Strikeforce Phoenix: Riggs, Couture and Tate Win The Night

A national MMA organization is coming to Phoenix for the first time in an event that features the debut of Ryan Couture and a headline fight between local star Joe "Diesel" Riggs and Louis Taylor. The event will also include a four-woman, single elimination tournament.

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Miesha Tate Out-Earns Joe Riggs

Poor Joe Riggs. He's really not that well-liked among MMA fans and his comments about women fighters when I spoke with him last week haven't helped his reputation.

"We're the show. The men are what people are here to see," Riggs said.

Turns out that's not so much the case, if Strikeforce pay-outs are any indication.

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The winner of Strikeforce's first ever women's grand prix proved lucrative for tournament winner Miesha Tate ($18,000). Local Phoenix fighter Joe Riggs ($15,000) was also among of the top earners for Strikeforce Challengers 10.

Joe gets $15,000 for dancing around with Louis Taylor for two-and-a-half rounds before connecting with a solid left that essentially ended the fight.

Tate gets $18,000 for fighting two opponents and putting on a fantastic final match with Hitomi Akano.

Seems fair to me, but maybe Joe needs a better agent to help him break through the glass ceiling.

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Strikeforce Challengers: Post Fight Interviews With Riggs, Couture and Tate


Ryan Couture

Ryan was in his dressing room upstairs when he spoke with SB Nation Arizona. I passed his famous father walking out as I walked in.

On pressure of the family name: 

"I didn't really feel it all week but I think just based on how I felt in the ring and actually performing I think it definitely got to me a little bit. I didn't feel as comfortable and loose as I thought I would but I got the result and I got it quick so I'm happy."

On the game plan to fight more standing up:

"That went out the window quick. I couldn't quite find him with my jab, I was aiming a little too high. He's shorter than a lot of the guys I spar with. When I missed the first few times and walked into his right hand I decided to get where I was comfortable and try and get the jitters out with a little clinch work and  ground work and ended up getting the finish before we ended up back on our feet."

How he got the finish:

"I got in that clinch. I was going to work some knees and then just ended up with a good position so I took the take down that was there. In the half-guard I'm not always super stable maintaining top position from half-guard so he was able to scramble up and reverse the position but as he did he ended up with one arm in my guard and one arm out and that's a free ticket to that triangle choke and that's my favorite submission so I knew what to there and slapped it on and locked it tight and got the tap."

If Stark was a reasonable level of competition:

"I think for just starting out, obviously Strikeforce is making in investment in me. Obviously, with my last name I can be a marketable character so I definitely think they didn't want to match me too tough for the first one but he he's definitely on par with the more recent fights I've had at the amateur level so it's a good transition into pro fighting."

Do you want you next fight to be more challenging?

"Definitely, I'd like to continue raising the bar every time out and work my way up and eventually be competing at the top level that there is. You got to start somewhere, I think this was a good start. It took the pressure off to start off with a win. They will definitely raise the bar for me next time now that they've seen what I can do."

Audio:  Ryan Couture post fight


Miesha Tate

On the first fight with Maiju Kujala

"The first fight I got a little bit of muscle pump. My lung, my cardio felt great but there was a little bit of a mix up in the back, we thought that we were going to be the second fight out because of the cards we drew and they switched it. So, I didn't didn't get quite the warm up that I wanted so I felt slow. Being that they were really fast rounds, I felt a lot more warm and poppy in my second fight. The first fight felt like a warm up."

On fighting Akano

"I knew I had to stay really tight and not give her any way to create space to look for submissions. I've got world-class grappling. I go with men all the time and I rarely get submitted. On the ground I have good positioning and I'm very aware of - it's called proprioception - I know where my body is in reference to their body. She got me in that one ankle lock but she didn't have enough strength behind it to finish it so I let her kind of wear herself on it."

On almost having the choke hold

"She was kind of compact. I was under the chin but I couldn't get that other hand out to finish it. She really had that locked up tight so I was trying with the one-arm choke but it just wasn't quite there."

Did your height and reach advantage help?

"I think so. It help me keep her away more. That was kind of the game plan. I wanted to keep it off the ground as long as possible because I knew that was her only chance of beating me. So, a little bit of a different game plan and I think it went well. The thing was to either keep her really far away or really close and I did that. I kept her far away and when we got close I stayed really tight so she wasn't able to get anything."

Facing Sarah Kaufman's striking

"I feel I am strong on the ground than Kaufman but I feel that my striking is really improved a lot. I think what's going to be key to that is mixing things up.

Audio: Miesha Tate post fight


Joe Riggs

On the fight as a whole

"The whole fight he had a style that was hard for me to really connect a punch. He had a real herky-jerky style and athletic. He was trying to counter me coming in so I didn't want to come in and get caught with a stupid shot and get knocked out. I knew I was going to catch him, I didn't know when. I knew it was going to come though."

Finishing the fight

"He threw a body punch and came up with right hook and a left hand and I barely missed it. He did the same thing and the second time I caught him and broke his eye socket and that was it."

"I hit and he tried to shoot and I hit him with a big knee and he goes 'ooh' and he starts making a noise so I knew it was a wrap and I crucifix and got on top and started popping him so that was it."

Audio: Joe Riggs post fight

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Strikeforce Challengers: Joe Riggs TKOs Louis Taylor In 3rd Round

The crowd was certainly pro-Joe and about 75% full.

1st Round:

Not a lot of action as the fighters poked and jabbed and missed each other repeatedly. Louis advanced more but Riggs got a take down late in the round.

2nd Round:

Joe landed a nice flying punch and Taylor landed a few punches. Taylor was able to get in a take Riggs down behind a few jabs that kept Joe's hand's and attention up. Taylor landed a few punches from above but nothing special.

3rd Round:

The crowd was booing the two fighters for a lack of action when Riggs managed to rock Taylor with a left as he was coming in. Joe followed the strike with a take down and proceeded to pound Taylor into a TKO.

Not a very entertaining fight but effective for Riggs.

...Stay tuned, more to come

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(Photos by Dennis Tarwood)

 

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Strikeforce Challengers Event: Miesha Tate Defeats Hitomi Akano To Win Women's Tournament

Very good fight with both girls showing impressive grappling skills. Miesha controlled most of the action and was close to locking up Akano a few times but the savvy Japanese fighter refused to be caught.

Tate won in unanimous decision.

More photos and post fight quotes to come.

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(Photos by Dennis Tarwood)

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Strikeforce Challengers: Ryan Couture Makes Quick Work Of Lucas Stark

Stark was completely over-matched and Ryan made quick work of the 20-year old from Phoenix submitting him quickly with a triangle choke in the first round.

Just talked to Ryan in his dressing room. He was surprised how fast the fight went and admitted that Strikeforce has a lot invested in his success. He's looking forward to a higher level of competition in his next fight. Quotes will post in a few hours.

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(Photos by Dennis Tarwood)

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Strikeforce Challengers: Womens Tournament Results

Women’s Semi-Final 1: Maiju Kujala vs Miesha Tate

Tate clearly the crowd favorite but not all that much love for Miesha.

The two spent most of the first round on the cage trying to gain an advantage. Miesha eventually took the Finn down but Maiju from the bottom was able to work a partial choke that kept Tate from doing any real work.

In the second round, Tate landed a great front kick and the two traded standing blows. Miesha eventually got her down but Maiju defended well.

It was a fairly close fight.

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Women’s Semi-Final 1: Hitomi Akano vs Carina Damm

This was a much better fight. The two are energetic and skilled trading blows and dominant position. In the second round Akano was able to get Damm's arm and submitted the Brazilian.

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(Photos by Dennis Tarwood)

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Strikeforce: Undercard Results

First round of the first fight is in the books. Jace Crawford and Frankie Saenz fighting at 155lbs.

Frankie had Jace down most of the round and landed some solid blows...and that's how the next two rounds went. Frankie won on an unanimous decision.

[Note by Seth Pollack, 08/13/10 6:37 PM MST ]

The second and third fights were both similar to the first. One clear winner but both went to decisions:

Andres Acuna over Edwin Louis and then Rob Anderson over Alonso Fears.

The fourth fight was much better, and quicker. Joel Champion of Tucson pummeled Sean Scott. Champion knocked Scott down with a kick to the mid-section and then pounced on him with heavy blows until the ref stopped the fight. Scott was out cold and down for several minutes. He walked out of the cage but won't likely remember it.

[Note by Seth Pollack, 08/13/10 7:05 PM MST ]

In the fifth fight, Jason Richey edged out a crazy looked dude named Edmund Xehili in a split decision. Xehili was penalized a point late in the final round for hitting to the back of the head. That probably lost him the fight.

The next fight was our first controversy. Ryan Diaz was dominating the standing game with some sweet kicks but an unassuming kid named Chris Gruetzmacher did his work on the ground and somewhere landed a blow that split Diaz' eye open. They called the fight which clearly incensed Diaz and most of the crowd. Chris got the decision by TKO which really wasn't fair to Diaz.

[Note by Seth Pollack, 08/13/10 8:03 PM MST ]

The sixth scheduled undercard fight was canceled with no reason given. It was supposed to be Christian Grosinsky vs John Wood. It wasn't. Instead there was a long break.

The final undercard was the reserve fight for the women's tournament. Liz Carmouche, the ex-Marine, dominated the college girl from Berkley, CA, Colleen Schnieder. Score one for the red team.

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(Photos by Dennis Tarwood)

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Exclusive Interview: Sarah Kaufman Explains Statements

Reigning Strikeforce Women's Welterweight Champion Sarah Kaufman was on-hand for the Strikeforce Challengers Event weigh-in held in Phoenix on Thursday.

Kaufman has recently taken some flack for comments she made on her blog about what kind of treatment she should receive.

I deserve to be on a main Strikeforce Card because I am a talented, exciting FEMALE fighter at 135lbs! I will NOT eat a ridiculous amount of cookies to make 145lbs JUST for the opportunity to be on a main card and growing man parts… well that would just be ridiculous :D

Kaufman spoke to SB Nation Arizona in an exclusive interview at the weigh-in and was asked about her comments.

"I think the Challengers card is a great card," Sarah said. "It's giving a lot of fighters more opportunities to be fighting and to be fighting on TV. Now that I have the title it's my time to move up to those main cards where where all the titles are and it's going to be great to have the tournament on the Challengers card and it's going to bring people towards the main card when we fight."

Kaufman also responded to comments from Joe Riggs who yesterday lashed out at Kaufman, "If he wants to think that it's fair. My job is always to try and promote myself and promote myself as a fighter and promote myself as an athlete and not as a female fighter, not as a female athlete just as an equal basis. If he's fighting for a title he should be on a main card just like if I was fighting for a title I should be on a main card."

Kaufman wasn't sure if she has another fight scheduled before facing the winning of tomorrow's tournament but said either way at some point they would match-up.

Sarah gave her prediction, "I think Miesha has a really good chance of winning the tournament and if she does she's going to have to be prepared for me to beat her up again."

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(Sarah Kaufman speaking to Seth Pollack, SB Nation Arizona. Photo by Dennis Tarwood)

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Strikeforce Challengers Event Phoenix: Weigh-in And Women's Tournament Draw Results

The weigh-in went about as expected. Guys and girl walked up, stripped down to the various underwear, stood and the scale and then posed for pictures.

I suppose if you are into such things, it was an opportunity to see what a lot of different people are wearing beneath their clothes. Some boxers. Some briefs. Girls in panties and bras. Pretty much exactly how you would imagine it.

The results are listed on the fight card below which you can also view here: Strikeforce fight card weigh-in results

Here's the notable names and their weights:

Joe Riggs, 181.6 lbs vs. Louis Taylor, 181.2 lbs

Taylor certainly looks the part and wins the award for the most interesting underwear. He looked like he was wearing white boxer briefs that had been hand painted with various designs. He got some recognition for his artful undergarments.

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Lucas Stark, 153.2 lbs vs. Ryan Couture, 155.6 lbs

Ryan, by the way, received the louder applause from the small crowd. Lucas looked completely overwhelmed. Already.

For the women, they did the draw for the tournament which came out this way:

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First fight

Carina Damm, 134.8 lbs vs. Hitomi Akano, 135 lbs

Akano was actually 135.2 until she took off her shorts and stepped back on the scale. Damm, is by far the fiercest looking of the girls which had nothing to do with her unshaven legs which were back-light by the sun coming through a window.

This will clearly be the better of the two opening round fights. Both are somewhat unorthodox in their styles and both are experienced and look determined.

Second fight

Miesha Tate, 134.2 lbs vs. Maiju Kujala, 134.4 lbs

Tate should have an easy time of this and if she doesn't go right through her sweet-faced Finnish opponent than she doesn't belong her anyway.

Tate, in case you were wondering, was wearing a neon bikini for her weigh-in. She could have kept her shorts on like the other girls unless she needed the extra few ounces but choose to immediately show off her ... form.

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Change in tournament format explained

The plan originally called for two rounds with the winners of the first two fights facing each other in a third bout. Both the first round fights and the final fight were scheduled to be three, three-minute rounds with a "sudden victory" round should the three rounds yield a tie.

MMA Junkie.com reported that the Arizona Boxing Commission stepped in and nixed that plan. They've cut the first set of fights to only two, three-minute rounds with no draws allowed.

We spoke with the Arizona State Boxing and MMA Commission Executive Director, Dennis O'Connell, who stated that he made the decision to limit the total number of rounds any one fighter could possibly fight. According to New Jersey rules, which Arizona just recently adopted, a non-title fight should be no more than 5, three-minute rounds.

O'Connell stated that the timing of the decision was based on recent adaption of the Arizona law that adopted New Jersey's rules which only went into effect on July 29, 2010.

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Photos by Dennis Tarwood, SB Nation Arizona

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Miesha Tate: Men Are Instinctual Killers, Women Have To Find Their 'Inner Warrior'

Last week, we started a little discussion about female MMA fighters. All-World female athlete Diana Taurasi weighed-in, as did All-Arizona baseball blogger Jim McLennan.

Maybe because I am pushing really close to turning 40, I was expecting a more macho reaction. But I was (pleasantly) surprised to see the reaction here and that of the comments on this topic at SB Nation's fantastic Bloody Elbow site.

Not a lot of time was spent on glorifying the sexual aspects and yet there's a realistic understanding that it is a part of the sport, as Taurasi put best, "People like that. People like to watch that. It's no different than watching a boxing match. Those guys have nice bodies. I don't mind watching just to see their bodies. I really don't know who's going to win and don't really care."

Miesha Tate, being an actual female and an MMA fighter, also had some thoughts on the subject when we spoke Wednesday at a pre-fight workout prior to Friday's Strikeforce Challenger Event in Phoenix.

She was dressed in workout clothes, but her hair and make-up were done and she certainly smelled nicer than the male athletes I'm used to working with, a metaphor perhaps demonstrating that it's not an either/or proposition between athlete and woman. She was embodying and presenting both aspects to the world with no sense of incongruity.

"Obviously, the women are always compared to the men in our skill level and talent level. A lot of people criticize and say the women aren't there yet (with) skill and they don't have the power," Tate said. "I just think that's kind of absurd because our best fighters, the top ranked fighters right now, have been fighting three or four years. Even Cyborg (Santos), maybe four years. (Sarah) Kaufman about four years. Me, I'm working my way up there about four years."

This issue about time is something I've heard from several MMA experts and it makes sense, of course. But at the same time, I still wondered if there was an inherent difference between the men and women, assuming similar experience and skill levels.

Miesha initially said there was no difference, but then talked about the extra motivation that women have to prove themselves.

"That's really the only difference. I think when women fight, we're not just fighting to fight. We're fighting to prove something. To open people's eyes, and that just adds to the intensity. That's why a lot of times women will steal the show."

She called the women "go-getters" whose desire translated to a more aggressive and straight-forward fighting style.

I guess I am still looking for something more technical, maybe related to flexibility, hand speed, or toughness. Perhaps there's an emotional component that either fuels the women's hate for each other or maybe allows women fighters to think more clearly in the ring and not be clouded by masculine pride and anger.

Tate did have another interesting philosophical insight, "Overall, men, if you think about evolution, men have been fighting and killing each other for thousands of years. It's more instinctual. Something that's more of a learning process for the women. We're behind the curve, but I think we're doing exceptionally well."

Men, she said, grow up learning and being expected to fight, whereas women aren't raised that way.

But she said, "All of us have a warrior within us. All of us have that ability. It's just a matter of finding it and grasping and harnessing it and using it."

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(photo provided by Strikeforce)

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Strikeforce MMA Women's Tournament: Four Ladies, Three Short Fights, One Winner

The Strikeforce four-woman, single-elimination tournament format is a first for the organization and since this is the first major MMA event in Arizona, obviously new here as well.

The plan originally called for two rounds with the winners of the first two fights facing each other in a third bout. Both the first round fights and the final fight were scheduled to be three, three-minute rounds with a "sudden victory" round should the three rounds yield a tie.

MMA Junkie.com reported today that the Arizona Boxing Commission stepped in and nixed that plan. They've cut the first set of fights to only two rounds with no draws allowed.

We got a look at all four fighters today at the pre-fight work out.

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Carina Damm: (Record: 15-3 with 5 TKOs, 6 Submissions and 4 Decisions. Losses include 2 Submissions and 1 Decision.)

Damm is Brazilian and doesn't speak a lick of English. We spoke to her through a translator but basically she just said that she's ready for the fight regardless of her draw.

Damm, 31, is a more experienced fighter and brings her stylish Capoeira fighting-dance technique to the ring. It certainly looked good out on the mat with no opponent in sight. 

Damm, looks tough and ready but she's also small at 5-foot-4 and is fighting up a weight class.

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Hitomi Akano: (Record: 15-7 with 12 Submissions and 3 Decisions. Losses include 1 TKO and 6 Decisions.)

Akano, 36, is the most experienced and highest-ranked fighter of the group. She's fought in a higher weight class before but also has the least experience fighting in the cage. Fights in Japan are in the ring where the referee takes a more active role and elbows aren't allowed.

Asked why some of the other fighters called her unorthodox, Akano said through her translator, "My theory is this. This is mixed martial arts so there's no standard. There's no such thing as normal, ordinary strategy. So my way of fighting in MMA is my style of fighting. If they want to call that unorthodox then it's unorthodox."

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Maiju Kujala: (Record: 4-1 with 2 TKOs, 1 Submission and 1 Decision and lost on a Decision.)

The youngest fighter at 24, Maiju looks too sweet to be a fighter. Her possible opponent, Miesha Tate, said she likes to strike to get in on the take down but she doesn't have good positioning on the ground.

Kujala, who's from Finland, has never fought in the United States before and seems to be looking forward to the big crowds. She was a bit nervous but that could be from having to answer questions in English. She certainly didn't give off an air of toughness though.

Maiju doesn't have a preference for who she fights first, insisting she has a game plan for all three girls which are based on her strengths as a fighter which seem to be her physical strength and endurance.

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Miesha Tate: (Record: 9-2 with 3 TKOs, 4 Submissions and 2 Decisions. Her losses included 1 TKO and 1 Decision.)

With only 6 minutes to work in the first fight, Tate, 23, expects the action to be face-paced as all the fighters work for a quick finsih.

The tournament format lead to a longer preparation time but Tate said she started her career in this type of event and has learned some things. Mostly, she said, it's important not to have an adrenaline dump after the first fight. You have to "keep the engine going" and immediately begin to mentally prepare for the next fight.

She is my favorite to win the tournament and not because she's the only American girl in the bunch. Tate is taller and longer than the other girls and has fought at a higher level in MMA competition.

She was the only fighter to express a preference for an opponent. Miesha wants a crack at Akano because she feels it would be the most credible win given her ranking and experience.

Tate wants another shot at Sarah Kaufman who defeated her in a decision last year both to avenge loss and become World Champion. Tate's only other loss came in 2007 when she was knocked out by a kick to the head.

Tate said she's Interested in a career in media as a fight analyst once her fighting days are over.

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Ryan Couture Understands His Last Name Is The Draw

Ryan is exited for his pro debut on Friday but clearly understand there's only one reason why he's on the main card.

"I think it's absolutely because of my last name and selling tickets," Couture said on Wednesday during a pre-fight workout session.

"It's not like I've paid my dues as a pro and have a solid pro resume to justify putting me on the main card. It's a business thing and the name gets a lot of attention. That's just a fact of life at this point. There are going to be people who are bitter about that and hold that against me but there's nothing I can do about that."

He said repeatedly how happy he is with the matchup. And he should be.

Lucas Stark, a 20-year old with a limited and unimpressive 2-4 amateur record likely wasn't chosen to face Couture so he could give the big-name youngster too hard of a test. Is he a patsy? We will have to wait for Friday to find out for sure, but he clearly isn't a big reach for Ryan either.

Ryan said he liked the matchup because of Stark's tendency to get the fight on the ground where Couture won all of his previous fights. In this bout however, Ryan says he wants to show off the stand-up kickboxing skills he's been working on for the past two years and thinks he has an advantage there.

The two meet this morning. "He seems like a nice kid but that's not going to stop me from punching him in the face," Ryan said.

Couture grew up a fan of MMA and enjoyed watching his famous father compete. After college he took up training to stay in shape but never intended to make a career in the ring. He worked at a bank in Washington before "dad" called him to Vegas to work in the family business. Even then, he intended to work on the business side and train for fun but he said that being around the fighters and training at a higher level convinced him to give it a try.

After his first fight in the ring he was hooked.

"I was a little apprehensive because I knew there would be extra eyes on me because of my last name but I was just in love with it so I had to do it anyway," Couture said.

Randy is a resource for his son and mostly hangs back and lets Ryan come to him for advice or guidance.

Couture the senior, is training this week for his own fight but will be in Phoenix to corner for Ryan come Friday.

Audio: Ryan Couture 081110

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  Photo provided by Strikeforce

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Joe 'Diesel' Riggs On His Break Up With Arizona Combat Sports And His Future In And Out Of The Cage

Joe "Diesel" Riggs has been in the MMA game for a long time but he's seeing the end of the line. He had his first fight as a high school student in 2001 and even though Riggs is entering his prime, he'll be ready to get out when he feels his body start to deteriorate.

"Three more years, four more years. I'm not going to be fighting until I'm 35 or 40," Riggs told SB Nation Arizona at a pre-fight workout today. "I'm 27 but I'm an old 27. I've been been a pro since I was 17 and I've got like 50 fights so I want to make one more run and see what I can do at it and I want to gracefully bow out. But I've got four or five more years or something like that."

His scarred face, cauliflower ear and flatted nose certainly bear witness to his long fight history.

Riggs has one more fight with Strikeforce after Friday where he will headline the Challengers event with a bout against Louis Taylor. From there he's considering a return to the UFC but made it clear he's pleased with Strikeforce and has no problem fighting in a Challengers Event.

He did have a problem with Sarah Kaufman who recently complained about the promoter, "I don't know what that girl is talking about. She's lucky to even be on TV."

Riggs is fine with women competing in MMA and said they are exciting - to a point. "As long as they don't say things like they don't want to be on the Challengers card and they want to be main events, then they're good," he said. "We're the show. The men are what people are here to see."

Riggs recently left Arizona Combat Sports in Tempe and talked about the break up.

"Trevor (Lally) is a trainer, he's not an agent and he didn't understand that and he wanted 20 percent of our money," he said. "I make more money than those guys and 20 percent's a lot of money in my purse so we offered him 10 percent. Why would we go give 10 percent for another agent. He said, '20 or nothing' and he wasn't going to train anybody that he didn't manage so we had to take a walk. That's how that went."

Riggs has mostly prepared for this fight in the same boxing gym in Phoenix where he's trained since he was 10. He's considering going out of state to train in the future and mentioned Jeremy Horn in Ohio as a posibility.

Once his career in the cage is over, Riggs has a whole new line of work in mind.

"I want to be a cop actually," he said. "I want to get into law enforcement and go that route. After this fight I want to enroll in the police academy at Glendale Community College and get the ball rolling there so it's an easy transition from fighting to that."

If a fan wants an autograph from the famous cop who pulls them over, "That's fine. I'll sign the ticket and their piece of paper or whatever they want."

Joe is confident about his match with Taylor but admitted the pressure was on him.

"In all likelihood I walk in there and one punch and the guy goes out and that's it. But you never know. I always train for the worst, expect the worst, but hope for the best. In this sports there's so many ways to lose," Riggs said.

"I think (Taylor's) athletic, he's got heavy hands, he's got a lot of ability but he hasn't had a lot of fights. He's got nothing to lose. I'm the one who's got a lot to lose. I think that's were all the pressure lies, fighting in front of my hometown, in front of all my local fans, friends and family. You don't want to look like a jack-ass out there so yeah, there's always pressure."

Riggs expects Dodge Theater to be full on Friday night and has a stake in that happening. He's in line for a $10,000 bonus if the sell out happens.

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 Riggs getting in a little pre-fight work. Photo provided by Strikeforce.

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MMA Champs 'Cyborg' Santos And Sarah Kaufman In Phoenix To Watch Strikeforce

MMA women's champions Cris Cyborg Santos and Sarah Kaufman will be in Phoenix for Friday's Strikeforce Challengers event. Both Cyborg and Kaufman will be signing autographs for fans at the official weigh-in, which will begin at 5 p.m. local time at Dodge Theatre, tomorrow/Thursday.

A draw to determine the semifinal matchups for the two-round tournament will take place at the weigh-in on Thursday. The tournament winner will become the official No. 2 contender in the STRIKEFORCE women's welterweight division and will face Kaufman for the title in a future match.

The winners of each semifinal bout on Friday will face off in the tournament final later that night, just before the main event matchup between Joe "Diesel" Riggs (32-12) and Louis Taylor (6-1) that will be fought at a catch weight of 182 pounds.

"I think it's a real interesting concept," said the undefeated Kaufman. "It has to be tough to have to train for potentially three different opponents. But at the same time when you train you should be training everything anyway. Hopefully you're at a level where you can tweak what game plan you are going to go with."

Kaufman said she expects to see all for women use their ground fighting skills and that there isn't a dominant striker amongst the four. She sized up each of the four women who will fight on Friday:

MIESHA TATE: "She's definitely known as a wrestler. I think all the girls will use their wrestling but I think Miesha especially will use the entire cage and angle for the takedown and try to get a finish and control from the ground."

CARINA DAMM: "She is known for her unorthodox striking. She is coming up in weight so it will be interesting to see how she does against the heavier girls. She does a lot of showboating and uses some Capoeira. I think she uses that to mentally throw her opponents off. So we'll see if she uses that. I'm not really sure where her strong suit is but I would say it's on the ground."

HITOMI AKANO: "She has amazing judo and I know she works with Josh Barnett. All the Japanese girls are tough competitors and just don't quit. So I expect Hitomi to be tough to beat."

MAIJU KUJALA: "She's probably the best striker of the group. I haven't seen a lot of her and she remains the mystery girl of the four. She has described herself as a slow fighter so I'm interested to see what she'll bring to the cage on Friday."

More on each of the four fighters in the tournament:

Phoenix_4girls_piece_medium

(click photo to enlarge)

And if you haven't seen this fight between Cyborg Santos and Gina Carano, it's considered the best women's MMA fight ever.



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Interview: Ryan Couture's Opponent A Stark Contrast

Strikeforce specializes in finding local talent for their events and Ryan Couture's first pro opponent fits the bill. Lucas Stark (2-4 MMA, 0-0 Strikeforce), a 20-year-old based out of Chandler's Rage in the Cage gym, has racked up a handful of Jiu-Jitsu and MMA fights since his first bout at the Celebrity Theatre in Phoenix eighteen months ago. Now he will take on Randy Couture's son in his MMA debut Friday at Dodge Theater in Phoenix.

Stark_medium
(Photo by Dennis Tarwood)

Stark, a native of Red Oak, Iowa, came out to Mesa for his senior year of high school (Mesa Dobson), where he wrestled at 145 after coming off an fracture to his L4 vertebrae back in Iowa that held him out of sports for over a year and threatened to keep him out of any kind of competition permanently. "I was never supposed to play sports again," Stark said in an interview with SBN Arizona. "It took so long for my back to heal... it never completely healed. My bone just capped off and died." Focus on core support has helped keep back issues from recurring.

Stark is defined by action. He doesn't own a game system, preferring to head outside. In his free time, he skydives, camps, hikes, and runs the South Mountain. "Parties (too)," adds Stark with a sheepish grin.

This might go a long way towards explaining why he wasn't an MMA fan until his trainer turned him onto Rage in the Cage's gym. He attended his first live fight when he entered the ring for the first time. "I never really watched it until I started doing it," shrugged Stark.

Because of this unstated credo, Stark has barely watched film on Couture despite having a distinct advantage of having tape on Couture but not vice versa. Instead, he's focused on his own skills, developing a love for Jiu-Jitsu. "I didn't want to learn it," Stark explained. "I didn't like it. I didn't want to be on my back. (But) why (was) I being submitted so much? Coach said, 'Well, dummy...'. Now I love Jiu-Jitsu." He's won Desert Quest, a local grappling/Jiu-Jitsu tournament hosted by Rage in the Cage, twice since picking up the style.

His rise to a Strikeforce main card came rather swiftly. Eighteen months into his career, he got the opportunity a month ago to join the undercard for a Strikeforce fight and then heard about an opening to fight Ryan Couture three weeks past. "I threw my name out there (when I heard)," Stark noted. The gig was his and he shot to the PPV portion.

There's not much left for Stark to do before the fight. He was almost at the fight weight of 155 last week; he won't struggle to lose fluids before Thursday's weigh-in. His attitude is set as well: "I always fight to win; losing's not an option. We're going to have a game plan and we'll stick to it." He wouldn't grant Couture a single edge from experience (many more amateur fights), age (six years' difference), or training (the Couture gym, fortune, etc.).

Ryan Couture told MMAjunkie.com roughly the same story this week: "I've been able to prepare really well apart from the fact that I didn't know who I was fighting until a few days ago. But really the way things are at this level starting out with how little tape there is on an opponent, it wouldn't have made a huge difference in training, anyway."

"I've just been focusing on my strengths and getting myself in the kind of condition that I need to be in to go three hard five-minute rounds, and what will happen will happen from there."

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Strikeforce MMA Wiegh-in Open To The Public, Entry Free

Come see the fighters stripe down, stand on the scales and possibly glare at each other. What else are you going to do on a Thursday afternoon?

WHERE:   Dodge Theatre 400 West Washington St. Phoenix, AZ 85003

WHEN:   Thursday, Aug. 12 at 4:30 p.m. Local Time

WHAT:    All fighters who will compete in the STRIKEFORCE Challengers Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) event this Friday, Aug. 13 at Dodge Theatre in Phoenix, Ariz., will weigh in the day before, Thursday, Aug. 12, in the Dodge Theatre lobby.  The weigh in is OPEN TO THE PUBLIC, free of charge, and will begin at 4:30 p.m. local time. 

Phoenix's Joe "Diesel" Riggs (32-11) will face knockout artist Louis Taylor (6-1) at a catch weight of 182 pounds in the main event. A former super heavyweight and UFC star who once competed at over 300 pounds, Riggs has notable victories over STRIKEFORCE Welterweight champ Nick Diaz, Kendall Grove, Chris Lytle and "The N.Y. Badass" Phil Baroni. Taylor, of Chicago, has rattled off two consecutive knockout wins since his lone career loss to Nate Moore in Nov., 2009.  He has scored knockouts in four of his six career victories and has only gone to the judges scorecards once in his pro career.

Miesha "Takedown" Tate (9-2), Carina "Beauty But The Beast" Damm (15-3),

Hitomi "Girlfight Monster" Akano (15-7) and Maiju Kujala (4-1) will compete in the first-ever STRIKEFORCE women's tournament in history to determine the official No. 2 contender in the fiercely competitive STRIKEFORCE women's welterweight (135 pounds) division.  The draw to determine the semi-final matchups for the two-round tournament will take place at the weigh in.

Ryan Couture, son of MMA legend Randy "The Natural" Couture, will make his professional MMA debut for STRIKEFORCE against Lucas Stark of Chandler, Ariz. in a three-round lightweight (155 pounds) bout. 

Tickets for the Aug. 13 STRIKEFORCE Challengers event are on sale through www.livenation.com, www.STRIKEFORCE.com, the Dodge Theatre Box Office, any Ticketmaster outlet or by phone at (800) 745-3000. The event will be televised live on SHOWTIME® at 11 p.m. ET/PT (delayed on the West Coast).

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