ONE Middleweight King Reinier de Ridder on Facing Tye Ruotolo as an Underdog: “It’s a Very Interesting Matchup”

Reinier de Ridder – the current king of ONE’s middleweights, and former light heavyweight champion – went undefeated in MMA until suffering a knockout at the hands of the formidable Anatoly Malykhin, who reigns as a heavyweight and light heavyweight champ-champ at ONE. 

If you’re going to take your first loss, that’s hardly one to be ashamed of.

De Ridder’s submission grappling resume is nothing to sneeze at either – a current jiu-jitsu and judo black belt, the MMA star was also an IBJJF Euros silver medalist back in 2016, where he competed in the heavyweight purple belt division. Arguably still more impressive, he faced the legendary André Galvão in a ONE submission grappling superfight in 2022 – and went the distance, ending the match in a draw. 

Yet in his upcoming submission grappling match against Tye Ruotolo – Galvão’s longtime student, who competes at a mere 185 pounds at his heaviest – De Ridder considers himself a thorough underdog.

“I definitely feel like the underdog,” de Ridder tells me with a laugh. “We’re stepping into the cage, so that’s a good thing for me – but he’s a pure grappler. He’s fully focused on grappling.” De Ridder – despite a strong grappling resume of his own – points out that he, on the other hand, has to divide his attention between other combat sports training, due to the multidisciplinary nature of MMA. “I have to do everything, and grappling is only a small part,” he explains. 

However, as an MMA fighter who loves to grapple above all else, he also sees this match against Tye as a personal treat. “It’s a real blessing that I can now really fully focus on grappling over the course of a couple of months,” says de Ridder. 

“Stylistically, it’s a very interesting matchup,” he adds, noting that both Ruotolo brothers tend to eschew pulling guard. That prompts the question: “What does he do if he can’t take me down?” 

It’s a fair ask. It’s one thing to wrestle someone your own size. It’s quite another to wrestle someone so much bigger – who’s a judo black belt and seasoned MMA fighter to boot. “I’m really keen on a good fight for the takedown,” de Ridder tells me. “It would be really cool to see some exchanges there. I’ve been working on some very special stuff, and I have my judo base, of course, so I might get some good throws in. I’m very excited for that part.” 

He notes that the Ruotolos’ coach, André Galvão, repeatedly pulled guard during his own superfight with de Ridder – despite usually opting to play top. “I’ll be interested to see if Tye does the same, or if he sticks to his game, and keeps hunting for the takedown. 

“An interesting thing is that we kind of have similar styles, grappling-wise. We both have good takedowns, we both do well in transitions from takedowns to the ground game, and we’re both dangerous there with submission attempts that come directly off takedowns. So all in all, I’m very curious to see what happens, and how he’s going to approach this match.” 

De Ridder, who stands at 6’4,” may have north of 20 pounds on Tye at his biggest, but that’s par for the course for Ruotolo, who’s previously gone on record claiming a love for facing heavier opponents in elite absolute divisions, “the bigger the better.” 

That’s not just talk, either. The young Atos star has proven his mettle against larger opponents time and time again. An ADCC 2022 open weight bronze medalist, Tye successfully defeated Pedro Marinho and Felipe Pena before taking a controversial decision loss to Nicholas Meregali. 

De Ridder is more than aware of his opponent’s resume, and he knows better than to let a size advantage translate to overconfidence – plus, he’s learned a thing or two from his tango in the cage with André Galvão. “I’m taking a much more well-prepared approach to this grappling match,” he tells me, explaining that he’d taken the superfight against Galvão on short notice, only three weeks after a title fight. 

“I still did okay in the match, but I didn’t get to showcase my full grappling potential,” says de Ridder. “So hopefully, I’ll get to do that this time!”

He’s also thrilled to be a part of ONE Fight Night 10, which will mark the promotion’s hotly anticipated US debut. “I’m happy to compete on American soil for the first time,” he says. “I’m happy for jiu-jitsu in general – it’s so cool how far jiu-jitsu has come. If you compare where we’re at with our sport with where we were five years ago, it’s a world of difference. What ONE has been doing has been helping jiu-jitsu explode, and I’m very proud to be a small part of that.”

“I think [this match with Tye] is going to be an explosive, crazy match that could go either way,” he adds with a grin. “But I hope that I can choke the guy out.” 

Reinier de Ridder’s ambitions in ONE’s submission grappling scene don’t end there. “If I choke [Tye] out, maybe I could get a shot at his brother,” he says, eyebrows raised. 

That’s a tall order, but de Ridder is nothing if not hungry. It would be quite the feather in the MMA star’s cap, to take out Kade Ruotolo, the youngest ADCC champ in history – but first, he’ll have to see if he can get past Tye. 

Don’t miss Tye Ruotolo vs. Reinier de Ridder at ONE Fight Night 10, streaming from Amazon Prime on Friday, May 5. 

Meanwhile, keep up with Reinier de Ridder’s preparation process on Instagram


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here