(Let me get this straight…Catchweight bouts have title implications, now?)
Strikeforce held a media conference call today ahead of its mid-week June 16 show next Wednesday. On the call were Renato "Babalu" Sobral, his manager, Richard Welner, his opponent on the card, Robbie Lawler and Strikeforce president, Scott Coker.
According to Renato "Babalu" Sobral, his upcoming 195-pound catchweight bout with Robbie Lawler on June 16 isn’t a one-off appearance for the former Strikeforce champion at a lighter weight as the Brazilian submission specialist is planning a further drop to compete as a middleweight in the foreseeable future. Since his friend and training partner, Muhammed King Mo’ Lawal won the title Babalu previously held by defeating the man who took his belt, Gegard Mousasi in April, Sobral says that the fact that he would never fight anyone on his team necessitated the drop in weight.
It’s been nine months since Renato “Babalu” Sobral lost the Strikeforce light heavyweight title via short-and-sweet first round TKO to Gegard Mousasi last August. If you think that sounds like a lot of time to sit at home ruminating on the defeat, you’re right. Babalu is understandably pumped at the opportunity to step in for training partner Jason “Mayhem” Miller against Robbie Lawler next month and expresses some frustration to Ariel Helwani in the above video that it’s taken so long to get back in the cage.
Also interesting to note, Babalu seems to direct his annoyance at Showtime, not Strikeforce itself, so that should further stoke debate about who’s really wearing the pants in the fight company’s relationship with the premium cable channel. An excerpt from the interview after the jump.
To be fair, I think it’s really cool that your dad is Internet-savvy enough to record video blogs and post them to YouTube. I was a little worried after your mom divorced him, but it seems like he has a good outlet for expressing his opinions now, and he’s probably not as depressed as he would have been otherwise.
That being said, I have to disagree with your dad’s take on Nick Diaz. Nobody said that every professional athlete has to be a role model for our youth that are growing up, particularly the ones that depend on a "bad boy" persona to be marketable. Diaz may be a loud-mouth punk, but he’s also one of the best welterweights in the world, and some of us actually find his antics entertaining. He’s not for everybody, I know. There might be a generation gap that’s keeping your dad from appreciating Nick’s unique brand of don’t-give-a-fuck-ness. And the middle fingers are a bit much, no argument there. But does that mean he should be banned from the sport, like your dad is suggesting?
As for the part about Robbie Lawler beating Diaz down to his knees and forcing him to his apologize for his mouth, please tell your dad that they fought once back in 2004, and Lawler got wrecked, so he’ll have to find another hero for his Nick Diaz humbling-fantasy. Nothing personal, it just seems like your dad has a lot of anger he’s still working through, and it might be a good idea to look for some new hobbies for him. Anyway, send him my best, and we’ll see you guys at Brian’s wedding, okay?
Strippers, the government, our immediate family – we expect them to lie to us. We’ve gotten so used to it that we barely even notice it anymore. We just give them our money and try not to think about what it’s really being spent on. But Robbie Lawler? Him, we thought we could trust. When he told us that he wanted to stand and bang with Melvin Manhoef, when he laughed off the idea of taking down an opponent for the first time in recent memory, we believed him. It seemed like a bad idea, but at least it seemed like a sincere bad idea. Only after the fight do we learn that it was all a ruse. That lying son of a bitch.
As Lawler admits in this video, he didn’t really want any part of Manhoef’s vicious stand-up. The only reason the fight stayed on the feet at all was because Lawler couldn’t find an opportunity to get it to the mat. Instead he got his leg kicked to pieces and his head rattled a little bit before he managed to land that totally pre-planned, super technical right hand. It worked out for him in the end, but at what cost? With this trust now broken, his relationship with the MMA world may never be the same.
("Nice flower-tattoo, cupcake. I just got a tattoo of the Virgin Mary being ripped apart by pitbulls, directly on my asshole." / Photo courtesy of Strikeforce. More pics are below, including one of an alarmingly fat Wes Sims.)
Tonight’s Strikeforce event at the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, Florida (aka "Miami") has such a fantastic mix of high-level MMA and can’t-look-away freak shows. On the top of the card you’ve got Nick Diaz battling for Strikeforce’s vacant welterweight title against head-kickin’ rising star Marius Zaromskis, while 145-pound lady-champ Cristiane "Cris Cyborg" Santos makes her first belt defense against Dutch submission artist Marloes Coenen. On the other end of the card, 47-year-old former football star Herschel Walker will kick off his cage-fighting career against Greg Nagy, while Wes Sims — who owns the physique of a 47-year-old — will do his best to avoid getting squashed by pro-wrestler Bobby Lashley. And somewhere in-between, Robbie "Brawler" Lawler and Melvin "Man-Hoof" Manhoef will launch leather at each other until one of them can no longer intelligently defend himself. If you’re not excited for this card, then you probably don’t use words like "excited" in general. Live results from the Showtime broadcast will be piling up after the jump, starting at 10 p.m. ET. Refresh the page every few minutes for all the latest.
Of Robbie Lawler‘s 18 wins, 15 have come via KO/TKO; of Melvin Manhoef‘s 24 wins, 23 have come via KO/TKO. We may not agree with Lawler’s strategy going into tomorrow night’s fight, but sometimes you just have to say "fuck it, this is going to be a slugfest, and it’s going to be awesome." Genghis Con‘s preview compilation for the middleweight battle captures that spirit perfectly. Lawler vs. Manhoef is going to end with somebody staring at the ceiling, the owner of a brand-new concussion. The only questions are: Who will it be, and how long will it last?
Earlier this week we speculated that oddsmakers were only giving Melvin Manhoef the slight edge over Robbie Lawler because they thought Lawler was foolhardy enough to stand and strike with Manhoef rather than take it to the ground, where he would enjoy a distinct advantage. Unless Lawler is doing a great big fake-out in this video interview with Ariel Helwani, the oddsmakers know Lawler better than he knows himself. Yes, he realizes that he’s probably much better on the ground than Manhoef, and he probably also realizes that he could get it there if he wanted to. But that’s not how Lawler likes to party. He wants to go toe-to-toe with a man who’s known for having vicious stand-up and very little else. He wants to play to his opponent’s one strength rather than exploit his easily exploitable weaknesses. So he says, anyway.
Honestly? As much fun as it would be to watch Lawler and Manhoef play Rock-em, Sock-em Robots on Saturday night, a part of me hopes that Lawler is smarter than that. He needs a win more than he needs to prove what a stone cold bad-ass he is. Knocking out Manhoef in a stand-up war would be entertaining and impressive, but that’s like investing your savings in lottery tickets. A 401k might not be as thrilling, but it is a lot less likely to leave you crying in the parking lot.
After the jump, part two of RawVegas.tv‘s series with Goran Reljic. In this episode, Reljic spars with Forrest Griffin and shares a candid conversation about the challenges both of them are facing in the near future.
In fact, Manhoef was asked about the possibility of facing Lawler at his post-fight press conference in Tokyo, and he seemed game even if he didn’t appear to know too much about Lawler. Said the Dutch striker: