Strikeforce welterweight contender and former WEC middleweight champion Joe Riggs was the featured guest on MMAmania.com’s exclusive presentation of Pro MMA Radio this week.
Fresh off a unanimous decision victory over Phil Baroni at Strikeforce: "Lawler vs. Shields," the "Diesel" joined host Larry Pepe to talk about the win and his issues with Jake Shields and Nick Diaz, as well as the adversity he has had to overcome to get to this point in his career.
But the real story was how badly he wants to fight Jake Shields, who he says has ducked him for a while.
Although the two have traded barbs in the past, Riggs started the interview with the intention of taking the high road. He said that he was done "talking crap" about Shields and that he was surprised the welterweight was able to beat the heavier Robbie Lawler, saying, "hats off to him" for the win.
But then Pepe informed Riggs that Shields hasn’t been as kind to him in recent comments, stating, "As far as a fight at 170, I think my fight there will be for a title fight, and Joe Riggs is of no concern to me. He’s not even worth my time. I’m really not even giving him the time of day."
That was all it took before the "Diesel" was off and picking up speed.
"Do I have to watch my language? … Well, fuck him. I tried to be respectful to him. But fuck him. If he wants to go to ’85, I’ll go to ’85. I’ll fight him for free. I just don’t like him. He’s a fuckin’ nerd."
Riggs says that he was slated to fight Shields at the June Strikeforce event, but that the fight was canceled in favor of having the first and only EliteXC welterweight champion move up to fight Lawler at a catchweight of 182 pounds.
"Robbie stuck his head in the wrong place and got choked. Robbie’d kick his ass 99 times out of a 100. (Shields) won, so hats off to him, he’s tough. But fuck him if he wants to talk shit like that."
The feud dates back longer than you might think. In fact, according to Riggs, the two were supposed to collide shortly after Riggs left the UFC and signed with Strikeforce, in late-2007. Ever since, Riggs says, Shields has been running from him because "I’m a bad match up for him … That motherfucker just doesn’t want to fight me."
What gets Riggs’ goat the most is that he feels Shields carefully selects his opponents to better ensure victory, something he has never done in nearly 50 fights.
"I’m a fighter. I’ll fight who I’m told to fight … He picks and chooses opponents to make himself look good. And now he’s not taking this fight because it’s a bad fight for him. I’ll bust him up on the feet. He’s got hands like a two-year-old girl."
So does this mean Riggs plans to have his camp lobby Strikeforce to set up the fight? Riggs feels he doesn’t even need to do that, because it’s understood.
"I think everybody in the world knows I want to fight Jake Shields, and I think everyone in the world knows he doesn’t want to fight me. I’ll put purse against purse. If he beats me, I’ll give him my whole purse. I just want to fight him … If he beats me, cool. If I beat him, cool. Just fight who you’re told to fight."
Riggs credits his latest success to the fact that he recently returned to the camp he started with, Arizona Combat Sports — a move that required facing some old demons. ACS and Riggs hadn’t parted on good terms. Recognizing that he had burnt some bridges, Riggs returned to Trevor and Todd Lally with hat in hand, and they welcomed him back with open arms.
Riggs used that momentum to aid him in his recent win over Baroni, who he’s also traded insults with in the past. He said that he could tell from the moment they engaged in the pre-fight stare-down that "The New York Badass" had already mentally broke and didn’t want to be in there.
Riggs even admitted that he knew how Baroni felt, because Riggs had a similar experience when he fought Matt Hughes at UFC 56. Although he feels he’s a better fighter than the former UFC welterweight champ, at the time Riggs fought him, he wasn’t mentally prepared.
Mental toughness is something Riggs has learned a lot about in his near 10-year career as a professional and amateur fighter, which is even more impressive when you consider he has yet to turn 27 years old. He openly discussed the death of his first son, who died in Riggs’ arms shortly after birth during the summer of 2006. He’s also battled an addiction to prescription painkillers, but is today clean.
But through it all, Riggs has maintained his mental toughness, saying, "Whatever doesn’t kill ya makes you stronger."
The interview wasn’t all sadness and gloom. Far from it.
In fact, highlights from the talk include Riggs re-telling of the UFC 57 battle with Nick Diaz — "Diesel" won via unanimous decision — which culminated in an infamous fourth round taking place in the hospital after the fight.
"He wouldn’t stop talking crap … We went to the hospital, I went to get my hands checked, he went to get his face put back together, and he just wouldn’t stop."
Eventually, Riggs says, the trash-talking led to Diaz walking up behind him and sucker punching him. And then Riggs shit on himself, sorta.
"I hear him walking up, then he hits me. I was turned around, and then he hit me. I fall right into a double-leg. I shoot on him and end up shitting my pants from picking him up. (Laughs) It wasn’t too good, it was tragic … We were honestly fighting for like five or 10 minutes."
Although Riggs admits Diaz may have gotten the better of him at the hospital thanks to the sucker punch, he doesn’t hold any animosity towards his former opponent … unless a title shot is on the line.
"He’s a great fighter and one of my favorite fighters to watch. We don’t like each other, but … I’m a bad fight for him, plain and simple."
Riggs says that Diaz — known for his trash-talking — only "clashes with people who he loses to," which would explain if the two aren’t friendly towards one another. He has no interest in fighting someone he has already beaten, unless it’s for a title shot, in which case, "I’ll fight anybody."
And what does Riggs think of the newest addition to The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) Season 10 roster, Kevin "Kimbo Slice" Ferguson? Plenty, considering the two nearly fought back when Slice was merely a YouTube sensation.
"He’s not good at all … got no wrestling, no ground and a suspect chin. He’s an old bald man … He’s made way too much money for the talent that he has."
Riggs recounts how Trevor Lally offered to put up $50,000 for Riggs and Slice to go toe-to-toe in a street fight, but when Slice’s handlers discovered Riggs had professional fighting experience, they first tried to impose several rules to ensure the fight remained standing, and then backed out altogether.
So what would have happened had Riggs fought Slice back in the day?
"I would have beat the shit out of him … I would have pummeled him … I would have saved Elite XC, I would have saved a lot of things, saved everybody a lot of time and hassle watching this bum make a fool of himself."
But where would the fun be in that?
You can check out the complete interview with Riggs, as well as the entire Pro MMA Radio archive with host Larry Pepe, right here.