee to manage me. I called Phyllis and ended up having her as my manager for the rest of my MMA career. What a wonderful and knowledgeable lady she was. She got me into Pancrase fighting in Japan, PRIDE fighting in Japan, and many most of my MMA fights. A few of my early training partners that made it big were Nathan Marquardt was only about 18 years old then but a tough kid. Duane Ludwig was another young kid that was an impressive kickboxer that had amazing leg kicks that worked out with us often. I always wanted to take him down fast because I didn’t want to take that leg kick to the liver. So after training for a short 3 months I was standing in the Octagon at UFC 20. I fought a guy named Chris Condo for my UFC debut. This was a time that the UFC was still taboo and was not being televised. I won my fight that night in less than 30 seconds by referee stoppage; Big John McCarthy stepped in and stopped it. My career spring boarded from there, I started to train after I taught a full day of school and coached football or wrestling practice, whatever season we were in. I would drive to Denver, train 2 hours, and drive home at 10pm. Then wake up at 4am to work out again before my school teaching day begins. Looking back it was crazy but I was on top of the world so didn’t think twice about doing it. I had a wife and two boys who may have thought differently
BK: Throughout your career, you fought huge names like Mirko Cro Cop, a legend of the sport, Roger Gracie, and Kevin Randleman. When you would get the news you were going to fight guys of this caliber and status, did it change anything or was it just another fight for you?
RW: When I got the news about fighting these guys it never fazed me! I trained so hard I always felt I was going to win. I had some nerves before fights but I think every fighter feels that? I saw myself in the fight and following my game plan, I never doubted my ability and determination to win. I have a very competitive nature. My faith also was a very big part of my success as a fighter in overcoming fear and doubt. I didn’t realize it at the time but at home in my wrestling room I would gather as many tough guys as I could to come help me train. We didn’t have big camps like they do now. I was a school teacher who trained after my school day ended and that meant after I coached my own wrestling team practice. So I would attempt to gather 2-4 guys that would come into my wrestling room and roll with me to get me ready for a fight usually 3-5 months prior to getting a contract.
Many times I would take a fight on a short notice that would only give me 1-2 months to prepare. Not uncommon at all. One of the guys I used to call often was a former wrestler of mine called Shane Carwin. He wrestled 171lbs in HS but went to Western State College, wrestled heavyweight and became a National Champion. So I would have him come in and roll with me and I would show him submissions to use. He was a great wrestler, big and strong. I told him he needed to get into MMA. A few years later he did just that. I was traveling a lot with Team Impact at the time and needed to train so I would have these big professional athletes round robin on me for 2 hours as I would stay in the middle of the mat. I had Jeff Neil and Guy Earl NFL football Players, Randal Harris a 350lb World Champion Powerlifter, I just did whatever I could to get myself ready.
BK: At WEC 7: This Time It’s Personal, you headlined the card where you faced James Nevarez for the inaugural Super Heavyweight Championship. Tell me about this fight. What did it mean to you?
RW: I was excited to fight for a belt, It would be the first of 4 belts I had fought for and won over my career. This was the first time I had fought outside in an open air outside cage. I didn’t expect the fight to go the distance but it went all 3 rounds. I dominated the fight from the top position but couldn’t get the submission or get James to tap from punches. TapOut was at the fight and my sponsor then, they were just starting out and couldn’t afford to pay me so just gave me clothing. A decade later they were all millionaires. Funny how things work out. I was excited to be given the belt that night and win the very first Super Heavyweight Title!
BK: You openly profess you are a Christian, and even do traveling work for the faith-based organization Team Impact. When did you make this life decision and why?
RW: I became a reborn Christian a couple years before signing with the UFC. My life was falling apart, I was lost and living for all the wrong reasons. I was trying to find my happiness in all the wrong places. My marriage was on the rocks, I thought I could find my happiness in a bigger house, a nicer car, if more people liked me, if I could get more women’s attention by looking better. My wife had a business that took all her attention and time and she put all her effort and energy into that. Needless to say our two kids needed a mom and dad.
My father had been trying to get me back to church with him every weekend for months but I was of course too busy to attend. One Sunday I gave up, I went to church, and as I sat in the pews that morning it was I knew my father had tipped off the pastor. Every word out of the pastor’s mouth was directed right at me and my life. I’m not a real emotional guy but it was all I could do to hold back the tears as I sat there. I knew it was my time, I knew God was talking to me, and it was time for me to stop running, time to stop turning my back and walking away. At the end of the service the pastor asked if anyone didn’t know Christ and have a personal relationship with him, this was the time. I knew I had to respond, I knew this was my time. I repeated a short prayer as did a few others then was the first person in a room of 500 people to stand to my feet and walk to the front of the altar and make a walk of faith. I was baptized a couple weeks later and have never looked back.
I had big plans to change WWE with my faith but that was an eye opener. The UFC and MMA has been a blessing as I have been able to share scripture on National TV and interviews around the world. It’s by God’s mercy and grace I am where I am today. I am blessed beyond measure and thank the Lord every day for what I have been given in this life. After my two year stint in the WWE I was given the opportunity to travel with Team Impact, a Christian Strength Team. I have traveled the world with this team for the last 18 years sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. We use feats of strength to draw a crowd and then share our testimonies and a salvation message. I have seen hundreds of thousands of people give their lives to Jesus over the years. It has been such an amazing opportunity to serve and do the Lord’s work.
BK: I have one more question for you, Ron Waterman, and again, thanks for your time. You know, you are wildly successful, even out of the MMA spotlight. You have your own realtor business, you’re a member of Team Impact, you’re a firefighter and a paramedic…what would you say to those young people out there, who are just starting out, whether it be in MMA or life in general, on how to be successful?
RW: There are many things I base my success on, living by the Golden Rule and treating others like you would like to be treated. Giving your life to Christ first and foremost. Our time on this earth is like a vapor, our real home is in Heaven but you have to accept Jesus and live for him to get there. I am a very goal driven person. I was a wrestler in the 4th grade and it turned my life around. I learned discipline and work ethic, and gained self confidence through all the hard work, with winning and losing. My coaches pushed me to be better and I learned I could work harder and do anything I put my mind to. I overcame learning deficiencies by just working harder and doing more than everyone else. I never gave up, I fed off other peoples doubt. I was never smart enough to go to college, but went on a full ride for 4 years, graduated then went back for a Masters degree 2 years later.
I’m a terrible speller but authored my first book 5 years ago called “Tapped Out by Jesus” from the cage to the cross. I was told I was too old to become a firefighter, but got a career position, went through fire academy and finished top of my class and at one of the best fire departments in Colorado. Went back to school on my own and got my Paramedic License to become the best fire medic possible. I love when people doubt me and what I am capable of doing. My wife and I own a real estate company and purchase properties all over the US. We sell here in Colorado, and I still do a good amount of public speaking. I love sharing with kids in schools and sharing in churches. My two young Boys are now grown into hard working men and I have a 6yr old little girl now who has her daddy’s heart. So to summarize your question Brian: Before I made a decision in life I would ask myself what would Jesus Do, take advice from those who are worthy of your respect, set lofty goals and never give up on them, don’t ever doubt yourself, find someone to help hold you accountable, if you stumble get back up, failure is part of the process. Hebrews 13:5
-End Interview with Ron Waterman-
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