by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
There has always been a great debate on how athletes from other sports would fare in MMA. From combat-based competitions such as judo, wrestling, and boxing, to more conventional team-based sports such as football, athletes from these arenas have met with mixed results in MMA.

One fighter though that has made the move from other team-based sports into MMA with flying colors is super-heavyweight contender Rex Richards.

This 300-pound native Texan has taken his experiences from the Texas Tech Red Raiders of the NCAA; to the now-NFL champion Indianapolis Colts; and most recently, the San Jose Sabercats of the Arena Football League, and has used them to springboard his MMA career to an undefeated 4-0 overall record.

After an impressive two-minute victory over Kyle Leviton at Strikeforce 4 last December, Richards made the choice to pursue MMA full-time, leaving behind his promising pro football career. He is now set to sake his claim to being one of MMA’s premier big men.

In order to make that goal a reality though, Rex must begin his new full-time journey at this upcoming Friday’s Strikeforce show in San Jose. He takes on Steve Jester, in what should be literally one of the biggest showdowns on the card.

“I’m feeling really strong,” stated Richards of his return to Strikeforce. “Obviously my Jiu-Jitsu is strong, as usual, but I’ve put a lot of emphasis on striking for this fight. I’m going into it thinking I’d like to get a knockout, but if that doesn’t open up, I’ll take it to the ground and do what I do best.”

In Rex’s first fight for Strikeforce this past December, he quickly took down Kyle Leviton and submitted him with a key lock, showing rare dexterity on the ground for a super-heavyweight.

This time around however, with Richards’ assertion to stand and trade more, it could be even more exciting, facing off against a fighter that by all accounts is looking to stand and trade as well.

“They told me he [Steve Jester] trains with a champion kickboxer, and that he’s a big, tough dude,” commented Rex. “I don’t know anything else about him, he may be a killer for all I know, and they’re out there.”

“I know his nickname is ‘Big Guns,’ so I’m sure he’s got some big arms and probably hits like a ton, but I’m going in there with the same attitude [I have every fight], go in there and finish it in the first round,” continued Richards.

Initially it had appeared that Rex would be facing off against a different, more well-known opponent, but as he’s finding out, the MMA game doesn’t have some of the certainty the football world did when it comes to scheduling.

“Originally it was supposed to be Tim Persey and I was really excited about that,” exclaimed Richards. “But I guess he decided he didn’t want to fight super-heavyweights anymore, so, from there it went to the guy I’m fighting now, Steve Jester.”

Rex added, “I’m pretty disappointed, not because I’m fighting Steve Jester – I have all the respect in the world for everyone I fight – but because I really wanted to fight Tim Persey. It sounded like a good match and was supposed to be a good next step up from what I have been fighting.”

As Richards points out, while he’s happy to be fighting again for Strikeforce, in order to achieve his goal of becoming a recognized top-ranked fighter, he has to take on more well known competition.

“I have respect for all fighters, I’m not trying to put Steve Jester down, like I said, he could be a killer, but after this fight, if everything works out my way, I’d like to step up and fight somebody else, a name fighter hopefully,” said Rex. “In this year, 2007, I want to explode on the scene. I want to be known as a finishing fighter and a super-heavyweight that everyone can tune into watch and not be bored by.”

“I don’t want to go out and hug my guy – I want to beat him. Strike with him, grapple him, and finish the fight,” continued Richards.

Rex is keen to point out, he chose MMA over pro football because he sees where this sport is heading, and he feels he’ll be one to watch in his weight class over the coming year.

“I see this being THE rising sport in the US, and all over the world,” stated Richards. “Obviously I do, because it’s something I want to be involved in and something I think I can do really well. But doing it, I need to get more fights and get my name out there. People need to recognize me as a contender in the super-heavyweight division.”

So with a burning desire to achieve and to shed the perception that big men can’t be anything more than lumbering, uninspired behemoths in the cage, ex-pro footballer Rex Richards could very well be one to watch for this Friday at Strikeforce and beyond.

“I’d like to thank Half Evil Motorcycles, Dominance Fight Gear, and CytoSport,” said Rex. “I also like to thank my BJJ coach, Clay Pittman of Pittman’s Jiu-Jitsu School; everyone at West Texas MMA; and Next Level Fitness for letting me train on my cardio there.”

Richards concluded, “If fans can’t make it out to the show, since my fight’s a prelim, people can watch it live for free on ProElite.com. I’m going to try to be the most explosive fighter of the night, I’m trying to do this thing for real, I’m not in there just to get another fight under my belt – I will finish the fight and I look forward to showing the fans what I’ve got.”