Joe Riggs file photo: Dave Mandel | Sherdog.com
With Strikeforce holding the 10th installment of its “Challengers" events Friday night in Phoenix, Ariz., it's only appropriate that native son Joe “Diesel” Riggs will be gracing the main event in an 182-pound catch-weight bout against Louis Taylor.
Yes, Riggs has fought on much bigger stages -- both in Strikeforce and the UFC -- but the 27-year-old veteran doesn't mind taking the perceived step down to the Challengers series, which usually features up-and-coming fighters that aren't well known to most mixed martial arts fans.
"The bottom line is that I'm in the main event of a card on Showtime and I'm getting to fight in my hometown," Riggs told the Sherdog Radio Network's "Beatdown" show Monday. "I don't care if it says ‘Challengers Series’ on it."
Riggs, who started his career as a super heavyweight before dropping to 170 pounds, said he was particularly unhappy with what Strikeforce's 135-pound women's champion Sarah Kaufman had to say about the Challengers series.
"I was watching (Kaufman) fight a couple of weeks ago (at Strikeforce Challengers 9) and I admit I'd never heard of her before that fight," said Riggs, who has 29 finishes (15 knockouts, 14 submissions) among his 32 wins. "What she said after the fight was kind of a smack in the face to guys like myself and Matt Lindland, who was in the main event of another Challengers Series card. She said she was done with fighting on Challengers Series cards. No offense to women fighters, but does she really think she can be on the main card and have anybody tune in to watch her and get any kind of a realistic rating? Not a chance. As far as girl fighters go, she's good, I guess, but she's out of her mind if she thinks she deserves to be on the main card. She's lucky to be on TV on a Challengers Series card and she should be OK with that position and not trying to act like she's a shining star and people are tuning in to watch her."
Riggs is coming off a unanimous decision loss to Jay Hieron at Strikeforce "Miami" back in January. The loss snapped a four-fight winning streak for the veteran, who has been a pro fighter since 2001. Since then, Riggs has been eager to get back into action, but he's been forced to sit on the sidelines and wait for an opportunity.
"I've been training hard, but Strikeforce just didn't give me a fight," said Riggs. "I've been training, been on ‘Bully Beatdown’ on MTV and stuff like that, but I haven't been able to fight. Strikeforce has been talking about this card in Phoenix for like five months and kept talking about it and I didn't know it was going to be here for sure until like a month ago. I've been trying to fight, but they didn't give me a fight."
After fighting three times in 2009 and four in 2008, Riggs isn't used to inactivity and he said it's made him impatient for a fight, regardless of who the opponent is.
"I feel great when I'm active," said Riggs. "Sometimes you have injuries, but when you're healthy and asking for a fight, that's when it sucks (to have a long layoff). I'm wanting a big fight and I don't care much about fighting on ‘Challengers’ series cards, but it's the first big card in my hometown and I'm happy to do that, but I'm looking for a big name to fight. Strikeforce has a lot of big names on their payroll, but it was the same after the (Phil) Baroni fight. My next fight was down on the undercard then, too."
Riggs is facing what looks to be a tough opponent in Taylor, a Chicago native who knocked Ryan Sturdy out with a head kick at Bellator Fighting Championships 14 last April. Taylor’s sole career loss came against Nate Moore via a second-round TKO at Strikeforce/M-1 Global “Fedor vs. Rogers” last November. He has five finishes (four knockouts, one submission) in his six wins and just one of his seven pro fights has reached the judges.
After Friday's matchup with Taylor, Riggs hopes to fight again soon, possibly squeezing two more fights in before the end of the year.
"I'd like to fight more often," said Riggs. "I'm not one of those fighters who wants to fight past my prime, so I think I have about four or five more years of fighting left in me. Until then, I want to make the most out of the years I have. I feel like I'm in my prime now, so I want to fight as much as possible."
One possibility for Riggs is Strikeforce's middleweight tournament, which is scheduled to start in October. Riggs expressed his interest in being in the tournament and felt he'd be a good fit for it.
"I'd love to be in that tournament," said Riggs. "I haven't been in a tournament since I was young, and it's not been offered to me. It's a topic for my agent. After this fight, it's definitely something I'd be interested in. Fighting in October would be perfect."