Four-time U.S. National Judo Champ and 2004 U.S. Judo Olympian Dr. Rhadi Ferguson will put his perfect MMA record on the line against up-and-coming undefeated light heavyweight Ion Cherdivara on the STRIKEFORCE Challengers Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fight card presented by Rockstar Energy Drink on Friday, Jan. 7, 2011, at Nashville Municipal Auditorium in Nashville, Tenn., live on SHOWTIME® at 11 p.m. ET/PT (delayed on the West Coast).
The only athlete to compete in the Olympic Games, the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) World Championships and the Abu Dhabi Submission Wrestling World Championships, Ferguson is 2-0 with two TKOs as a light heavyweight (205) in MMA.
A BJJ silver medalist, the 35-year-old Ferguson has successfully transitioned to MMA after a brilliant career in Judo and BJJ. A member of America Top Team (ATT) in Coconut Creek, Fla., the longtime martial arts competitor is also a well-respected trainer having worked with Bobby Lashley, Thiago Alves and Brandon Vera, among others.
“I don’t think MMA is ever a natural transition,” Ferguson said. “I did Judo, I did BJJ, I’m a strength and conditioning coach and a judo coach for some top MMA fighters. After training these guys for a while the sport caught me a little bit. I’m 35, but I feel like I still have some stuff in the tank.
“I’m satisfied with my athletic career but I wouldn’t mind putting the STRIKEFORCE Light Heavyweight title belt on my mantel.”
Ferguson, who also trains at Gracie Tampa and Nashville MMA, is excited by the challenge of MMA and the task of becoming a more well-rounded fighter.
“The thing about fighting is it makes me feel free,” Ferguson said. “I think what I enjoy from MMA is the newness of it – it’s new to me and there’s so much to learn. When you become good at a sport like Judo you have core skills that you hone in on so much. You’re only focused on that.
“With MMA, there are so many things which you have to become proficient at. You don’t have to be good at everything but you’re proficiency has to be high to be a true mixed martial artist.”
To get to 3-0, Ferguson will have to first beat a tough, and much younger, wrestler.
“It’s a good matchup, it’s an even matchup,” Ferguson said. “I have no fear of losing, but I don’t get super excited for winning. I get energized and get my thrills from training and the chance to test myself.
“My game plan is the same plan I always have – to have my hand raised at the end. I never really thought that it was the truth until it happened to me. You’re game plan goes straight out the window when you get hit in the mouth. You go straight into survival mode.”
The Miami, Fla., native was a three-sport star at Howard University in the mid-90s competing in football, wrestling and track & field. Ferguson then went on to compete in Olympic Judo as an alternate at the 2000 Olympics and a member of the ’04 team. While training for the Olympics, he furthered his schooling and received a doctorate in education in ’09 from Capella University.
His wife, Traci, is a medical doctor in Tampa, Fla., and the couple has two children – 4-year-old son Rufus and 11-month old daughter Rhadi.
A highly-regarded prospect and member of Brazilian Top Team Canada, Cherdivara (1-0, 1 KO) will make his STRIKEFORCE debut in Nashville. Already well-known in the Montreal fight scene, the powerful Moldovan-born light heavyweight is looking to become a threat in STRIKEFORCE’s deep light heavyweight division.
A former member of the Moldovan national wrestling team, Cherdivara has raw power and has been sharpening his boxing and other striking skills for his multi-fight deal with STRIKEFORCE. His training routine that includes shadow boxing with a 90-pound dumbbell has become legendary in the Montreal fight scene.
“I’m only 1-0 because I’ve had a hard time finding fights in Montreal,” Cherdivara said. “No one wants to fight me. With STRIKEFORCE, I’ll finally be able to face some quality opponents who otherwise wouldn’t dare fight me. I’m looking to face the best light heavyweights STRIKEFORCE has to offer.”
Tickets for the STRIKEFORCE Challengers event are on sale at the Nashville Municipal Auditorium ticket office, all Ticketmaster locations (800) 745-3000 including Kroger and FYE, Ticketmaster online (www.ticketmaster.com <http://www.ticketmaster.com/> ) and STRIKEFORCE’s official website (www.strikeforce.com <http://www.strikeforce.com/> ). The first non-televised, undercard fight on Jan. 7 will begin at 7:30 CT. Doors will open at 7.
Other televised fights: undefeated up-and-coming heavyweight prospect and former U.S. Olympic wrestling star Daniel Cormier (6-0) of San Jose, Calif. faces Devin Cole (18-8-1) of Medford, Ore., former University of Tennessee linebacker Ovince Saint Preux (9-4) will be opposed by fellow quickster “Abongo” Humphrey (7-2) of Atlanta, and promising Julia “The Jewel” Budd (1-0) of British Columbia, Canada, faces Amanda “Lioness Of The Ring” Nunes (5-1), of Salvador, Brazil, in a women’s middleweight (145 pounds) match.