In the main event of a World Championship Doubleheader, undefeated STRIKEFORCE World Light Heavyweight Champion “King Mo” Lawal (7-0) will make the first defense of his crown against highly touted Brazilian Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante (9-2).
The fighters and Coker participated in a national media conference call to discuss their bouts on the upcoming STRIKEFORCE Houston event at Toyota Center in Houston on Saturday, Aug. 21, LIVE on SHOWTIME® at 10 p.m. ET/PT (delayed on the West Coast).
In a featured televised bout, unbeaten and rising heavyweight star Bobby Lashley will take on MMA veteran and Tucson, Ariz., firefighter Chad Griggs. Griggs (8-1) has earned six of his eight victories in the first round with seven of eight coming by way of knockout. Lashley (5-0) is a former collegiate wrestling star for Missouri Valley College and member of The United States Army. The former WWE and TNA wrestling star made his MMA debut in December of 2008. This will be his second start for STRIKEFORCE.
On Thursday at 2 p.m. ET/11 a.m. PT four more fighters participating in the Houston event will be available on a conference call. They include American military hero and middleweight contender Tim Kennedy; world-class submission specialist and Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Jacare Souza; former world lightweight champion K.J. Noons and talented, crowd-pleasing striker Jorge Gurgel.
“KING MO” LAWAL:
“Feijao knows he wants the knock out. He doesn’t want the submission. He trains in the ground game, but I’m training with guys in Jiu-Jitsu that are comparable. So I’m not worried at the ground at all because I’ve got good submission defense.
“My toughest tests so far have been the training. The fights are the easy part. The tough part is training. As far as a plan goes or strategy, I have five of six different plans and pick one going in. If that one doesn’t work I just change it up and go to another one. With (Gegard) Mousasi he was coming up so hard that I had to go for the take down. My plan with Mousasi was to hit him a few times and make him stand and frustrate him. Then I was able to capitalize and get the take down.”
How do you think you would do against Anderson Silva?
“I don’t know. If you ask me if I could beat anybody I’m going to say I can beat anybody. I’d win against anybody with a good game plan. It doesn’t matter who it is. Except my momma. It doesn’t matter who it is, I’ll beat them with a good game plan.
“I wouldn’t mind fighting Fabrico (Werdum), who’s the top dog right now. I wouldn’t mind fighting at heavyweight a few times. I just like fighting. A belt is a belt. I fight because I like to fight first and for the belt second.
“I’ve only been fighting for two years. There’s no pressure on me whatsoever. If there’s pressure on anybody it’s Feijao. He has the name. He’s been fighting longer and he’s been training longer. I remember watching Feijao just mashing people in the IFL. I think people look at me as having the bigger name but I don’t care. I think he’s the favorite. I’m the underdog even though I’m the champ.
“I may be implementing a new style like from Bernard Hopkins, one of my favorite boxers. I’m going to implement his style. And maybe if that doesn’t work than a little of Paul Williams. So you’ll all be seeing some new stuff from me.”
RAFAEL “FEIJAO” CAVALANTE:
“I have been working hard for not just this fight, but for my dream, every day for six years.
“When you have a job like a fighter you have to learn to be a full-time fighter. That’s what I’ve learned. You eat healthy food and work at maintaining your weight.
“I don’t think King Mo is going to want to stay on the ground with me. I will be ready for whatever style he wants. If he wants to stand up, I will stand up. If he wants to go to the ground, we will go to the ground.”
You’re English has improved greatly. How important is it for fighters to speak English to be embraced by the American fans?
“I think it’s important. It shows respect and I think more of the Americans are learning who I am. (Speaking English) shows what we really feel. When you use a translator they never say the same thing you want them to say. It’s just different. When I’m thinking something I can say it exactly the way I want so I think it’s important.
“I think this fight is going to be a war and the crowd is going to love it.”
“I’m just very excited about my training right now. I’ve been training down here with (Daniel) Cormier and Cain Velasquez. I feel better than I’ve ever felt coming into a fight. This is just another one of those tests. I’m coming in bigger, better and faster than I ever have. So I’m pretty confident coming into this fight.
“I think (Griggs) might be underestimated. I He’s got an 8-1 record and he’s got a lot of knockouts to his credit. I’m coming in at 5-0 so I think he’s right in line as an opponent for me. I don’t think anyone is thinking I should be fighting Fedor who has 30 wins under his belt. (The media) are going to say what they are going to say but I think this is a good test for me. I think he’s a great fighter and he’s got a great record. Before I didn’t know what my level was, but just training with Cain and Cormier has shown me I can compete at that level. If this fight goes the way I hope it goes I’m going all the way to the top. I know what my abilities are.”
How soon do you expect to be fighting for the STRIKEFORCE heavyweight title?
“Hopefully at the first part of next year. I don’t know when my next fight will be. That’s up to Scott Coker to decide. I’m not going to take any time off. I like to train and I want to stay conditioned. After this fight I just hope to keep training and get that title shot next year.
“I’ve had a good amount of confidence going into each of my fights. I have 20 years of wrestling experience and three national championships and I came in second at the world championships. So I know people are thinking they have to avoid the take down with me. With this fight I know I have my wrestling ability but there are other things I would like to work on. One thing my coach at the Olympic Training Center used to say was, ‘You could lie to the media, you could lie to everyone else, but once you get back to your hotel the night before your fight you can’t lie to yourself.’ At this point I can look at myself and say I’m 100 percent ready for this fight.
“I think my striking is better than people think. Just because I haven’t used it doesn’t mean I don’t have it. I feel comfortable with my striking. If we have to stay standing we can stand. I don’t think anyone can stop the take down. If I want to take somebody down, they’re going down.”
“Thanks so much for having me. Obviously I’m stoked to be fighting for STRIKEFORCE. It’s an honor to fight Bobby. He’s obviously a physical specimen. It’s going to be an exciting fight and hopefully we can put on a good show.
“I think a lot of don’t know who I am and they do know Bobby. And they have high expectations for him. So I think I am being underestimated just because Bobby’s name is so much more well known. This is just a great opportunity for me.
“I do work a full-time job as a firefighter and paramedic. I’ve been doing that for 10 years, through my entire fight career. It gives me a lot of time to train, basically 20 days off a month to train. It is a juggling act. You definitely have to balance your time right. My last fight I did injure my elbow and took some time off. But I’ve been around the scene and training.
“I’m glad to hear that Bobby’s so confident. I appreciate him taking this fight and for STRIKEFORCE for putting me out there. I’m going to put it all out there.
“There are times I’m put in high-stress situations in my job. I like the pressure and the competition in fighting and it’s something I thrive on: that adrenaline rush. I think that’s going to help me; just having been put in stressful situations so many times.”
“When I first saw Bobby Lashley fight I thought, ‘God, this guy is an amazing fighter and a great athlete.’ He was working out with the guys at AKA (in San Jose) and he has definitely made that commitment to make a successful crossover from wrestling to MMA. With me, I always think, ‘What is Bobby going to look like 18 months from now. Or a year from now.’ With his abilities and his size and strength I really think the sky is the limit. But he has to get through Chad first on the 21st. That has to be the first thing on the top of his mind. We have five of the top heavyweights in the world now. And Bobby fits right into that. The good thing about it is if you keep winning, you will get your shot at a title. Bobby needs to just keep winning.
“Right now our focus is in North America. We have a lot of work to do here. We have a great relationship with SHOWITME. So are going to focus on building our talent here right in America.”
With regards to the middleweight division and talk of a tournament:
“We’ve talked internally about that and we thought that it would be in everybody’s best interest to crown a champion. We also thought a tournament would be a fun way to create the next challenger for the winner between Jacare (Souza) and Tim Kennedy. We thought we could do one or the other or both and it turns out we can do both. We’ll have a conversation about a tournament later down the line since that wouldn’t happen until the fall.”
Do you plan to add more weight classes in the women’s divisions?
“There is dialogue about adding a 125-pound weight class but nothing has been decided yet.”