At the upcoming Cage Rage 12 show in July there will be an interesting match up in the lightweight division featuring Vitor “Shaolin” Ribeiro and Gerald Strebendt. In what will Strebendt’s first action of 2005, the former UFC veteran hopes to upset the fighter that was long considered the consensus number one lightweight in the world and in the process pave the way for Gerald to continue to make a name for himself in MMA.
Strebendt, a former sniper and special operative in the military, appeared to be very enthusiastic when he spoke to MMA Weekly about getting an opportunity to face such a highly regarded fighter in Shaolin. “It’s going to be an exciting fight. He’s proven himself at the highest level of BJJ and is a gold-medal style of fighter. I’m really looking forward to this opportunity.”
Gerald continued, “I’ve never been so excited about a fight. Against (Sean) Sherk I dreaded the match in ways, when I fought (Jean) Silva and (Josh Thomson in the) UFC I was stressed, but after the layoff I’m hungry to fight. I’m looking at this fight like it’s not a burden; instead it’s a great opportunity. You know, I would fight him right now, this very minute, I wouldn’t think twice about it, that’s how excited I am about this fight, everyone’s going to be watching.”
When asked how he plans to fight Ribeiro, Strebendt was very forthcoming with the fact that his size and skill in the ground game could very well determine the outcome of the fight. “The great thing about BJJ is it’s not a secret anymore, so anyone that’s really good knows the styles and strategy when going into a fight like this. If he screws up I’ll catch him and take advantage of his mistakes. With the help of guys like Jean-Jacques (Machado) and Eddy Bravo I feel I’ll be ready for anything he throws at me. In my last fight against Sherk it was exciting going up against another weight class, but now I’m going to be back at 155lbs where I’m going to be the strongest guy. I respect Shaolin and his team, but I’m there to have fun, win, and get my paycheck.”
This fight will be Strebendt’s first in nearly a year after various fights fell through in the second half of 2005. As Strebendt explains it’s been both a stressful and prosperous time in his life. “After the Sherk fight a lot of guys have backed out of fights with me and that’s been hard. To have gone through this process of training, cutting the weight, getting ready to fight and not have it happen is very taxing. I’ve taken time off out in the woods, spent time with my girlfriend, shooting guns, being a country guy and having fun and it’s helped a lot. There’s no stress, fighting is supposed to be a fun thing for me to do, and for a while there it wasn’t like that. I’m just glad I have a really supportive girlfriend and now we could live the moment together and enjoy everything. Before in the UFC I was really nervous, but I’m completely different now, it’ll be a lot of fun, back then I was young, inexperienced and nervous, but I’m more of a man now at 26 and I have a whole new outlook on everything.”
Another reason for Gerald’s layoff is the fact that he’s not willing to sacrifice himself for less than what he deserves as a professional fighter. Not only is this subject is very important to Strebendt for himself but for the whole of fighters everywhere. “I’ve had offers in the States, but never offer me enough money to come out of my shell. Cage Rage always delivers and set up everything for me, that’s why I enjoy fighting for them. US promotions may not be making a lot of money or have enough sponsors, but they have a lot of guys willing to take nothing. What some fighters don’t realize is that it hurts everyone when they take next to nothing to fight. We have the power, without us there is no show, if you play your cards right you’ll have a future, if you go out for no money you hurt the sport.”
While Strebendt is always mindful of the future, there is no doubting his focus is firmly on his upcoming fight and where it can lead him in his career. “There’s a list of guys I want to fight. If I beat him, I’ll be near the top where the dangerous guys are. You’ve got Yves (Edwards) and Jens (Pulver), they are phenomenal strikers, they are scary to fight because at any moment that can land one punch and put you out. (Takanori) Gomi and Genki (Sudo) would be fun to fight because they are so fast and skilled on the ground. To me the worst thing is to get submitted, so that makes fighters like them dangerous. If I beat Shaolin I’m going after Pequeno (Alexandre Franca Noguiera), Sudo, Edwards, all those guys, but it’s a long ways off the road. Right now I’m only thinking about Shaolin, he’s that winning lottery ticket, that free pass to the top and I’m not going to let it slip away.”
Strebendt concluded the conversation by saying, “I want to thank Vince, Joe and Eddy, they’ve always come through and delivered for me. I want to tell the fans to keep on watching the fights, and enjoy the fighters we have. Some day we’ll all be too old and there will be a whole new generation of guys coming up. We are lucky to be living at this time, I’m a fan just like everyone else and to still be able to go up to fighters and talk to them, get photos, and autographs is amazing. There’s no other sport where the athletes are as accessible as MMA and the fans should enjoy it while we have it.”