CHICAGO -- As a rookie police officer, Mike Russow was assigned to work a Chicago Bulls game at the United Center in 2003. On Saturday, he will be back at the United Center. This time, instead of keeping the peace, he'll fight Jon Olav Einemo at UFC on Fox 2.
While putting together a record of 14-1 with three wins in the UFC, Russow has kept his day job in the Chicago Police Department. Russow currently patrols the third district on the city's South Side. He is understandably hesitant to give specifics about the details of his daily work,� but said that he has been recognized as a fighter when on the job.
"I had someone who I was arresting for a warrant, and he saw the Chicago Sun-Times picture that day. He noticed," Russow said.
Though Russow can't use his Octagon-worthy moves on offenders, he says police work and fighting share a mental side.
"You have to be calm. There's a lot of situations with police work where it's scary. You're clearing a house, by yourself, it's dark, no lights, and you don't know if the offender is in there. It's just like in the cage."
His calm demeanor came in handy when Russow fought Todd Duffee at UFC 114.
"When I was fighting Todd Duffee, he was beating my ass. I stayed calm, hung in there, and got a lucky punch. I think that's how it helps. Being mentally tough."
He broke his left arm early in the bout, and was having trouble with his right arm. Still he knew he had to pull something out to get the win.
"It was like an effortless punch. The right technique, and the right time, and I hit him and he went down. I was coming off of elbow surgery, and I couldn't extend my right arm all the way. My left arm broke. I knew something was wrong. Right before that I thought, I got to do something."
After beating Duffee, Russow TKOed Jon Madsen. Those wins earned him a shot at Einemo, a highly decorated grappler. Because of Einemo's ground skills, Russow hopes to keep the fight standing.
"I've really worked a lot on my stand-up game. He's a world-class jiu jitsu guy, so even if I did get the takedown, I don't know if I want to play in his world. I'm more or less going to try and control him and keep it standing."
To prepare for this bout, Russow used up all of his vacation time and spent time just training. Most UFC-level fighters train full-time, and Russow was appreciative of the chance to focus on MMA. He said he would love the chance to fight full time, but it's not a practical option.
"Right now I'm married and with a baby, a mortgage. I'm not in a position where I could train full time. I'm 35, and I can't take that chance. My dream would be to fight solely for the UFC."
Unlike UFC welterweight Sean Pierson, who was not allowed to join the Toronto Police Department because of his fight career, the CPD has been supportive of Russow.
"I've never had any problems. My bosses have been really supportive. I've been fortunate. They think it's a little nuts, but they support it."
Balancing the two careers is not easy. Since he works from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m., his sleep and diet are both disrupted.
"Every time you go to a gas station, they try to give you something, take this, take that. Not that I do, but it makes it harder. And you get hungry anyways around 10 or 11. I wish I was in bed, but I'm stuck out there working."
But this Saturday, when his friends, family, and fellow police officers fill the United Center with cheers, Russow will be living a dream. He'll be fighting in the Octagon in the city he patrols. It's a far cry from the days he had to sit outside the United Center, waiting for the Bulls game to end.
"Back then, I never would have imagined this."