Gian Villante (top) says football is much more dangerous than MMA. | Keith Mills/Sherdog.com
After tryouts with various NFL teams didn’t work out, Gian Villante decided to try something he sees as safer: MMA.
“I feel like football’s 10 times more dangerous and savage than MMA is,” Villante said Monday on the Sherdog Radio Network’s “Beatdown” show. “I’ve got 10 times worse injuries playing football than I did with MMA.”
The 25-year-old native of Wantagh, N.Y., was a standout linebacker at Hofstra University. Since transitioning to fighting, he has compiled a 7-1 record and earned prospect status as Ring of Combat’s heavyweight champion. He fights Chad Griggs on Saturday in an alternate bout for Strikeforce’s heavyweight tournament.
“In [MMA], we have weight divisions. We see the shots that are coming,” Villante said. “In football, you don’t see it. It’s a 400-pound guy coming as fast as a car can move sometimes, and you don’t see him. He’s coming to clean your clock, and you’re not even looking at him. … That’s why these guys are getting these head injuries and shoulders are dislocating and all that stuff.”
Villante has cleaned a few clocks himself. All seven of his wins have been finishes, including a knockout via a head kick. Clearly the athleticism he used on the football field has translated to the ring.
“If we don’t feel like we’re getting the right opportunity somewhere, why not take your talent somewhere else? Football players, most of us are pretty good athletes,” Villante said. “Big, strong guys that are explosive, fast athletes. In mixed martial arts, that bodes well for knockout power.”
Of course, Villante was not just a football player. He also wrestled at Hofstra.
“I think wrestling’s very important too,” he said. “If you get a guy who just played football and has no wrestling experience, you’re going to have some trouble in there. I think that’s where it kind of helped me mix in and start off my career real fast and in the right direction.”
Villante has a two-year, six-fight deal with Strikeforce. Although he sees his future in the light heavyweight division, he said the alternate matchup against Griggs and a possible slot in the heavyweight tournament was too good to pass up.
“Chad Griggs isn’t a huge heavyweight,” Villante explained. “He’s 235, I believe. Nothing too big. He’s a guy that I think is a good fight for me.”
Griggs is coming off an upset win over Bobby Lashley last August. Villante was impressed with the fact that Griggs was not scared of his larger opponent.
“He’s a guy that comes to fight,” Villante said. “I’m not going to intimidate him if I flex at him because I guess Bobby Lashley is a little bigger than I am. ... I think you can expect fireworks because we’re two guys that have pretty much finished every fight we’ve been in.”
Villante is expecting another finish and another win on Saturday as well.
“Like a football linebacker, if I see a hole, I’m going to go through. If I see an opening, if I see a guy hurt, I’m going to finish it,” Villante said. “If I get on him and I can catch him with something early, then I’m not going to take it easy. I’m going to try to finish the fight right away.”
Listen to the full interview (beginning at 1:33:20) with Villante, who also discussed a possible matchup against Alistair Overeem should he enter the tournament.