Friday, March 23, 2007

Riggs Makes Stop in WEC but Not to Rebuild

By: Derek Callahan

He used to seem cocky in a formidable way. But even in his most arrogant, all-too-forward moments, it never seemed to get lost that Joe Riggs (25-9) is a pretty nice guy. As a newer foot soldier in the army of middleweights in the Ultimate Fighting Championship in August of 2004, Riggs was a heavy-handed, eager addition to the fray. On the 24th he fights Hiromitsu Miura (3-3) in a random pairing for the World Extreme Cagefighting promotion. Going into the bout Riggs sees it as something of a throwback, at least in terms of how he’s studied his opponent.

“I don’t know too much about him,” he says, but quickly amends his opinion. “I know nothing about him.” But with Miura’s six total fights it seems like it may not be ignorance that holds Riggs back from being too knowledgeable about him. “I’ve tried to get tape on him,” says Riggs. “I’m not fighting the best known opponent.”

And it’s a reminder, perhaps back to the Rage in the Cage days of small Arizona arenas and last minute opponents. It’s happened before for Riggs, “maybe way back in the day.” So the bout becomes a blast from the past, but also represents the gateway to a new beginning for Joe Riggs. He makes his debut in the new WEC, now that Zuffa owns and runs the event.

With a 2-1 record in the show, the setting isn’t new for Riggs. “It’s not different,” he says. The fight has the same rules as the others and similar implications. Because of Miura’s record and because of his own 2-3 mark in his last five bouts, it’s a must win situation for Riggs. Still, he sees nothing imperative about the fight. “It’s not different, just going to be a different network, smaller cage.” That’s just the attitude that a fighter needs, especially when he’s seen by some as in the middle of a comeback.

He “never expected in a million years that it could happen,” but getting knocked out by Diego Sanchez was the type of result that a fighter has to put behind him. “I felt good going in, just got caught on my heels,” says Riggs. Now back up to 185 pounds, he looks to carve a niche for himself in the new WEC.

“I’m excited to be part of it. Now that Zuffa bought it it’s a big show,” he says. “I like it, it’ll be good for me.” For Riggs, the timing is also a positive factor. “In the beginning of my career I was trying to make a name for myself,” he says. Wins over Joe Doerksen and Nick Diaz among others will help for that; the heavy hands and intensity that he brings every time out have sealed him a reputation as a tough assignment for anyone to take. It’s earned him enough of a reputation so that in the WEC, he has the luxury of starting at the top. “It’s nice to be the biggest name down there so far,” he says.

In an up and down pattern that has seen him drop nine fights total, but more significantly four in the UFC, Riggs has proven resilience as much as anything in his active career. When he’s lost, he’s been able to strike back with impressive wins and stay in the picture. According to him, he does it by improving.

“I’m ten times better than I was when I first started. Now I’m dangerous on my back, I’m a technical striker,” says Riggs. To get by Miura he may not need all of that, but the Miura fight is more about coming out as a primary face of the new WEC. From there on out, it’s up to how much potential Riggs can fulfill as a young, experienced middleweight who’s had enough time to learn, and has enough time to teach someone a thing or two as well.

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