When Strikeforce lightweight prospect Justin “The Silverback” Wilcox looks back over his career, he’s keen to point out the catalyst for his success, joining the American Kickboxing Academy.
“I can go all the way back to my (Mitsuhiro) Ishida fight two or three years ago, after that fight I really grew a lot,” he told MMAWeekly.com. “I realized that there’s a lot I need to know.
“I had only been training here two or three months. Now I’ve been here three years. You can really see what AKA has really done for me. I don’t see myself getting tricked like that again. I’ve really sharpened my game in every area.”
Since that loss, Wilcox has been on a five-fight winning streak, including his most recent win, a unanimous decision domination of top Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu ace Vitor “Shaolin” Ribeiro last November.
“Actually, that fight was so much easier than I anticipated it would be,” admitted Wilcox. “We wanted to establish our stand-up game, and my coaches said if that’s what I wanted to do, then why not keep it standing, why play with fire? I agreed.
“We were out-boxing him, and we didn’t want to throw too many kicks and give him openings for takedowns, so I threw a couple punch combinations and stuffed his takedowns and it worked perfectly.”
Wilcox will have an opportunity to continue his winning ways Friday night, as he takes on Rodrigo Damm in the headlining bout of Strikeforce Challengers 15 in San Diego.
According to Wilcox, many people may be underestimating Damm due to his last Showtime appearance, a loss to current Strikeforce champ Gilbert Melendez, but he isn’t.
“He took his fight against Gilbert on super short notice and I don’t think you really got to see the full Rodrigo Damm,” said Wilcox. “That could make him stronger and even hungrier to get back on a winning streak.
“At this level, if you take someone lightly, you’ll be looking up at the lights (at the end of the night). I prepare for each of my opponents as if they’re world champs, and I want to be the next one; so that’s how I train for everybody.”
A win could go a long way towards pushing Wilcox to the next level in the promotion, and that’s exactly the goal he has in mind.
“I want to win this fight and hopefully they have enough confidence in me to let me fight on the big show,” he commented.
“I can show them I can compete with the best in the world. I want to be the world champ, and the only way to get there is to compete with the best in the world, so I’m all for it.”
As for the promotion’s current lightweight kingpin, Gilbert Melendez, Wilcox sees no reason why that fight couldn’t happen.
“To give him due, even three years ago, he might have been too much for me,” stated Wilcox. “I wasn’t as well rounded. Today, I’ll take that fight any time.
“Gilbert is at the top of the world, and I want to be at the top of the world too. So I’ll fight him or any of the Top 10 guys in the world.”
Having continuously proven time after time he can step up to any challenge Strikeforce presents him, Wilcox’s championship aspirations may just come to fruition in 2011.
“I’d like to thank all my boys and coaches here at the AKA for helping me get ready for this fight, Zinkin Entertainment, my wife and daughter, and all the fans who come out to watch The Silverback for supporting me,” he concluded.
“I never set small goals, I only set big goals. On the way, small goals get accomplished, so I keep my eyes on the world title.”