With eyes twinkling Charlie Rader takes you in and hypnotizes you. As sultry as a night in the bayou, Charlie Rader’s classic, hard-body good looks lull you into a superficial feeling of lustful fantasy. And then, in a flash, the twinkle vanishes and is replaced by a deadly stare, the eyes of a predator who has narrowed in on its prey. This is Charlie Rader.
Charlie Rader came to national attention during Season 13 of the popular reality series The Ultimate Fighter Season 13 on Spike cable television that concluded on June 4, 2011. During filming Charlie Rader’s life was in constant turmoil as he is embroiled in a fierce custody battle for his five-year-old son. A costly situation that dictates every move he makes in his career, it did not allow Charlie to perform at the highest level needed to take the title.
Causing the most furor were remarks made by fellow contestant and ultimate winner Tony Ferguson who, during a drunken rant, verbally abused Charlie Rader for so long that it contributed to Tony Ferguson’s unpopularity with some fans and gained Charlie even more respect for not “destroying Tony so close to the final”. Among the hurtful things Tony Ferguson said was an invalid remark that Charlie Raider does not provide child support for his son. This is false. A subsequent apology on the last day of filming followed with Dana White, one that Charlie Rader accepted, but now there is nothing Charlie would rather do than step into the cage with Tony Ferguson to prove that he belonged in the competition and he could be a worthy opponent to Ferguson. “It will never be 100% over in my heart or my mind until we can fight in the cage. For me in my heart it has to happen. “I don’t think Tony was 100% sorry. The editing on the show, had it not happened, would have made Tony look 1000% times worse. He was so drunk he kept saying I wasn’t being his friend and he tried to push me over a few times. I kept telling him I was going to show him what kind of a friend I am but not letting him ruin his chances with the finale. I was upset about my horrible performance on the show and then I was thinking if I had won the show I would have had enough money to get my son back.”
Charlie Rader was raised in Chalmette, Louisiana right outside of New Orleans since he was about 5 years old through high school and up to about age 21. According to Charlie, “Chalmette was a very small city, everybody knew everybody, which was sometimes good and sometimes had its disadvantages. Since it’s such a small place the people are born, live, and pretty much die there. A lot of people do not go on to bigger and better things. That’s not a bad thing. It’s basically a lot of people who go shrimping and fishing.” It wasn’t the easiest childhood for Charlie. It was a rough time growing up with divorced parents who, “did a bad job putting me in the middle when it came to, ‘Where do you want to live?’ They put a lot of pressure on me, which really helped me grow up fast. It made me who I am today.”
As a young man Charlie Rader struggled with anger and acting out. While in middle school the wrestling coach noticed Charlie and “pressured me into checking out a wrestling seminar”. Coach Ballentine told Charlie’s mother that wrestling would “calm him down”. That’s all it took. Charlie wrestled all through Middle School and High School.
“Wrestling kept me grounded,” Charlie Rader explained. “Chalmette was a small place with not a lot to do, which means people could get into trouble a lot. Instead of going out to the parties and drinking and drugging, I was at wrestling tournaments that kept me focused. Wrestling allowed for release (of anger) in a controlled setting.” Charlie enjoyed and was a natural at sports like baseball, football, and rugby, but the seasons for those sports were short whereas wrestling was a full time sport; it was year round.
It wasn’t until his early twenties, living in Metairie, Louisiana, Charlie Rader became introduce to Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). “MMA wasn’t talked about or really popular around here,” Charlie reminisced. “ My sister and her friends were interested and got me involved. I was helping a friend train for an event in two weeks. That night of his fight was my first fight; I wasn’t training or anything.” I inquired what Charlie’s nerves were like on that fateful night he stepped into the cage for the first time. Charlie supplied, “ It’s very easy to get into the cage once because you don’t really know what to expect; it’s kinda exciting at the same time. It was actually the worst experience of my life!” Charlie suffered a broken hand that night. As the next four years unfurled, Charlie fought sporadically in the amateur rounds. “It wasn’t anything I ever planned on doing professionally. I worked in real estate and selling memberships to a gym. I really liked the rush and excitement of fighting in front of a big crowd. In 2007 I was offered a thousand dollars to turn pro. With my custody battle for my son, any chance to make money I would do.” Wanting to know how going from amateur to professional changed his routine, Charlie exclaimed, “The training aspect of it sucked!” But the determination to make a name for himself and, more importantly, to make enough money to continue to fight for custody of his son propelled Charlie Rader. “All I saw at that point was dollar signs, if I could earn an extra 1000 or 2000 dollars that was money to help me fight for my son so I would do it.”
Like with any athlete, how Charlie Rader deals with losing is just as important as how he deals with victory. Charlie relayed, “Win, lose, or draw I’d walk out of the cage asking my coach what I could have done to do better. As soon as I walk out I think about what I did wrong, what I could have done different, and what I’ll need to do in the gym to do better. Losses are immediate for me for what I can improve on.”
In an interview I conducted with TUF13 contestant Chuck “Cold Steel” O’Neil, O’Neil named Charlie Rader as “my brother”. Charlie had to say in return, “He was the person on the show who kept me sane. He reminded me why I was there; one of the main reasons that kept me there.” With everything going on in Charlie Rader’s personal life, especially the fight to see his son, Chuck O’Neil provided a calming influence and unwavering support for Rader. The two are still “and always will be” great friends. They even talk about opening a gym together in the future.
With so much going on in Charlie Rader’s life; obstacles to overcome, matches to prepare, disappointments to handle, I was curious to who he looked up to and relied. “I’d have to say my mentor, well, we’re very good friends, my priest Father Morrel. He is the guy I go to before I travel before I fight. I go to, say some prayers, and have a normal conversation with him. I go to him for every day problems; he’s probably the main person I look up to.” In the world of MMA, “Rampage is definitely my favorite fighter to watch on TV.” Finally Charlie Rader closed with, “If there is one person I want to live my life good for it’s God.”
Charlie Rader was exuberant when mentioning those who support him in his professional career. He mentioned, “MAL, they got behind me a year ago and do my shirts and shorts. Theo’s Pizza, my sponsor and the greatest pizza in New Orleans! And Power MMA my gym and management who work hard to get me good fights.” Charlie Rader became very serious when he reiterated, “Every day when I’m fighting or training with every second of every day I’m doing it for my son Jaden with every ounce and every breath is to get to him.” Charlie Rader is focused, hardened, and dedicated; yet he’s still a caring, generous, and sweet man. With a goal so personal and tangible, he will not be denied and will work to the end to achieve. His short-term goal is to fight Tony Ferguson in his native Louisiana come September. He wants everyone to use the power of Twitter to drive that point home to Dana White. His long-term goal is to bring his son back into his life. “You just can’t quit or you’re never going to get there,” Charlie told me at the end of our conversation. He’s right, of course. And I believe Charlie Rader will get there.