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Having solid training camp rings a bell with ‘Ninja’ Roberts

A good training camp, with excellent coaches and sparring partners, often can give a fighter an advantage in preparation over another fighter.

Daniel Roberts, who trains with Jake Shields, Gilbert Melendez and Nick and Nate Diaz under trainer Cesar Gracie in Pleasant Hill, Calif., believes this gives him an edge.

“There are tons of great fighters here,” Roberts said. “They’re about the same weight as I am. I’m not going to face a better boxer than Nick or Nate. I’m not going to face a better grappler than Jake. If I can do well with those guys, I’ll be ready for anybody.”

Roberts, who’s originally from Rockford, will have a chance to find out when he faces Canadian welterweight Claude Patrick on April 30 at UFC 129 in Toronto. The main event will feature his teammate Shields taking on another Canadian, champion Georges St-Pierre.

The expected record crowd of 55,0000 cheering for Patrick (13-1, 2-0 UFC) won’t intimidate Roberts (12-1, 3-1). He said he has faced other opponents on their home turf and come away with a victory.

“It’s just me and him in the cage, so it doesn’t matter,” Roberts said. “It may be a little bit more hyped up. There’ll be a few more eyes, but I’m really focused when I fight.”

Roberts said he is more athletic than Patrick and has an advantage on the ground. In addition to his wrestling background as an NAIA All-American at Bacone College in Muskogee, Okla., he also grew up learning jiu-jitsu.

“I’m not a wrestler who learned jiu-jitsu; I learned them at the same time,” he said.

He has advanced to a purple belt under Gracie, whose family pioneered Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

“A purple belt under Caesar Gracie — a lot of people say that’s like a black belt anywhere else,” Roberts said.

Despite facing an opponent on a 12-fight winning streak, Roberts will enter the Octagon extremely confident.

“I’m a better all-around fighter,” he said. “It really don’t matter what he tries to do. If he tries to take me down, he’ll have a hard time doing it. If he does take me down, I’ll submit him.”

Having his teammate in the main event has benefited Roberts. Shields has trained for a five-round championship bout rather than the regular three rounds, and Roberts has trained alongside him.

“Jake’s a phenomenal grappler,” Roberts said. “I’ve never experienced anyone like him. I’ve competed all over the world. He has a relentless pace. It’s one of those things you have to experience.

“I definitely think a lot of people are going to be surprised because Jake has way better jiu-jitsu than St-Pierre. I think Jake’s going to win.”

Hooks and jabs

Leading up to UFC 129, Spike will air “UFC Primetime,” a three-part series previewing the GSP-Shields fight. Part 1 was Wednesday, but it will be repeated; Part 2 will air next week at its regular 11 p.m. Wednesday time slot.

◆ “Like Water,” a documentary on UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva, will premiere Thursday at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York.

◆ The Locals: Cut Throat MMA presents “Invasion at the Dome” at the SportsZone in Aurora (100 Business Rt. 30). JJ Gilmer will fight Raymond Rosales for the Cut Throat vacant flyweight championship. Doors open at 7 p.m.; tickets begin at $20 and are available at cutthroatmma.com.

◆ Also Saturday, Fight Card Entertainment presents “FCE 39/Vendetta” at the SportsZone in Melrose Park (1945 Cornell Ave.). Headling the card is a heavyweight fight between Maurice Green and Jeremy Moore. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.; tickets start at $25 and are available at (773) 745-1112.



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