by Tom Hamlin – MMAWeekly.com
BEVERYLY HILLS, Calif. – One of the biggest surprises to come out of Strikeforce’s jaunt at the Playboy Mansion this weekend was the news that Renato “Babalu” Sobral would be joining its ranks.
Less than a month into his purgatory after being released from the Ultimate Fighting Championship, Sobral signed a three-fight deal to bolster the San Jose-based organization’s thin light heavyweight division.
Later this year, Sobral will do his best to move past a painful lesson in public relations following his win over David Heath at UFC 74. Sobral’s purse deduction of $25,000 was finalized Sept. 24 after a short hearing with the Nevada State Athletic Commission.
The penalty came about due to controversy concerning Sobral’s alleged refusal to release the fight-winning anaconda choke and his post-fight comments.
“Of course, I don’t feel very happy to get a fine for 25 g’s,” Sobral told MMAWeekly. “I don’t see many guys get fined for 50 percent of their purse, but it is what it is.”
Strikeforce promoter Scott Coker saw Babalu’s free agent status as an opportunity.
“I’ve followed his career. He’s definitely a talented 205-pounder and we’re going to build that division up,” Coker said ringside at the Playboy Mansion. “We thought he’d be a great asset.”
Is he concerned that he might have a loose cannon on his hands?
“Here’s the thing,” Coker responded. “You get in the cage, it’s an emotional thing. Tempers flare. It’s a fight. So, I’m not concerned that it will happen again. I’m sure he’s learned his lesson the hard way. But everybody deserves a second chance.”
Coker said Babalu would likely make his debut later this year. Two possible opponents included former UFC heavyweight champ Kevin Randleman, or more likely, current Strikeforce light heavyweight champ Bobby Southworth.
Babalu wasn’t particularly excited about a rematch with Kevin Randleman. But a shot at Southworth’s belt seemed hard to resist.
“He’s the champion, so I respect him a lot,” Sobral said. “He did very well [in his last fight].”
Southworth was taken aback by the news.
“That’s news to me,” Southworth told MMAWeekly. “I was under the impression I’d be fighting Nov. 16. For a guy like Babalu, I’d definitely like a little more time to prepare. I have no problem fighting him.
“He’s a great fighter … a little more experienced than me, but not more skilled. He’s going to try to submit me, so I’d try to sprawl and brawl, keep it on the feet. I think I’m a more technical striker, try to pick him apart. Babalu is hard to stop. I’d probably try to outpoint him.”
Southworth’s words didn’t surprise Sobral.
“Of course, everybody thinks I’m not very good in standup,” Sobral said. “He has his game and I have my game. He’s going to push his game and I’m going to push my game, and we’ll see what’s going to happen. He has to know that trouble’s coming.”
Either way, Sobral’s move to Strikeforce is truly a second chance to redeem himself to the fans he lost in August. He doesn’t plan on squandering it.
“I’m very happy that Strikeforce gave me the deal,” Sobral said. “I have no hard feelings with the UFC. I [have to] pay my bills. Everybody can make a mistake in his life. But I’m not going to change the way I fight. I’m born to do this. I’m ready to die and prepared to kill. That’s who I am.”