Tiger Schulmann’s MMA doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue for a seven year old kid from Manhattan. Eric Rodriguez had been trying to convince his parents to take him to Martial Arts classes for a month. It was 2008 and he would see the MMA commercial and immediately run to his parents, Laila and Robert. Problem was they couldn’t figure out exactly what he was saying.
Finally Eric was able to drag his parents in front of the TV while the commercial was running. Mom struggles to remember exactly how he pronounced Schulmann’s at the time, only that it was unintelligible and hilarious. In hindsight, she says, that commercial was the best thing that ever happened to him.
“TSMMA has made Eric want to excel in everything that he does,” says Laila Saad-Rodriguez. “He doesn’t believe in quitting and these are things that his instructors have instilled in him over the years.”
I will never forget the night I met Rodriguez. I was calling the MMA fights at Ring of Combat and Sensei Lyman Good was providing color commentary at my side. The awe with which the young Rodriguez looked at Good that night was inspiring to me as an instructor. It was obvious that Sensei Good’s own instruction of Rodriguez had sparked a passion.
It’s been seven years since that Friday night and a lot has changed for Rodriguez. At the time I think he was a Hi-White Belt. Now he is a respected Black Belt, setting an amazing example for other young Manhattan MMA students.
From Sensei Good to Sensei Jason Lopez, Sensei Uriah Hall, Sensei Carlos Brooks, Sensei Nissim Levy, Joshu
Jimmie Rivera and of course Shihan Ron Schulmann himself, Rodriguez has received amazing training from some of the top instructors in the world. Many of them have or still are competing in professional MMA.
That’s an incredible motivation to Rodriguez who looks to follow in those footsteps. He trains in Manhattan nearly every day, but also makes trips to Tiger Schulmann’s Headquarters and other TSMMA schools to work with the best MMA students from all over the organization.
“He loves everything about TSMMA. He immediately set a goal to become a professional fighter and Sensei,” says mom.
Rodriguez took the first step towards an MMA career when he won his first boxing match in 2012. In 2013 he had his first Kickboxing match in Hamburg, Pennsylvania. That was set up by Shihan James Simpson, the head instructor at TSMMA Allentown where Rodriguez frequently travels on Friday nights to train with members of the Pennsylvania fight team.
Eric lost a split decision but the perseverance his mom talked about is apparent as Rodriguez trained that much harder. The Manhattan Black Belt will get a rematch in April, fighting for the USKBA title.
”Since I can’t fight in MMA until I’m 18, my goal is to fight in the Golden Gloves Boxing, Muay Thai, Kickboxing and grappling until I can have my first MMA fight. Hopefully in Manhattan!”
Maybe by the time this young Tiger Schulmann’s Manhattan protege hits the legal age for competing, the powers that be in New York will have stopped politicking and allowed legalized MMA. One thing is sure, Rodriguez will be competing somewhere, building on a resume that already has multiple championships in grappling and at the Challenge of Champions.
Rodriguez has benefited from the style of discipline taught at every TSMMA he visits. It’s something Tiger Schulmann himself learned as a young Karate student more than 40 years ago and is alive and well in modern MMA at each of the organizations nearly 50 locations. Its’ the reason Rodriguez has so many great training partners at all the other schools where he travels!