Caged Heat

Rage in the Cage promoter Roland Sarria lets loose the Valley's modern-day gladiators

Homer "The Rock" Moore is another star Rage in the Cage fighter who believes Sarria is not rewarding him fast enough. At a roundup of fighters at Brausa the week before the Glendale Arena fights, where contenders take turns flipping a 150-pound Michelin tractor tire for exercise while others are interviewed on camera by Cathy Rankin, the foxy blonde host of the ISTV Web site, Moore is the only fighter to arrive with his own agent, who persuades Rankin to interview Moore outside in front of his cousin's silver Hummer H2.

At 33, Moore -- 205 pounds packed into 5 feet 10 inches of Ali-styled audacity and bluster -- believes he's ready for bigger things than Sarria has been able to secure for him.

Roland Sarria and some Ragers-in-training.
Mark Skalny
Roland Sarria and some Ragers-in-training.
Rage in the Cage has grown from a small nightclub event to an extravaganza drawing more than 8,000 spectators to Glendale Arena.
Mark Skalny
Rage in the Cage has grown from a small nightclub event to an extravaganza drawing more than 8,000 spectators to Glendale Arena.

He says he recently scored his own Hummer, an H3, as payment for starring in a local TV commercial for Scottsdale's Legends dealership, although Sarria insists Moore only had temporary use of the vehicle (Legends declines to comment either way).

"I closed my own deal with Legends," Moore says proudly, adding that Sarria has historically left fighters on their own in securing sponsors. "Rage in the Cage just ain't moving fast enough for me."

With 24 official wins and only five losses since his first Rage in the Cage fight in 1999, Moore feels he's become one of the biggest draws at the events, and is currently negotiating with Sarria to get "a nice little chunk" of the fortune he believes he's making the organization in ticket sales.

"I'm in my prime, and I've got a lot of people I'm talking to who want my charm, my charisma and my work ethic," Moore says matter-of-factly. "This is a tough job that I do," he adds, rubbing the cast on his hand left over from an injury sustained in his last Rage bout. "If they wanna play, they gotta pay!"

For his part, Sarria isn't worried about losing Moore to another promoter. "I know his game, I know his sales pitch," he says, chuckling. "Homer's a character. He should be in movies. But his bull doesn't work with me."

Sarria admits a few of his star fighters have already gone out on their own, "but most of them hit a wall, quick." He still smarts over losing his first star player, Edwin "Babyface" Dewees, a 223-pound grappler with short blond hair and, true to his nickname, a sweet, rounded face even a grandma could love.

"He was like my prodigy, my son," Sarria says with a heavy sigh. "But he gave me the old knife-o. Broke my heart."

For the June fights, Dewees came back to Rage in the Cage after a two-year break, during which time he fought for the number one Ultimate Fighting Championship. But the reunion was short-lived; by July, Dewees was fighting for the competing King of the Cage at a casino in Globe.

"He came back, but he didn't come back to Daddy," Sarria says. "It's his decision, he can do whatever he wants. I'm not gonna bother him. He can just learn like the rest of 'em.

"But I guarantee you, he'll be back," he says. "They always come back."

Sarria is heading south on McClintock Drive in the Rage in the Cage Honda, running yet another business errand, when he comes to a stoplight and sees a group of young men in bicycle helmets, white shirts, ties and backpacks pedal past him in the crosswalk.

"There they go, the Mormons," he says. Unlike the majority of people on the planet, Sarria actually loves it when the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints missionaries come knocking on his door.

"Every time I see them, I'm like, 'Come in, sit down!'" he says, laughing. "My girlfriend goes crazy. She's like, 'Not again!'"

These days, Sarria is more into mental sparring than duking it out with a student at his training center, where longtime Rage in the Cage fighters like Rich Moss have been taking over a lot of the training duties. He enjoys any challenge where he can put his persuasive skills to the test.

Even though he's been living with his steady, Gloria Moore, for the past five and a half years, Sarria admits he can't resist a casual flirtation with any girl he thinks he can charm, just for the challenge of it. In the checkout line at OfficeMax, he tries to impress the sweet young thing behind the counter by showing her the double-jointed pinkie finger on his right hand, eliciting a grossed-out "Ew!" -- but also a pretty smile.

"Girls are easy," he confides on his way out the door. "One thing I learned is it's not what you look like, it's what you say."

For all his flair as a salesman, Moore says Sarria is not the best businessman. "Being too trusting can sometimes be his demise," she says. "That's how he's been taken a few times. Especially now that it's become so mainstream, there are a lot of new businesspeople who want to ride on his coattails. So that's when I get involved. He's more the dreamer, I'm the realist."

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