SAN JOSE, Calif. —Following a spectacular, undefeated run in Chuck Norris’ World Combat League, 28-year-old kickboxing superstar, Raymond “The Real Deal” Daniels (0-0), will make his long-awaited mixed martial arts (MMA) debut when he takes on Jeremiah Metcalf (8-4) in a middleweight (185 lb. limit) battle at Strikeforce’s “Melendez vs. Thomson” mega-card at HP Pavilion on Friday.
Already being hailed as the second coming of Strikeforce World Middleweight Champion, Cung Le, Daniels, recognized as the number one Sport Karate fighter in the world, holds a 6th degree black belt in Kenpo and Shotokan Karate as well as a 5th degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do. He packs a thrilling, dynamic fighting style that is strikingly similar to Le, also a guru of traditional martial arts.
“I’m going to give MMA fans something that they’ve never seen before,” said Daniels, a resident of Long Beach, California. “I want to become the greatest fighter of all time. Anybody that steps in front of me is just gonna be on my next highlight reel, an obstacle that’s standing in my path to greatness.”
The career path of Daniels, thus far, mimics that of Le, who crossed over to the world of mixed martial arts in 2006 after running to a perfect 16-0 record in the sport of professional kickboxing. Despite the parallels that can be drawn to the Strikeforce world middleweight champion, though, Daniels is quick to point out that he is his own man and is determined to carve out a unique legacy in the martial arts fight world.
“I don’t try to be the next anybody,” said Daniels. “I look to be greater than Cung and surpass anyone who’s been considered at the top of their game. I try to live up to who I am and I expect great things from myself.”
It was at the young age of five that Daniels became inspired by his father, Frank, a seasoned martial artist and Sport Karate competitor, to study Kenpo and, later, to test his skills against other Karate players. From Ireland to Australia, Switzerland, Hungary, and Germany, he has since traveled the world to face and defeat top-ranked opponents.
Daniels joined the ranks of the WCL in 2006 and amassed a record of 18-0 over the course of three seasons with the league’s Los Angeles Stars team. Earlier this month, he captained his squad to a season championship.
“I still haven’t had any challenges or anything like that so I decided to come over to MMA and see how good I really am.”
Daniels’ opponent, Metcalf, brings to the cage a three-fight win streak. He is a product of Modesto, California’s AAA Academy of Kickboxing, the training center that spawned 2003 K-1 North America tournament champion, Carter Williams.
Tickets for “Melendez vs. Thomson,” priced from $30, are on sale at the HP Pavilion box office (408-287-7070) as well as at all Ticketmaster locations (408-998-TIXS), Ticketmaster online (www.ticketmaster.com), and on Strikeforce’s official website (www.Strikeforceusa.net).
Strikeforce World Lightweight (155 lb. limit) Champion, Gilbert “El Nino” Melendez (14-1), will defend his crown against number one contender and Bay Area arch-rival, Josh “The Punk” Thomson (14-2), in the main event of Friday’s Strikeforce affair.
In another championship showdown, Bobby Southworth (8-5) will put his Strikeforce World Light Heavyweight (205 lb. limit) title on the line in a rematch with Anthony “El Toro” Ruiz (20-10). Ruiz was declared the winner of their initial meeting on November 16, 2007 after a cut Southworth had sustained during the fight prompted the ringside physician to order a stoppage at the :52 mark of the second round.
Joe “Diesel” Riggs (27-10) will battle rising star Luke Stewart (5-1) in a 178 lb. limit catch weight fight. Stewart was originally slated to face “Mr. International” Shonie Carter. A hand injury, however, forced Carter to withdraw from the contest last week.
Lightweight (155 lb. limit) Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu stud Nam Phan (14-4) will attempt to hand knockout artist Billy Evangelista (6-0) the first loss of his career.
Making the fifth start of her professional mixed martial arts career, Cung Le female protégé, Elaina “Beef” Maxwell (2-2), will take on Miesha Tate (1-1).
HP Pavilion doors will open at 6 PM for “Melendez vs. Thomson” and the first preliminary bout will begin at 6:30 PM. The live HDNet telecast of the event will start at 7:30 PM PST/10:30 PM EST and the main card will commence at 8 PM.