The 21st century has seen New England dominate the American sports scene. From the Patriots double-dynasty, to the Red Sox becoming the new dons of the American League East, and the Garden adding a pair of banners, there is only one “Title Town.” And as the fans know, there’s always room for some new hardware.
Enter: New England Cartel.
“Boston’s 5th team,” led by head coach Tyson Chartier, have asserted themselves as a potent force in the MMA world. On deck: Woburn, Mass’s Rob Font. With a piston-like jab and a cross to match, Font will take on a former title challenger Marlon Moraes on December, 19 at UFC Vegas 17, in Las Vegas, Nev.
Before he does so, get to know the man behind the name “New England Cartel,” in: 10 Questions with Rob Font.
Q1: Rumor has it that you came up with the “New England Cartel” name, what’s the story?
Rob Font: [The team] was in Chicago for Calvin Kattar versus Ricardo Lamas, and Calvin goes out there and knocks out Lamas in the first round. Then, we’re leaving Chicago, in the airport and I’m just listening to Rick Ross, and he kept saying “Carol City Cartel, Carol City Cartel.” I don’t know what it was, but I just knew we needed a team name. Like a new name for us all. And then I just said it: “New England Cartel,” and everybody just instantly flocked to it… I think it’s got a cool little ring to it.
Q2: This is your first fight in 2020, how’s the training camp been, and how’s your knee?
Rob Font: The knee is 100 percent. I’ve got a brand new knee, so I can’t complain. Training camp has been a little different, as far as guys in the gym… Since we’re going to be fighting in an empty area, we make sure it’s crickets in there. Super quiet. We don’t have music playing, we don’t have people screaming, it’s just quiet… and super awkward.
Q3: Coach Tyson (Uncle T) says he likes that New England Cartel is a small circle, and he intends to keep it that way. What are the benefits of being with a smaller group of coaches and training partners, as opposed to a large MMA gym/team?
Rob Font: It’s the details, the small stuff. Attention to detail about every little thing about the camp or the fighter or the opponent. We have a full system, from the nutrition to the strength and conditioning, the separate types of martial arts. And then even the mentality of how to handle fight week and the fight camp, and I think you’ll lose some of that when you’re [coaching] a lot of people. Imagine being that type of coach for 100 guys. That’s tough. But if you got four or five high-level dudes, these coaches can give us the attention that we need. At this level it's the minute details that win fights.
Q4: Back in the day, you and Calvin Kattar were supposed to fight each other. But Coach Tyson explained to you and Calvin that it would be more beneficial in the long term to be training partners rather than opponents. Obviously it’s worked out, what was it like for you to ingest that situation at the time?
Rob Font: I was totally against that [stuff]. I wanted to fight Calvin. But I was thinking so small at the time. Trying to be the King of New England, you know? But then Tyson said, ‘You gotta think about getting into the UFC and becoming a contender. You’re still only thinking about New England? You don’t need to take a tough fight like that for 600 bucks. If anything, you’re gonna gain more from training with Calvin.’
It took me a while, but obviously it was the right decision… Once I got my head out of my, you know, and actually met the dude, I found out he was mad funny, he’s cool, he’s chill, one of the most dedicated people I know. Now he corners my fights, I corner him and I’m just learning so much from training with him. Tyson was 100 percent correct.
Q5: Marlon Moraes is a big name, tough opponent. On a base level, what types of challenges does he pose?
Rob Font: He has experience, he starts off fast, but you know… I feel like I’m going to be a little bit too long, a little bit too sharp and too accurate for him. If I can make him miss and weather that storm for the first two or three minutes in the first round, then I’ll develop my rhythm and once I get going I’m a sharpshooter. [Marlon] runs into shots because he’s so aggressive. He can’t do that for 15-minutes with me and not pay the price. He’s going to drop, I just have to figure out how to do it.
Q6: Fighters handle fight night in different ways. Some guys are backstage barfing, others prefer to take a nap before their bout. How are you in the moment before walking to the Octagon?
Rob Font: I’m definitely in the middle. I’m not sleeping but I’m definitely not barfing. I’m just ready. I know what I gotta do, just let me go out there and do it. I’m not too nervous, but I’m nervous enough to realize I’m about to get into a fight. I’m not numb to the fact that this [sport] is something a little crazy. A bit of nerves keeps me sharp, but once I get out there I just try to have fun and do what I do… Half the battle is your mindset. If you go into a fight the wrong way, you’ve damn near beat yourself already.
Q7: I’ve heard you describe yourself as an “MMA nerd,” are you or were you ever a fan of Marlon Moraes?
Rob Font: Yeah, I like Marlon. I’m definitely a fan, but not right now. I’ve actually talked to him before… It was kind of like ‘hey, what’s up?,’ kind of awkward at first. You kind of acknowledge that eventually you’re going to run into each other and fight. And that’s it. I mean, I’m going to be seeing this guy all week, might as well say what’s up.
Rob Font (17-4) will fight Marlon Moraes (23-7-1) on December 19, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nev. at the UFC APEX on the main card of UFC Vegas 17. Prelims will begin at 3:00 pm EST, with the main card kicking off at 5:00 pm EST, both on ESPN+. Rob Font Vs. Marlon Moraes will be a three-round, bantamweight (135 lbs) bout.
Make sure to get your Cartel gear for the holidays. Every order over $100 is coming with a signed poster.