Jeremiah Riggs is quite the colorful character.
Hailing from as he calls it "the dirty south," he is a former contestant on The Ultimate Fighter season seven. The Mark Fiore trained fighter failed to gain entry into the house but he won over fans due to his tremendous heart and guts displayed in the fight.
Since then, he's gone on to earn more fame in the reality television world, being a contestant on VH1's Daisy of Love with the nickname "Big Rig," advancing to fifth before being eliminated.
During that time, he turned his mixed martial arts career around, winning five straight before stunning his fans in early 2011 by retiring and trying out a pro wrestling career. Riggs competed on the return season of WWE's Tough Enough last year, making it to third place on the show before bowing out.
When the pro wrestling career didn't pan out, he went back to what worked, which was fighting for real. Riggs will be returning to the cage tomorrow night (March 16, 2012) when he takes on undefeated middleweight Trey Houston at Bellator 61 on the preliminary card.
The reality television star spoke with MMAmania.com during a guest appearance on The Verbal Submission this past weekend where he talked about his stint with the WWE, a potential rematch with the man who kept him out of The Ultimate Fighter and his upcoming fight with Houston.
Check it out:
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I originally met you at Strikeforce: Heavy Artillery in 2010. You had a 2-5 record at the time and you told me, "The fighter you see before you would destroy the one that tried to get onto The Ultimate Fighter." I have to say, you proved that right because you haven't lost since, winning five in a row. What helped you put it all together?
Jeremiah Riggs: The big thing with me was really just from all the previous fights I had. I hate to say I regret taking the fight I took, but a lot of my ring time experience was a lot of my learning experience. I guess sometimes, it's not if you're gonna lose, but when. I don't believe anybody's gonna stay undefeated for a very, very long time. The game is too evolved and the players are too good. With me, what really turned it around was really just evaluating what I was lacking. What am I doing wrong campwise? Do I need to change my meal plan?
I never felt like in any fight I was outclassed or outperformed technically. Losing sucks, but it is a part of it. My biggest thing was I was hardheaded and stubborn. I never did a lot of jiu-jitsu. I started out training with Frank Shamrock, the first UFC middleweight champion of the world. I started out with the best of the best and I stuck with the best of the best. With my strength and athletic ability, I tried to turn it around and pay fighters back for taking me down and make them hurt a bit instead of playing my own game.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You said that nobody stays undefeated forever and the guy you're fighting, Trey Houston, he's undefeated at 9-0. Do you feel like you've got that mindset that you can take this guy out?
Jeremiah Riggs: I'm hoping he has the same mindset that he can take me out. I don't believe any fighter should be going into a fight based on what's on paper. That number means nothing to me. My record is nothing but a number on a piece of paper. I believe a lot of your fights are within yourself. You've got o face yourself and if you beat yourself up, it gets a lot easier for other people to beat you up.
I don't talk much, but I'll say something like, "I'll give you what you paid money to see." Trey's obviously doing something right. He's 9-0 for a reason and his trainers are doing something right. You've got to give credit where credit is due. Could I end that? I believe that. He's fought a lot of fights but he ain't fought Jeremiah Riggs yet. The skill and talent level are there. They matched this fight up with two athletic and strong guys.
Gerry Rodriguez: This is a middleweight tournament qualifier fight, right?
Jeremiah Riggs: I'm not too sure. I want to say this is his debut in Bellator. This is my second fight in Bellator. I fought at Bellator 30 and beat Mike Fleniken. If I win, that puts me at 2-0 in Bellator and it's very possible I could do the middleweight tournament.
Gerry Rodriguez: I want to kind of switch gears here. I know you've been on three reality shows that I know of, including Tough Enough. Talk to me about what it's like on Tough Enough where you had to put your ego on the backburner knowing you could probably kick everyone's ass that's training you. Is it tough having to take shit from them and doing what they tell you to do?
Jeremiah Riggs: No (laughs) but it just depends. Sometimes you get rubbed the wrong way and I guess that's at every gym. Everyone has their own disputes at times. I'm an open book. It's kind of like, with a white belt and black belt in jiu-jitsu, even a white belt can have open knowledge to a black belt sometimes. Just because you're higher ranking, you take the number one guy in the world that you would think knows it all, I would say he's still learning. You've got to keep an open mind. You don't ever know what you can learn from somebody. Everybody's full of knowledge in some sort of way and they can be useful. I'm up to learn from anybody in this game or any form of sport. You can learn from anybody.
Gerry Rodriguez: Did any guys on Tough Enough try to test you or push you knowing you had an MMA background?
Jeremiah Riggs: No, you know, really no, not really. You get a lot of questions. At first, nobody knew I was at that level or had the experience I had. Coming from their world and coming from my world, everything wrestling-wise, it's like a dance and what it is for me was, I know how the real moves work and I know how a punch feels so I'd be like, "Have you ever been punched in the mouth? Do you know what it feels like? Well try it sometime so you don't look so phony about what you're doing. If you get punched, you're not gonna look like a cartoon, you know what I mean?" It's a funny thing. No one ever really, I don't believe anyone wanted to have the buttons pushed on me though.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Did you know that Dan Cramer, the guy that prevented you from realizing your dream on The Ultimate Fighter, he's signed with Bellator and has been competing with them regularly?
Jeremiah Riggs: Really? I had no idea. I've asked about Dan, I've actually kept up with Cramer after the show. I've actually kept in contact with a few guys from the show. I talk with C.B. Dollaway and I trained with Matt Riddle when I fought for Strikeforce. I actually didn't know if he was still going. I think it was a few months ago, he had fought up north and he was still doing pretty well for himself. Good lord, there's no telling what people would think, me and him again. It'd be fun. It definitely would. I've always respected Dan and he's a good fighter. As far as I know, the last time I checked in, he'd been doing pretty well.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I was just gonna ask if you could ever get the opportunity to avenge that loss, would you take it?
Jeremiah Riggs: Yes. I really think even if you ask Dan if he'd go again, it would be a different fight. I guarantee that. You would see some big smiles on our faces and it would be a hell of a tussle. I think it'd be fun. In the house, it's so weird. It's a weird situation to fight in and you don't have to have all the hype and all that but it's just the atmosphere and everyone talks about that. It's almost like sparring without the gear on. You're fighting for a spot and I believe a fight with me and him again, everything with me and him was left in the cage and you'd see it again. Whoever's hand was raised afterwards, we'd give each other a high five and wish each other good luck and see each other down the road. I believe if you asked him the same question, you'd get the same answer.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Going back to your upcoming opponent Trey Houston, you've had experience with both MMA and pro wrestling and having a good nickname can be really important. What do you think of this guy's nickname, "The Just Happened?"
Jeremiah Riggs: I think I just saw that somewhere and I didn't know if that was just a quote or the nickname. I saw that the other day, "That Just Happened," and I'm like, "Is that his nickname?" To me, I'm like, "Well he ought to have a good sense of humor." (laughs)
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): What is your prediction for your upcoming fight against Trey Houston?
Jeremiah Riggs: I'm not the one to ever promise everybody a knockout or a submission in the first or second round but I promise you this. When the doors shut, you're gonna see me go all out there 100 percent leave it all in the cage. I've got 15 minutes, three rounds, three five minute rounds to do what I need to do to finish the fight and get my hand raised whether it's the first, second or third round. No one ever likes going to a decision but in my mind, I want to make him give up. I want to beat him in every round. If it takes me three rounds, if it takes 30 seconds, I want to make him hate life for these next 15 minutes. I've got 15 minutes on March 16 at Bellator 61. Me and Trey Houston, my prediction is to do what I need to do and make him hate life for 15 minutes in there with me.
Jeremiah would like to thank Mark Fiore at Fiore MMA, his friend and roommate Brian Foster and his sponsors Last Round Nutrition, Clinch Gear, Hooligans United. He'd also like to thank his training partners, Bellator, Trey Houston for accepting the fight, his buddy Corey Bradley who's dad just had a stroke. Lastly, he'd like to thank Jacob's Ladder, a school in Mississippi which is receiving a big donation of his purse and sponsors from him. You can follow him on Twitter @JeremiahRiggs.
So what do you think, Maniacs?
Will Riggs be able to shake off the rust and hand Trey Houston his first loss tomorrow night? Or should he go back to pro wrestling?
To listen to the complete audio of our interview with Jeremiah Riggs, click here (interview begins at 31:00 mark).