Strikeforce: Britt vs. Sayers
by Thomas Gerbasi | November 18, 2011
If you were a fan of The Ultimate Fighter’s eighth season, this weekend is almost a reunion of sorts, with four members of the cast all competing in important bouts. Light heavyweight winner Ryan Bader, his fellow 205-pounder Kyle Kingsbury, and middleweights Tom Lawlor and Antwain Britt are all in action; the only thing that keeps this from being a full on gathering is that while Bader, Kingsbury, and Lawlor are all fighting at UFC 139 in San Jose on Saturday, Britt will be headlining tonight’s Strikeforce Challengers event in Las Vegas.
And “The Juggernaut” is pleased to see the success his former castmates are having.
“I’m really happy for those guys,” said Britt. “Me and Kyle talk a few times a year, and me and Bader keep in touch every now and then, so I’m really happy that they’re doing well in the UFC and I wish them all the best. Of course, I would have liked to have been there with them and finish what I started.”
What Britt started back in 2008 was what appeared to be a promising UFC career. 4-1 as a pro, the hard-hitting knockout artist was seen as an early favorite on the MMA reality series, and he knew it.
“Even going into it, once the cast leaked out and the media found out I was on the show, they thought I was going to do well,” he said. “I think I would have definitely made it to the semis, and possibly the final.”
He got off to a good start, winning a decision over Ryan Jimmo, but then disaster struck, as a broken hand sustained in the fight forced him out of the competition, to be replaced by Eliot Marshall, another current UFC fighter.
Despite this crushing blow, Virginia’s Britt was expected to be brought back for another shot on the season eight finale card, but that never happened.
“I definitely thought I was gonna be brought back and be at the finale,” he said. “I was banking on that. But we move on and we just deal with what we have.”
Thus began Britt’s journey through the MMA world, one that has seen him weather ups and downs, fight three times in one night in a 2009 tournament, and finally make it to Strikeforce, where he has only managed a 1-2 slate, with a win over Scott Lighty and losses to Rafael Cavalcante and Ovince St. Preux. It could make you wonder just where the 11-5 fighter is at this point in his career, especially since he’s been inactive since the St. Preux bout in November of 2010, but there is optimism as he approaches tonight’s fight with Lumumba Sayers.
“It’s not like a job anymore,” said the affable 33-year old. “I’m just going out there and winging it. I’m gonna have fun and get back to the old me. I used to fight just to have fun and to impose my will and come out with the W. But when you start to get some notoriety and some fanfare, you have to take it more seriously at that point. And once it starts to become a job and stops being fun, you start losing the motivation to be that explosive force that you were. At least that’s the way it was for me.”
That’s because when things get bigger, winning takes precedence over performance because any loss puts you two steps back from where you were originally. And when it’s all about winning and forward motion, the reason you originally got in the game has now changed.
“Anytime you feel like you have to do something, it makes it so much more horrible to do,” explains Britt. “(UFC light heavyweight) Brandon Vera is a good friend of mine, I sparred with the guy numerous times and as far as striking, he’s the most explosive guy I’ve ever sparred with. And even he went on a skid because when it starts to get bigger and there’s so much more riding on what we do, the pressure really hinders you. I’m at the point now where I have a couple companies that are thriving and self-sufficient, and when I fight, I’m fighting because I want to now, and not because I feel that I have to.”
He also has a new weight division to do it in, as the former 300-pounder is now competing as a 185-pound middleweight.
“It was something I needed to do to be as competitive as I could,” he said. “I feel like I’ve been successful in every weight class I’ve been in. But I came down from heavyweight, and the only reason I went to 205 was to be on The Ultimate Fighter. And when I got there and had my first ever 205 pound fight, the first thing out of (TUF8 coach) Frank Mir’s mouth was that I was a small 205er. (Laughs) And I knew that. So when I got to Strikeforce, which was a bigger show and consistently more competitive, everyone was bigger than me. So it’s gonna be a good feeling going into a fight with a little bit of a size advantage and being able to muscle guys around a little bit, so I’m really looking forward to it.”
And while a key benefit of being MMA’s incredible shrinking man will be seen soon when he goes to his high school reunion, the main advantage he has now is that he is healthier than he used to be.
“I think consistently across the board I’m just more active,” said Britt. “I’m not just cutting the weight for this fight; I’m living a much healthier lifestyle. I’m being active on a regular basis, and I’m eating well day in and day out, which is something I was doing even before this camp started. I feel like my energy level is higher on a consistent basis, where before it was high when I needed it to be, when I was really gearing up in camp. Now it’s there all the time. This is honestly I’ve felt going into a fight since I fought Antonio Mendes.”
When Britt fought Mendes in 2009, he knocked him out in eight seconds. If he can repeat a performance like that tonight and in the future, we may be calling him a title contender sooner, rather than later, in a wide open middleweight division.
“After this fight I want to fight a top guy,” he said. “I definitely feel like I need to get in there, knock the rust off, and see where I am. The fans want to see someone explosive, they want to see someone who’s gonna go in there and fight hard and they want to see a show. So with Jacare (Souza) losing (the Strikeforce title) to (Luke) Rockhold, and (Tim) Kennedy probably next in line, I think with one or two really good wins, it puts me right into title contention.”
More importantly, Antwain Britt’s got his mojo back.
“The past year, I was really burned out, and I needed to step away and reset the engines,” he said. “I really didn’t miss competing that much until very recently, when I knew my body and my mind were on the same page and I was really ready to get back in there.”
by Thomas Gerbasi | November 17, 2011
Lumumba Sayers – 185 vs. Antwain Britt – 184
Julia Budd – 146 vs. Ronda Rousey – 146
Anthony Smith – 188* vs. Adlan Amagov – 184
Trevor Smith – 205 vs. TJ Cook – 205
Nate James – 184 vs. Derek Brunson – 186
Bill Cooper – 154 vs. Matt Ricehouse – 155
JP Reese – 155 vs. Bobby Green – 155
David Hulett – 170 vs. Quinn Mulhern – 169
Andreas Spang – 185 vs. Willie Parks – 184
* Smith initially weighed in at 190. He made 188 on his second try, which still leaves him two pounds over. He will forfeit 20% of his purse and the fight will go on as scheduled.
Virginia Beach, Virginia
Port Moody, British Columbia
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Matt Ricehouse vs. Bill Cooper
Bobby Green vs. J.P. Reese
David Hulett vs. Quinn Mulhern
Andreas Spang vs. Willie Parks
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