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The funny thing was that Rosa didn’t grow up wanting to throw punches for a living. He played hockey, lacrosse and football, and while he continued to play hockey in college, when that was over, he wondered what was next to stoke his competitive fire.

“After college, it was, ‘What do I do now?’” he said. “I could join a men’s league or something like that and I’ll score six goals in a night and they’re like, ‘Hey man, we’re just drinking beer and having fun here.’”

Rosa laughs, but it was an issue, especially when he went south to Florida to use his culinary arts degree as a chef. Then he decided to walk into a boxing gym, which actually was Charles McCarthy’s American Top Team gym in Boca Raton.

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The 22-year-old Rosa’s first class was in kickboxing, taught by UFC veteran Cole Miller, who was then one of the top lightweights in the sport. Rosa had no idea who his instructor was.

“I borrowed a pair of boxing gloves, did the class, and the last 15 minutes was reserved for sparring,” Rosa recalled. “I didn’t even have a mouthpiece.”

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“Why don’t you just sit this one out because it’s your first day,” said Miller.

“No, this is why I came here; I came here to compete,” Rosa responded.

Miller reminded Rosa that he didn’t even have a partner to pair off with and then went to work the heavy bag while the class sparred. Rosa, persistent to the end, asked Miller if he wanted to spar? The lightweight contender didn’t respond.

“Was that a no?” said Rosa.

“You want to spar?” asked Miller.


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