by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
Normally when fight fans think of the heavyweight and super-heavyweight divisions, they get visions of large, lumbering fighters who seem more adept at sucking wind than kicking ass.

At this Saturday’s Art of War show in Tunica, Mississippi, 6’5″ 290-pound behemoth Rex Richards hopes to change that perception as he takes on 6’4″ 280-pound monster Shane Carwin in a showdown of undefeated super-heavyweights.

“The fans are going to see an exciting fight,” exclaimed Richards. “I think his longest fight was 2:20, mine’s 2:02. So that just tells you that he’s going to go for the kill, I’m going to go for the kill, and there’s going to be one guy left standing.”

These are not words of someone who just hopes to go in and simply earn a paycheck by clinching the whole fight and controlling position en route to a decision victory.

“For a super-heavyweight match-up, I don’t think it’s going to get a whole lot better this year,” said Richards. “Athletically, this is going to be a really solid match up. There’s going to be a lot of power swinging through there.”

Both he and his opponent are athletes first and foremost, not just impressive numbers when it comes to the scale.

Carwin is a former collegiate All-American in both wrestling and football, whereas Richards was able to take his athleticism all the way to the National Football League’s Indianapolis Colts and later the Arena Football League’s San Jose SaberCats.

Each has ridden their athletic success into the world of professional fighting and is now at a point where it’s time to take a step up in competition in hopes of becoming one of the division’s premier fighters.

“Not a lot of people know about (Carwin), but he’s a bad man,” admitted Richards. He’s 6-0, knocking people out, choking people out, and is going to be a tough next-level fight for me. So I’m thrilled to get in there with this guy.”

Another aspect of this fight that has him excited is to be able to know who his opponent was far enough ahead of time that he could actually prepare properly for the fight. That’s something Richards hasn’t been able to do in the past, even when fighting in the Strikeforce promotion.

“I just appreciate knowing who I’m going to fight six weeks before. It’s a new thing,” he said. “I’ve been able to train for an opponent that I know a little bit about and that I have a lot of respect for. It actually helps with my training.

“I feel like I’m more prepared for this fight than any of them, just because I know who I am fighting.”

And the extra time that he has had to train has allowed him to implement new tactics into his game, making him more than just a big guy with impressive ground skills.

“I continue to better myself on the ground, but I’ve really put an emphasis (on striking),” said Richards. “I know I can punch and kick really hard, but now it’s just cleaning it up.

“I don’t want to be this big guy that just takes people to the ground and pounds them into submission. I want to be able to size them up, pick my punches, turn my hip over and just really be an impressive fighter.”

Earlier this year, he quit playing pro football to concentrate solely on MMA. However, due to some contractual issues, Richards has not been able to fight as often as he’d like, but he hopes to change that after Art of War.

“I love Strikeforce. I want to keep fighting for them. They’ve taken care of me, but I can’t fight every six months,” he explained. “I’m still considered a newbie in this sport and I’ve got to fight almost every couple months.

“Art of War getting me on their card is great and I’m really excited about that. I’ve spoken with Guy Mezger about HDNet Fights; these are all things I’m interested in. I want to be a workhorse in this sport. I want to get really big fights set up to where I need to train six-to-eight weeks for a guy.

“But I can’t fight every six months and obtain that. So, if anyone wants a big, athletic super-heavyweight, I’m looking to be that guy for them.”

Another goal in the coming year is to slim down a little and try his hand at a different weight class, where more match-ups could be a possibility.

“I’m slowly trying to get down to heavyweight,” commented Richards. “I know there are a lot of opportunities that could be there for me, so I’m trying to get down to 265 now.”

Considering the athletic ability that he brings to the super-heavyweight division, a drop in weight could add more mobility and quickness to his game, making him a dangerous opponent for anyone in two weight classes.

But first and foremost, he is focused on Shane Carwin on Saturday night in Mississippi in a bout he feels could be the one people will be buzzing about when the show is over.

“I want to thank American Stand-Up, they’re my main sponsor for this fight right now, and I appreciate everything they’ve done for me; Fight for Heroes and everyone for their support,” said Richards. “This fight with me and Shane Carwin is going to be a fight people are going to be talking about.

“I think the fans are going to see a big, bloody mess in this fight. It’s going to be a hell of a fight and I can’t wait to get in there with him and have some fun. I’m looking forward to putting on a show for everyone out in Mississippi.”