This special tournament is reminiscent of the old Pride Fighting Championships from not so long ago, where some of the best fighters competed against one another over the course of a few months to determine who is the best fighter in the world. This upcoming tourney is no exception.
An upcoming bout featuring Chad Griggs against Gian Villante, however, will be that exception. The Long Islander, Villante, is perfectly fine with that scenario.
”That’d be pretty bizarre, from fighting in the Ring of Combat to fighting Fedor (Emelianenko) or (Alistair) Overeem, somebody who I look up to and they’re where I want to be someday,” said Villante, who was recently featured on the MMAWeekly Radio Show.
Griggs and Villante will be competing in one of three reserve matches that will be taking place on Saturday night, which essentially means that should any competitor featured in the eight-man tournament fall out, it’s conceivable that the winner between Villante and Griggs could take an injured fighters place in the tournament.
“I definitely don’t think I’m on those guys’ levels yet, but I would hope to be one day, and who knows, like I don’t know what would happen… it’s really just about Chad Griggs right now, and beating him.”
Villante’s athletic career gained notoriety in his college years, when the 25-year-old was prominent as a football star and looked poised to make a move to the National Football League. Villante, however, eventually set those aspirations aside for a career as a mixed martial artist, which he says is much more rewarding.
“(Mixed martial arts) totally fills that void, and then some,” he said.
“I didn’t see myself as the guy that wouldn’t stay active, so I really, really wanted to get into something and do something. So I started fighting and it’s been history ever since then. Four-months into training I had my first fight, and it all came from there.”
While football is widely recognized as a team sport and MMA is viewed as a one-man affair, Villante insists that it will be more then just him inside the cage at his Strikeforce debut Saturday night. Head trainer Keith Trimble of Bellmore Kickboxing Academy, who has become a mentor to Villante, will be one of those men who Villante envisions inside the cage with him opposite of Griggs.
“I liked (football). It’s in my past, but fighting for me is so much more fun,” said the two-year veteran.
“It’s you out there and nobody else. Nobody else to blame it on, it’s just you. If you don’t put in the training or the right time, your going to be the one that gets the loss, not a whole team.
“I feel like with my fights, my trainer is more nervous than I am. He cares about it more than I do. He’s just as out of wind as I am when I come to the corner. He’s been like another father to me, I call him Papa Keith. He’s a guy who I feel like he’s in there with me, and I wouldn’t want to have anybody else in there than him with me. He’s one tough guy. It is a team sport, somewhat.”
Griggs was the overwhelming underdog in his bout last August against Bobby Lashley, a former WWE star who was poised to be the next big thing in the heavyweight division. Griggs showed the kind of grit that is becoming of any great fighter, weathering an early storm from the American Top Team product, and eventually stopped Lashley at the end of the second-round.
Villante, unlike Lashley, will not be taking his opponent lightly in hopes of making a successful debut within his new home in Strikeforce.
“He’s definitely not going to shy away from the fight. He’s a tough guy, and if Bobby Lashley took him lightly that was his mistake. It’s probably the reason why he lost. I just feel like I can’t go in there and flex because Bobby Lashley might be a little bit bigger than I am, so I couldn’t really scare him with my muscles.”