Light heavyweight champ Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal faces Rafael “Feijao” Calvalcante in the “Strikeforce: Houston” main event, while Tim Kennedy and Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza square off in the night’s co-headliner to be crowned Strikeforce’s next middleweight champ.
The “Strikeforce: Houston” fight card also features lightweights KJ Noons vs. Jorge Gurgel and heavyweights Bobby Lashley vs. Chad Griggs.
Check out what the fighters had to say at the pre-fight press conference, followed by pictures courtesy of Strikeforce/Esther Lin
“KING MO” LAWAL
“Feijao has been around for a while, he’s a tough fighter. He’s experienced and I’m still young in the game. He’s a seasoned vet who is tough and hungry. That’s why I’m the underdog, that’s why I’m not going to take him lightly.
“Champions always have something to prove. I think anyone who steps in the cage has something to prove. I think in MMA, everyone is an underdog because you have to win.
“Feijao brings it – he’s got a hard hand. I know Brazilians come to fight.
“I respect Feijao. I have no problem with him. We’ll handle everything in the ring on Saturday. We’ll do that and have fun.”
RAFAEL “FEIJAO” CAVALCANTE
“I’ve trained so hard. I saw Mo’s last fight and I know he’s good at everything, well rounded. I knew I had to train for everything for Mo.
“I think there will be a lot of surprises in this fight. I think Mo has a lot of things to show on Saturday, but so do I.
“I’m trained in Jiu-Jitsu. A lot of people think I’m a striker, but I just haven’t had a chance to show (my Jiu-Jitsu skills) yet.
“I’m comfortable in both: standing up or on the ground. I’ve stood up a lot with my opponents, but I just try to do what’s best for me in there. I just try to win the fight.”
“I’ve brought in some of the best guys I could get my hands on in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. My fight camp in the last few months has been getting ready for Jacare, who’s one of the best grapples in MMA history. I’ve done nothing but prepare for Jacare and this fight.
“It’s been 10 months since I’ve been fighting full time and it’s been awesome. I’m stronger and faster than I’ve ever been. I train three times a day.
“He’s a hard guy to wear down. He’s an athletic specimen. I’m definitely going to bring the fight to him the whole time. I hope he gets tired – that would be cool.
“I don’t want to dilute the value of the STRIKEFORCE belt. I’d love to fight him (Jason “Mayhem” Miller) if I win the title, but it’s not about me. It’s about the STRIKEFORCE belt and the honor that comes with it.”
RONALDO “JACARE” SOUZA
“I’ve been training very hard and I’m prepared for this fight. Tim Kennedy is a great fighter. I don’t know if I’ll win by submission or knockout, but I’ve been training very hard.
“He is a great wrestler, great ground and pound and a strong opponent.
“The belt deserves a good fight, a battle. I know Tim and I are going to fight hard for that title.
“I put a lot of hard training in this. I’ve just been getting ready.”
“Fighting Jorge on Saturday is my No. 1 priority. He’s a tough opponent and I’m not looking past him. There are a lot of interesting fights to be made in the lightweight division, but I’m not looking past Jorge.
“My diet for this fight is better and I’m just a better all around fighter. Jorge is a Brazilian Black Belt in Jiu-Jitsu, so I’ve been working a lot harder on my Jiu-Jitsu and my wrestling. I don’t think it’s a weakness of mine.
“I’m finally the whole package – it’s exciting. I’ve pulled it all together and Jorge is my main focus.
“I’m ready. When a lot of people tell me I can’t do something it makes me want to do it even more. At the end of the day, I’m a fighter and that’s what makes this fight so interesting. I love fighting.
“I thrive on having people tell me I can’t do something. My goal is fighting.
“Nick (Diaz) is an interesting fight. I walk around at 185 (pounds), so I could make it. It’s a science. I’m comfortable with my weight.
“Living here and playing football in high school, that’s everything here. You can get away with everything if you play football in Texas. But seriously, fans in Houston are great.”
“I’m just so glad I don’t have to bring my Nike’s to chase someone around the cage to fight. I know KJ will bring it and not back down.
“I just like to fight real fighters. He comes from a real fighting family. He’s been working on his ground game, so I’m definitely fighting the No. 1 contender. I’m fighting No. 1, a former champ, so I couldn’t ask for more. I’m in a great position.
“I haven’t been happy with my performance in a long time. I’ve been working hard, so hopefully I’ll be happy with Saturday night.
“Fighting is a way to express yourself. I don’t fight to please the fans; I don’t fight for the submissions – I fight to fight and to win.”
“I don’t know very much about him (Griggs). I know he has an impressive record and he’s been fighting for a while. I’m just trying to work on everything. I’m going to try to pressure him hard and see what happens.
“I had a lot of time off, not by choice, and I worked out with some great fighters. Just having the opportunity to work with different people has really helped escalate the game.
“I consider myself a very athletic heavyweight. My striking is coming along very well and I’m very comfortable on the ground. I think my game is coming together very well.
“What I want to do in my career is move forward and do it the right way. I do have an extensive wrestling background, there’s no question about that, and I’ll definitely use that to my benefit, pick up the rest of my game and move forward.
“Some people have a problem with my WWE background, but don’t look past my 18 years of wrestling before that. That’s part of my game.”
“I think it takes the pressure off me (fighting a guy like Lashley). I can get in there and let it all hang out. The pressure is on Bobby. It’s a tough fight, it’s a great opportunity. I can’t wait to just get in there and fight.
“What do I think is going to happen? He just told me – a lot of pressure. We do expect a lot of pressure. We know he’s coming and he’s coming hard. At no point is it going to be easy.”