From the Stage to the Cage

By Mike Sloan May 12, 2015
Robert “Wreck-It Rob” Sullivan prefers to dream big. | Photo: Keith Mills/

The music industry is a notoriously difficult world in which to make a living. So is the cutthroat fight business. Robert Sullivan has tried his hand at both.

The current iteration of “Wreck-It Rob” seems determined to succeed in MMA, with the primary goal of becoming a household name in the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Sullivan has spent the last several years honing his skills at the sport’s lower reaches, and though he has competed mostly on the regional circuit, he does have a November 2013 victory over Sergio da Silva in Bellator MMA to his credit. While he concedes his 6-3 record is nothing at which to shake a stick, it has not deterred him from showing consistent improvement and training harder on a daily basis.

Now 31, Sullivan began his formal Brazilian jiu-jitsu training in 2006 and did not get started in MMA until he was his late 20s. He previously fronted the Baltimore-based hardcore band Ruiner and believes the work ethic he learned from music will one day allow him to reach the highest levels of mixed martial arts.

Sullivan can point to his success as a musician. While it is one thing to play in a garage band, scratch together some tunes and maybe record a demo, Sullivan and his friends made names for themselves on the underground hardcore scene. Ruiner was successful enough that it released a few EPs, cut full-length albums like “Prepare to Be Let Down” and toured across the globe. The band played in various venues, from dingy, smoke-filled bars with a few dozen people to massive outdoor amphitheaters filled with tens of thousands of fans. Life on the road was not easy, far from it, in fact.

“We wanted to tour, and we had this black-flag mentality of getting into a van and just [expletive] going out there,” Sullivan told “We would spend like six, seven months on and off the road, come back and do a record and then tour again. I was mainly in charge of the band’s PR, and I booked all the tours. We made it onto a kind of big label (Bridge Nine Records), and it started to take off.”

After sharing the stage with established metal and hardcore acts like Agnostic Front, The Black Dahlia Murder, Anti-Flag, Converge, Municipal Waste and countless others, Sullivan and his Ruiner bandmates lost their passion for the music life and split up in 2010.

From there, Sullivan transitioned full-time into MMA. He had spent significant time wrestling as a youth and had also trained in boxing and jiu-jitsu, so it made for a natural progression from one career to the next. Sullivan trains six days a week, splitting his time between Baltimore BJJ and Method MMA in Maryland and Martinez MMA in Philadelphia. He now finds himself at a pivotal point in his career as a full-contact fighter.

Sullivan admits he can draw similarities between the rush he felt fronting a band onstage and what he feels when he steps into the cage to compete. He has rattled off three consecutive wins, most recently appearing at a Shogun Fights event on April 18. There, Sullivan followed his victories against Timothy Wade and James Murrin with a three-round unanimous decision over Jonathan Vineyard at the Royal Farms Arena in Baltimore.

“Wreck-It Rob” understands the road to the UFC is paved with the broken dreams of prospective fighters who set out with the same desires to which he now clings. He plans to try out for an upcoming season of “The Ultimate Fighter,” even though he regularly competes at 135 pounds and the next installment of the Fox Sports 1 reality series is reportedly scheduled to feature fighters from weight classes above his own.

“I’m prepared to try out for the show,” said Sullivan, who has also cut his teeth inside the Rhode Island-based CES MMA organization. “I know it won’t be easy, but I feel as though I have enough talent to at least make it onto the show. The season [I plan to try out for] will be a few weight classes above my fighting weight, but I walk around kind of heavy anyway.”

Sullivan feels his rich past gives him an advantage in the selection process.

“I think my back story is different from a lot of fighters,” he added. “I know a lot of that show is about the story, and I think mine fits the mold. A lot of times, I’ll see these guys on the show and they seem to only care about being on TV and not being a fighter. I want to be a fighter who is on TV, and I think I have an edge over almost everybody else if [the UFC] is looking for stories.”


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