SIOUX CITY | Don't let the green-and-yellow monkey hat fool you: Drako Rodriguez is considered one of the most promising Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighters in the area.
"I wear this hat to keep me motivated," the 19-year-old Sioux Cityan said before a training session at Four Seasons Health Club. "If I'm motivated, I work harder."
Undefeated after five bouts, Rodriguez needs to be in shape when he takes on Anthony Driver (3-1) during an amateur flyweight division world title during King of the Cage "Summer Smash," taking place at WinnaVegas Casino Resort on June 25.
"I don't care what kind of crazy gear Drako wears," Brett Welling, a Renegade Combat Sports boxing coach, said with a grin. "This is a kid who is going places."
Inspired by TV shows like "The Ultimate Fighter," Rodriguez decided to try his hand at MMA less than two years ago. His first amateur bout occurred in August 2015.
"I was so nervous that first time, I thought I was going to throw up at any minute," the 2014 West High School graduate admitted. "But my family was proud of me after my first win. That made me proud as well."
Still, he isn't taking his 5-0 record for granted.
"I ordinarily fight as a 155-pound lightweight but now, I'll be a 135-pound flyweight," Rodriguez said. "That means more training and a stricter diet."
Yet that doesn't mean he'll go without his favorite "cheat food."
"I still need my Flaming Hot Cheetos, man!" Rodriguez noted with a smile. "I'll eat a salad but I need my Cheetos, too."
An employee at FIMCO Industries during the day, he trains in a multitude of combat sports practically every night of the week.
"I train in boxing, wrestling, jujitsu, everything," Rodriguez said, wiping his brow. "Plus I do plenty of running."
Between work and working out, he admitted to not having much time for a personal life.
"I'm OK with that," Rodriguez said, adding that he's serious about MMA and wants to see where it takes him.
Taking a time-out from his training, Rodriguez said he admired the bravado of Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) flyweight champion Conor McGregor but respected the 'heart" of UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz.
"(Cruz) was sidelined with injuries and stripped of his title," Rodriguez explained. "But (Cruz) came back because he was still hungry and he still had heart."
Despite his easy-going nature and penchant for silly hats, Rodriguez is a no-nonsense fighter.
"I like MMA and think it's fun," he said. "But I also take it seriously. (In the ring), you need to have the drive to make your dreams come true."