Three former heavyweight champions and an eight-time Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu champion joined Thursday to discuss next month’s Strikeforce: Heavy Artillery in St. Louis. The May 15 event will air on Showtime and will be the first of three Strikeforce events in 32 days.
In the main event, Strikeforce heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem will fight Brett Rogers, but neither were available for the media Thursday.
Instead, former UFC champion Andrei Arlovski and former EliteXC champion Antonio Silva discussed their co-main event bout. Also, former UFC champion Kevin Randleman and jiu-jitsu star Roger Gracie hyped their main card fight. Randleman gushed over Gracie and the Gracie family at every opportunity, but took particular exception to a question criticizing the card.
“Are you saying that I’m over the hill and shouldn’t be in the cage fighting,” he asked. “Do you think I shouldn’t be fighting Roger Gracie? I don’t believe this is a conservative card. I believe it’s a phenomenal card.”
Here are the condensed thoughts of four fighters on the call Thursday:
The former UFC heavyweight champion and Belarus-native fought twice in 2009, losing both by knockout. “The Pitbull” followed a loss to Fedor Emelianenko with an 11-second knockout loss to Brett Rogers. In training for this bout, Arlovski (15-7) spent time with Greg Jackson in New Mexico and At American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose.
On Silva – “He’s a black belt and very dangerous on the ground. I trained a lot on the ground. He’s a well-rounded fighter. His striking is good. He’s dangerous on the ground. He has long arms. I have to really prepare for this fight. I paid attention to my jiu-jitsu and wrestling. He’s no joke.”
On his losing streak – “(This fight is) very important especially after two losses. I didn’t fight for almost nine months and can’t wait to fight again.”
On the loss to Rogers – “I lost in my head, in my mind before I stepped in the cage. My mind was already on my pro boxing debut. I was like Rogers? Come on. I didn’t take Rogers serious. The result was knockout in 11 seconds. That was it. Then I was on the bench for nine months. No contract. I would say I was miserable.”
On his loss to Emelianenko – “I have to be more disciplined during my workouts and more disciplined during my fights. Against Ben Rothwell, a flying knee, great. Against Emelianenko, he knocked me out. I have to stick with my plan and listen to my trainers.”
On focus – “Before Rogers, my mind was set on a rematch against Emelianenko. Now, it’s one match at a time. Now I am focused on May 15 against Big Foot.
On improvements – “I hope I am a different fighter. For sure I am more disciplined now. No more flying knees. No more backing up with my hands down.”
On psychological changes – “It’s embarrassing to tell you but after fights with Emelianenko and Rogers, I talked to a sports psychologist. I changed many things in my life. Before I was in a relationship and I was worried about where my girlfriend is going to be. Now, I have a great girlfriend she supports me. I am just focused on my MMA career. I train hard, sleep and eat.”
“Big Foot” is coming off a loss to Fabricio Werdum in November by unanimous decision. The former EliteXC champion had Werdum in trouble early on, but slowed as the fight wore on. At 6-foot-4 and 265 pounds, Silva (13-2) will have about 20 pounds on Arlovski. The Brazilian spoke through a translator Thursday.
On the size difference – “I think my weight will be to my advantage. I’m coming well prepared and am very confident. I train with Jorge Santiago and Thiago Silva, who are lighter and very fast so I am comfortable with Arlovski’s speed.”
On strategy – “I’m pretty sure this fight will not go to the end. I’ve concentrated a lot on improving my striking. I will be looking for his head. Arlovski is coming off two knockouts and I intend to explore that opening. If Arlovski blinks, he’ll get knocked out.”
On the Werdum loss – “It was a big lesson for me. I learned if I have an opportunity to finish a fight I have to do it. It had been a while since I fought in the states and I wanted to put on a show. I broke my hand early in the second round after a left hook. It was really bothering me and I wasn’t the same after that.”
(Props to URDirt.)
A former UFC heavyweight champion, Randleman (17-14) was a two-time NCAA wrestling champion. However, his tendency to rely on wrestling eventually caught up to him. “The Monster” is 3-9 since 2003.
On Roger Gracie – “I honestly don’t think anyone could prepare Roger Gracie’s jiu-jitsu. I know he can rip and arm off from anyone anywhere in the ring. I’m never going to be on the level of Roger Gracie. He was born with a gi on.”
On strategy – “I’m very well-prepared, but bottom line, I don’t plan to put myself in a position that Roger Gracie will be on me. My plan is to keep the fight standing. If I fight my fight and not get caught in Roger Gracie’s web, I have a chance. But if I get in Roger Gracie’s guard, it’s a wrap. Cardio is the one thing I worked on. I want to stay ahead of the pace. I want to use my striking and my quickness and mobility and not to let him put me on my back.”
On wrestling versus jiu-jitsu – “If you aren’t practicing every aspect of the game, it will show when the cage closes. I’m not under any kind of false impression that I will go out there and beat Roger Gracie at his game. This fight will be like a chess match. Roger Gracie has what he is very good at and I have what I am very good at and they actually intersect each other.”
On the Gracie name – “First and foremost, I respect the whole entire family because, without that family, we wouldn’t be where we are with MMA.
On his health – “In the last four years of my life, I’ve had a lot of major surgeries that got me healthier. Both of my shoulders have been redone over the last four years. There were many things I couldn’t do because of small injuries.”
On Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu – “I moved to Las Vegas because there was no jiu-jitsu in Ohio. I’m training with some of the best jiu-jitsu coaches. The key to jiu-jitsu for me is not putting myself in bad positions.
On dropping to 205 – “When I was the UFC heavyweight champion, I only weighed 198. When I fought Randy Couture I only weighted 208.”
On his future – “This is like a new beginning for me. I had a lot of people around me that were very negative and didn’t want to work as hard as I like to work.”
One of the most gifted Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioners on the planet, Gracie is at the forefront of the next generation of Gracie fighters. Just 2-0 in MMA, he is an eight-time BJJ world champion and the 2005 open-weight Abu Dhabi Combat Club champion. He has not fought an MMA bout since 2008.
On his MMA hiatus – “I never planned to be away from MMA. I was injured and this is the first opportunity that I had. I think we plan to do two, maybe three (fights) a year. Even while I was away from the ring, I was always concentrating knowing that very soon I’d be back.”
On striking – “(I haven’t trained striking) that much. I wish I had trained more. I’ve trained enough I think.
On the family name – “The question, since I was 10 years old, was how to deal with the Gracie name. There is a lot of weight behind the name. In the same way that it gives me a lot of pressure, it pushes me forward a lot. I feel I have to train harder and I have to better than everybody because I have that name.”
On being one dimensional – “I feel pretty complete. Just with jiu-jitsu itself, I feel pretty itself I feel pretty safe. My boxing is not world-level boxing. I have pretty good hands. My weapon will be jiu-jitsu. No matter how much boxing I train I will never match the level of my jiu-jitsu. It’s like a boxer training to take people down, no matter how much fights, he wants to be standing.