(Galvao and Stewart square off. Photo by Esther Lin, courtesy of Strikeforce.)
The starving artist is a cliché in San Francisco, Calif., but that’s exactly what Strikeforce welterweight Luke Stewart is. The difference between Stewart and countless others though—he’s hungry for a fight.
He expects that hunger to be satisfied when he returns to action after a 14-month layoff against World Jiu-Jitsu Champion Andre Galvao Friday night at Strikeforce Challengers VII from the Save Mart Center in Fresno, Calif.
“I had a year to refresh and be excited about fighting again,” said Stewart. “I was kind of waiting for that hungry feeling.”
The Ralph Gracie black belt was defeated by Joe Riggs in his most recent outing, a Nov. 2008 bout at “Destruction,” the event that closed the regional era of Strikeforce in favor of national exposure on Showtime. Purchasing EliteXC’s fighter contracts flooded the market so finding a fight was difficult. Initially eager, he welcomed the break to focus on his wrestling and stand-up game. When the time came, he called his manager to find him a fight.
“Strikeforce gave me four or five names. Four guys I never heard of, then one guy was really tough. I’ve always been the kind of guy that says give me the tough dude,” said the heavily tattooed San Franciscan. “I didn’t get into his sport to fight nobodies that I can beat on. I want a challenge. That’s what gets me into the gym everyday.”
And it’s easy to get to training because his business, Seventh Son Tattoo, is two blocks away from the gym. Stewart discovered Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and tattooing the same year in 1999 after moving to San Francisco from neighboring Marin County in his late teens. The grappling community introduced him to tattoo artist. He hasn’t stopped inking people since. Even on fight week. His shop serves as a resting spot in between two-a-day training sessions.
“There’s only so much training you can do in a day. I feel like I have plenty of time to devote to other things,” said the 29-year-old. “I don’t want to be a totally one dimensional person. Tattooing and art are real important to me also, so I always want to be there.”
Stewart asserts a desire to fight is the only way to succeed in mixed martial arts. Trying to perform in the cage like he does in the gym, Stewart is confident in his newfound style as an aggressive top fighter unwilling to play a patient guard game will pay off.
It’s something he learned from the loss to Riggs, where his nose was broken in the second round. An illegal elbow on the ground prompted Stewart to look for the ref to intervene to no avail.
“I think I learned it’s a fight. It’s nothing else. It’s nothing less than a fight. It’s not a sport,” said Stewart, noting he’s armed with a finisher’s mentality. “I think I used to look at it too much like a sport. Coming from jiu-jitsu, you’re aware of the refs and the rules and all that.”
Stewart was one of the San Jose-based promotion’s most touted prospects prior to their expansion. He felt he didn’t deserve it at the time. That it was premature. But standing across from opposition like Galvao, someone he considers an honor to fight, he’s willing to fight on any stage as long as he expresses himself as a mixed martial artist.
“I’m really not doing this to be like famous or be, you know, the next freakin’ GSP or whatever. I enjoy the sport,” said Stewart. “I’m lovin’ it, loving training, loving fighting. I love pushing myself and challenges. I’m just taking it as it comes.”
Spoken like a true artist.