In the co-feature of a World Championship Doubleheader, world-class submission specialist Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza (12-2-1) and former Green Beret and American military hero Tim Kennedy (12-2) will battle for the vacant STRIKEFORCE Middleweight (185 pounds) title. In another televised fight on SHOWTIME, ex-world champ KJ Noons (9-2) will face Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu blackbelt Jorge Gurgel (13-6) in a lightweight (155 pounds) match.
The fighters and Coker participated in a national media conference call Thursday 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 the main event, 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). In a featured televised bout, unbeaten and rising heavyweight star Bobby Lashley (5-0) will take on MMA veteran and Tucson, Ariz., firefighter Chad Griggs (8-1).
CONFERENCE CALL HIGHLIGHTS
Tim, what’s your feeling now that a shot at your first world title is just a few days away?
KENNEDY: “The only thing you can do when you are preparing for an event like this is prepare for every possibility. I’ve brought in the best guys in the world. Every night I have had five or 10 black belts…trying to get prepared. I am prepared and excited. I just want to get in there.”
Tim, what was your take after a discussion with someone in regards to fighting Jacare?
KENNEDY: “He said he wished he’d brought the fight to Jacare earlier and to work on specific stuff that they wished they had trained for. Everyone was very surprised on how strong Jacare is. They gave me a whole bunch of tools to start training and some mental things too, and how to approach the fight.”
Tim, how do you expect this fight to play out? Do you want to primarily keep it standing or do you feel prepared to go to the ground?
KENNEDY: “This isn’t the other types of fighting. This is MMA. Every position that we are going to be in, I have the intent on trying to damage him. He is a very talented fighter. It’s going to be one of those brutal violent fights. I am fully prepared to go on the ground with him and every time he gets on the ground with me it’s going to hurt cause I have been training.”
Tim, you have common opponents. Is there anything you can get from looking at those fights?
KENNEDY: “I am not a fanatic about tapes, everyone fights different. This is not going to be the same fight as when anyone else fights him. From watching tapes there are things that I saw that I am not going to do and there are things that I saw that worked that I am going to try to replicate.”
KJ, can you talk about the striking technique and how you utilize what you learned in boxing and what you can and cannot use?
NOONS: “There are two different disciplines; you have to be committed to whatever discipline you are working at. But I definitely take a lot of skills and the things I have learned from boxing into my MMA game. The past two fights, I haven’t been a full all-around fighter so I am really looking forward to coming out and being an all-around fighter for this next fight. I am especially really excited about my opponent and when you put our two styles in the ring you are really going to have a lot of fireworks. In my eyes, Jorge is the No. 1 contender so this a top fight for me. By no means am I acting like I have this one in the bag. I am training as hard as I can. This is probably one of the most dangerous opponents I have had.”
Jorge do you expect this fight to mainly be standing or do you want to take it to the ground? Do you think you can win the fight standing?
“I don’t remember the last time I tried or practiced a takedown? What is a takedown again (laughing)? K.J. said it all. I really don’t have to distract my opponents whatsoever. I don’t like people in our sport who don’t respect me. It makes you look bad and I have a lot of respect for KJ both as a person and as a fighter. He’s been a fighter his whole life. He comes from a fighting family and he is the world champ and was brought into the organization as the No. 1 contender. So he is the most talented guy in the lightweight division and I agree with him that the guy who wins the fight should get a title shot. We are going to (give it our best) until one of us gets our arm raised. I am really excited to fight a great fighter like KJ. I am prepared and ready.”
NOONS: “Jorge comes out and puts on great shows, but if you want to watch Jiu-Jitsu, go to a tournament. This is fighting. If you want to see some lame fighting go watch the UFC, go watch something boring as hell. If you want to see something exciting, come Aug. 21 and see a guy who’s been boxing his whole life, and someone who has a black belt in Jiu-Jitsu.. This is what people want to see.”
Tim, you’ve talked about how your military training has helped you in MMA;, now that you’re training what is one of the biggest differences you have seen in your fight game?
KENNEDY: “I can’t really narrow it down to one thing. I had an opportunity to train with the best guys, real sparring partners, grappling partners. It’s not like I go to the nearest Green Beret and say can you come over here. I need someone to work out with. I am in a world class training center with some of the best strength coaches in the world. I have a personal strength coach, and all of the things that have never been in place through my whole entire fight career are finally there. I have people who know how to coach people and I have never had coaches before. I have been a self-coached fighter. Now it is a treat to have a guy who says you look like crap because it makes me want to do it better. Every single aspect of my fight game can change for the better since I have started training full time 10 months ago.”
KJ, are you looking for more boxing fights and is the fight with Nick Diaz still a possibility?
NOONS: Most definitely, even though I’m not looking past Jorge. I’m not looking at (STRIKEFORCE World Lightweight Champion) Gilbert (Melendez) I’m not going to wait for anybody and I still want to box. I’m probably one of the only ones with 14 pro boxing fights. Scott Coker has allowed me to box outside of STRIKEFORCE and I think that is going to be really interesting in the future, with people like Dana White making a real mockery out of boxing and having James Toney fight Randy Couture. So I have no problem as long as it is OK with Scott to fight a pro boxer. This is all in the future but right now Jorge is on my mind. ”
KJ, what are your thoughts on the Couture-Toney fight?
NOONS: Dana is trying to make a mockery out of boxing, but if Randy gets caught he is going to sleep.”
Jacare, do you feel pressure or are you inspired by all the success that your fellow Brazilians have been having recently?
JACARE: “I am just thinking about my fight. I know that I have been training really hard. On my mind is just having a good fight right now.”
Tim, how do you approach a big fight like this?
KENNEDY: “This is just a fight. I have a lot of respect for Jacare. I think he is a very talented athlete. We are going out there trying to knock each other out or submit each other. There is no added pressure. This fight is no different than any other. It is a lot less stressful than anything I do overseas because I’m not getting shot at. This is fun; this is the good part of my life.”
Is there a specific key to winning this fight?
KENNEDY: Don’t get submitted or knocked out (laugh). I think both of us have the tools to win on both our feet or on the ground. I think it is going to be a mental war, going in there and knowing that this could be and probably will be a five-round exciting fight. I’m not going to quit. You are going to have to put me out. This is a good fight, a big fight. I’m excited for it. I don’t think there is any one key for winning.”
JACARE: “I think it has a lot to do with my cardio. I have a better cardio. I have been training a lot and hard and I have a better strategy. And I will be a better fighter for this fight.”
Jacare, what could you have done differently in your last fight (a hard-fought decision over Joey Villasenor)?
JACARE: “It’s hard to say because when a fight is over, it’s over, but that was a great fight. I learned a lot and I was very happy about fighting. Whatever I learn from my last fight I will bring to the next fight.”
Tim, Jacare, you guys are fighting for the vacated middleweight belt. Does that take away from the fight at all?
JACARE: “It makes no difference to me. I’m sure that it will be a great fight. Both of us deserve to be fighting for the belt. It is going to be a war.”
KENNEDY: “I feel the same way, it doesn’t change how I prepare for the fight and if it doesn’t change how you prepare then it doesn’t change the fight itself. It doesn’t lessen the value of the STRIKEFORCE title. It’s still a gigantic title. (Both of us have been winning) and one of the two of us will be walking away with the title. That is the situation that it is now. It is going to be an exciting fight and I think it puts more responsibility on us as we become champions to become more exceptional champions.”
Jacare, can you talk about how you are working to become a complete fighter?
JACARE: “I’ve been practicing a lot with stand up, kicking, striking and punching. I’ve been moving better around the ring and the cage so I am becoming more and comfortable about standing up. But still the majority of my training is grappling. I dedicate at least 60 percent of my time to grappling. But I am a fast learner and I am becoming more confident in my kicking and especially moving around the cage. I am, getting ready for a war. That is what is on my mind right now.”
Should we expect more of a ground attack, Jacare?
JACARE: “I think that Tim is going to try to bring the fight to the ground so that he can control the fight on the ground. But anything that he brings to the fight is not going to (be enough). I will be victorious at the end of the day.”.
Jorge, most people are familiar with your gyms. How do your own performances affect your business? Is business better when you are winning?
GURGEL: “Not really. I have 13 schools. The problem with the business before had nothing to do with the fighting; it had to do with lack of money, I finally found a great business partner, so, for the first time in three years, has allowed me to run my own fight camp in my school. I had huge problems. I always had to leave to Boston, to train in seclusion and I needed the isolation to get my mind ready for the fight. You can never train where you teach, so I had the curse of developing great fighters and great people around me but I couldn’t train there because there was always an issue here or an issue there.”
Jorge, does feeding off your students put any extra pressure on you for this fight?
GURGEL: “I have always (said that) my mind is wired differently, I never really put any extra pressure (on me). I am the happiest when I get to fight. That is why I don’t have any game plan. When the fight starts, I just see red and I throw all game plan strategy out because fighting is a way to express yourself. And I prepare the best that I can. I leave it all in the cage and I do it for my students. My goal in life is to reach people and change their lives, and I do it for them because I like to stand behind my name and lead by example. I don’t like hypocrites and there are a lot out there and I am not going to tell people to train a certain way if I am not going to do it myself. I have been around this sport for 11 years. I lead my team by example and I do it for them because I love them and they love me.”
KJ, how does it feel to be fighting in Houston and do you think you’ll have home field advantage?
NOONS: “Houston is a great town, I am really glad STRIKEFORCE is coming here. It is a great event. I think once the fighters get here, they’ll see how excited the town is going to be. I am really excited to be on the card with all these people. This is a great fight town. And home field advantage? It doesn’t matter. I am ready to bring my best. I have a lot of respect for Jorge. It’s going to be a great fight. I’m bringing my best. That’s it.”
Tim, how important do you think that a wrestling and takedown defense is to victory? Are Jiu-Jitsu and submission defense keys to winning?
KENNEDY “I think both of those things are very important. We are talking about the most accomplished grappler ever to be in MMA so it would be silly of me to make the assumption that I can go out there and have my way with him on the ground. So I have to be very careful in any position we are in, not even on the ground. He can finish fights with some pretty amazing standing submissions. It is going to be a very dangerous fight the whole entire time, I can’t make any mistakes. Controlling the takedowns and controlling the pace are the keys to victory.”
KJ, are you really focused on MMA and could your pursuit of a boxing championship cost you your focus in MMA?
NOONS: “No I am totally committed to MMA right now. This is just an option that is open in my contract. I want to get back on the MMA scene, stay busy fighting, show my loyalty to STRIKEFORCE and Scott, and when the opportunity comes up I will be back in boxing.”
KENNEDY: “It’s an honor to be on a card like this and fight such a talented fighter like Jacare. I promise I am going to go out there and put on a good show I am in the best shape of my life. I am excited about this fight. Go buy your tickets and come to the show. It is going to be awesome.”
JACARE: Thanks everybody, STRIKEFORCE, Scott Coker, all my coaches and all my fans. Thanks to SHOWTIME. Thanks for putting this together. I am working hard, getting ready. It’s going to be a war. So don’t miss it. I’m in the best shape of my life and I am going to put on a good show. I look forward to fighting Tim Kennedy.
NOONS: “Thanks for having me on here, thank you STRIKEFORCE. It’s going to be a great show next week in Houston. I am very excited about my opponent. I don’t have to say it very much but look at his track record: he has the fight of the night, and look at my track record (and I) always (have) fight of the night. Put us in the cage and you are going to get fireworks. I have respect for the main event but we are probably going to steal the show. I am ready man, this is what it’s all about. This is fighting. On Aug. 21, you are going to get your moneys worth.
GURGEL: “K.J. said it all. I have a lot of respect for him and I do have a lot of respect for the main event, but we’re going to steal the show. I’m ready for the fight. I’ll see you next week, KJ, and good luck.”