Joe Riggs talked to Rod Moyer of FightLine.com earlier this week to discuss his upcoming fight this Saturday with Phil Baroni at Strikeforce: Lawler vs. Shields. Riggs talked about Baroni, his beef with Nick Diaz, his time in the UFC, his disdain for Jake Shields, fighting referee Herb Dean and much more.
Fightline.com: In 2003, you fought referee Herb Dean, how is it with him now?
Joe Riggs: Yeah, in 2003, Herb was in King of the Cage. I was fighting locally in Arizona for Rage in the Cage, and him and a couple buddies came down to Phoenix and fought, and I ended up beating him up pretty bad in the first round. He still doesn’t like to referee my fights now. He’s a really good referee. He doesn’t want anyone to have complaints or a conflict of interest, or something like that, but he’s a great referee. I wish he would ref some of my fights.
Fightline.com: You have fought with a lot of organizations. I want to start and go back to your time with the UFC. You’ve fought some of the biggest names in the sport, like Matt Hughes, Nick Diaz, and Diego Sanchez while you were with them. How would you characterize your time in the UFC?
Joe Riggs: The UFC was kind of early in my career. It was, um, I wasn’t given any breaks in the UFC. I was rushed to a title shot when I wasn’t ready for one. I had a title shot when I was like 22, and just wasn’t ready for it. I went like 4?4 in the UFC. A lot of the guys that are coming up now are reeling off 5?0 records in the UFC because they’re fighting nobodies, you know. I love the UFC and never have anything bad to say about them. But they never did me any favors. They gave me one easy fight. My UFC debut was against Joe Doerkson, who at the time was ranked #3 in the world. After that, Matt Hughes, Nick Diaz, Chris Lytle, Mike Swick, back-to-back tough guys, and you know, it’s tough but it’s good. When you get put though the ringer like that, you’re ready for anything.
Fightline.com: Since you left the UFC, you signed with Strikeforce. How did that come about?
Joe Riggs: After my loss to Diego Sanchez, I had back surgery, and then I went back to the UFC and they weren’t doing me any favors. They wanted me to fight Nate Marqardt in my first fight back. I wanted to have a tune up fight. I had just fought Diego and had just gotten knocked out by Diego, which was horribly embarrassing. I wanted them to do what they do with a lot of other guys – when you have a loss, you try to build them back up with a victory, and they never did that for me. After I lost the [UFC welterweight] title fight to Matt Hughes, usually they bring you back with an easy fight. I fought Nick Diaz, I asked for it, but they wouldn’t give me an easy opponent. Right after back surgery, I asked for my release and they gave it to me. Strikeforce is very good to me, they pay me well and they’re starting to gain a lot of momentum in the sport, so it’s exciting to be with them.
Fightline.com: Speaking of Nick Diaz, you two had a scuffle at a hospital after your fight. Now you guys are fighting on the same card this weekend. Are you cool now or is there still any bad blood?
Joe Riggs: Nah, we don’t like each other. Every time we’re around each other it always seems like there’s a scuffle almost breaking out. He’s a guy that holds grudges to anyone that beats him. Anyone who he beats, he’s cool afterwards. Anyone who beats him, he’s quick to want to fight. He’s a fighter in the true sense but he’s a sore loser. We fought, and every time I’ve seen him after that, he’s talkin’ shit.
Fightline.com: This weekend, June 6, you’re fighting for the first time this year. You’re fighting ‘The New York Bad Ass’ Phil Baroni. Phil has been around the sport for awhile as well. How did this fight come about and what are your thoughts about your opponent?
Joe Riggs: There’s been two fights everyone has always clamored for and wanted me to fight – Chris Leben and Phil Baroni. Those are two that people have always wanted me to fight. It’s never happened. Me and Chris never fought, and me and Phil have been in different organizations. And now it’s going to be an exciting fight. I’m really excited about it. I’ve trained unbelievably hard for this fight, Phil’s a tough guy, and he’s lost a lot in the sport. He talks a lot of shit. A lot of headache goes along with fighting Phil. You have to deal with all the bull crap.
Fightline.com: What would you say is your biggest strength as a fighter?
Joe Riggs: I do it all. I’m one of the most well rounded in the sport. I come from a pro boxing background, as well as being a two time all American wrestler and I’m very good off my back. I think I’m one of the most well rounded fighters in the sport. I have knocked people out on the feet and I have knocked people unconscious from my back; I’ve knocked people out from [being] on top. I’ve won a fight anyway there is to win a fight.
Fightline.com: How do you see the fight playing out? What’s the biggest threat that Phil Baroni poses to you?
Joe Riggs: Phil’s got one way to win this fight, and that’s to knock me out. Phil hits hard, he swings wildly. He’s just a brawler, you know, and he’s got a good wrestling background. But he used and abused his body with steroids in the past, and he gasses out. That’s just what he does. Every second that ticks off that clock, his window of opportunity to win that fight is getting smaller and smaller. So he, uh, he better plan to do it early because he’s not going to do it later on. Especially since he walks around with all this muscle. Anyone that’s been in the sport for a long time knows muscles are for show – no go. They may look god at the weigh?ins, but once you get in the cage, those muscles fade pretty quick.
Fightline.com: You were initially scheduled to fight Jake Shields, and you weren’t too happy with him taking the fight with Robbie Lawler. What are your thoughts on Shields today, and who are you pulling for in that fight?
Joe Riggs: Yeah, it pisses me off! We’re all fighters, and when you get told to fight someone, you fight them. A guy who sits back and chooses opponents who are going to make him look his best stylistically, what’s going to look the best for him, I’ve never done that in my career. He chose Robbie, and I don’t want to hear any excuses on why he won’t win this fight. He’s going to get his ass kicked by Robbie Lawler, that’s for sure!
Fightline.com: A lot of people have challenges pertaining to the use of drugs. You overcame that, so what would you say to people that may be experiencing that same challenge themselves?
Joe Riggs: The main thing is, in this sport, injury goes along with it. It goes hand and hand with the sport. People have to be careful about abusing substance. I’ve never been a drinker, but got on pain killers, because this sport brings a lot of pain. You just have to be careful, and pace yourself, and have doctors closely monitoring your prescriptions. Especially in this sport because you’re on TV and stuff. People are a lot nicer to you than they are with normal people. The doctors may be more lenient with prescriptions.
Fightline.com: Who do you feel are the top welterweights in the world right now?
Joe Riggs: I think there’s so many man, I mean right now the number one guy obviously is GSP. He’s the one everyone’s gunning for. Other than that, there’s guys [ranked] 2?20 who are all right in the same pack. It’s such a deep deep wealth of talent in this weight class, its hard to say.
Fightline.com: The Strikeforce roster is more stacked than ever after they purchased the contracts from EliteXC. Who else would you like to fight in the immediate future?
Joe Riggs: After I beat Phil Baroni, it’s very important to me that I fight Jake Shields. That’s the number one fight that I want. It’s very important to me. After I beat Phil, I have to fight Jake Shields.