After years of being considered an up and coming fighter, Strikeforce heavyweight Shane Del Rosario is finally being given the opportunity to step up and make a name for himself as a legitimate contender.
Standing in Del Rosario’s way is a fellow fighter looking to make his mark on the big stage in Lavar Johnson. The two match up for the first alternate spot in Strikeforce’s Heavyweight Grand Prix starting this Saturday at the IZOD Center in East Rutherford, N.J.
“We both thought after leaving the Challengers Series we thought we’d be fighting big name opponents, but we’re fighting each other and that’s just how it is,” Del Rosario told MMAWeekly.com about this weekend’s fight.
Even if he’s not being given the kind of fight he initially thought he’d get by stepping up into Strikeforce’s main show, Del Rosario is grateful of the situation he finds himself in.
“This is a good thing for me,” he said. “Whether I get in the tournament or not, there’s going to be big names on each card, like Fedor (Emelianenko) on this one, and that means it will be watched worldwide, so people are going to get a chance to see me fight.”
While he’d like to be part of the main tournament draw, Del Rosario knows better than to underestimate Lavar Johnson.
“He’s not someone to look over,” stated Del Rosario. “He’s not an easy fight. He hits hard and finishes fights, so I’ve got to go into this smart, look for the win and hopefully get the first alternate spot in the tournament.”
Like Del Rosario, Johnson has been on a tear, finishing his last seven opponents.
When asked how he compares to other opposition Del Rosario has faced, he said of Johnson, “Every heavyweight hits hard, but I guess he’s got more speed than some of the guys I’ve fought like Lolohea Mahe or Brandon Cash.
“I think it’s very similar when it comes to all heavyweights – one punch can knock you out – so you’ve got to be smart and keep your hands up.”
Should Del Rosario not make it into the tournament, he feels there is one fighter in particular people should keep an eye on.
“I definitely think it’s going to be (Alistair) Overeem, Fedor or (Fabricio) Werdum,” commented Del Rosario. “You can’t overlook Josh Barnett though; he’s a very tough opponent and has fought a lot of really tough guys.
“It’s going to be a really good tournament to watch and it’s hard to tell what’s going to happen at this point, but Alistair is really dominant right now, and I can’t see him not being in the finals.”
Having spent five years training, fighting, and earning the respect needed to make it to the highest level of MMA, Del Rosario intends to shine as bright as possible and have people leaving the arena Saturday night remembering his name above all others.
“I want to thank Team Oyama, Innovative Results, Metal Mulisha, Rockstar, Power Balance, and Full Tilt Poker,” he concluded. “Check out my fight. It’s going to be exciting with Lavar Johnson, and I hope to put on a good show and try to steal Fight of the Night for you guys.”