Fight fans, take notice: In a small way, Joe Riggs helped create Kimbo Slice.
The year is 2003. Riggs is at least a year away from his UFC debut. He's fighting for $1,000 a show, good money for him at the time. Slice's manager, Icy Mike, puts out a challenge to tough guys around the country -- come to Florida if you think you can beat up Kimbo Slice. Win, and you get $10,000.
Riggs' manager at the time, Trevor Lally, jumps at the offer. He emails Mike and says he's got someone for him. He offers to put up $50,000 of his own money as a show of faith.
Riggs begins training in earnest and mentally preparing for a fight with Slice. But when Mike finds out about Riggs' credentials, the door is promptly closed.
"I'd of beat the (expletive) out of him," Riggs told MMAWeekly.com. "It would have been done. No Kimbo. I would have rubbed him out and saved everyone the headaches."
Or Riggs could have videotaped his street brawls, something he jokingly wishes he did.
Riggs had other things in store for his future, including a two-year stint in the Ultimate Fighting Championship. There, he met mixed results. He failed to make weight for a title fight with Matt Hughes at UFC 56 then lost the fight decisively. Batting .500 in his four post-Hughes fights, he asked to be released from his UFC contract after a spat with matchmaker Joe Silva.
Other than the requisite scraps of a hotheaded MMA fighter, the closest Riggs got to Slice was a post-UFC 57 brawl with opponent Nick Diaz at the hospital where they stayed.
Since leaving the organization, Riggs' career has been a trial of ups, downs, and wacky luck. En route to a fight against Gustavo Machado at an ill-fated World Cagefighting Organization card, Riggs got in a car accident and re-aggravated a back injury. The card was later cancelled. A month later at "Strikeforce at the Dome" in Seattle, Riggs injured his back again in a fight with Cory Devela, where he was heavily favored to win. Riggs took the painkiller Tramadol after back surgery, which raised red flags from the CSAC; they removed him from a June 27 Strikeforce card the day before he was to fight.
Riggs said some of his post UFC problems halved his income, going from earning just under $300,000 in 2006 to $130,000 in 2007. Not bad for a guy who used to make $1,000 a fight, but a concern for a man with a family to support.
In his last fight at middleweight, Riggs is scheduled to take on Kazuo Misaki for Strikeforce at the Playboy Mansion this Saturday. After Misaki, he's got one fight left on his contract, and wants to bring the weight of two wins into his next contract. Having jumped from heavyweight to welterweight in his seven-year career, Riggs says his body has a hard time staying at middleweight, which prompted the move. He's ambivalent about a return to the UFC -- he and Joe Silva have since made up and maintain communication -- but can't deny its job security.
"Here's the one good thing about the UFC -- and this is no knock to Strikeforce, they're an unbelievable organization, they treat people great -- you know within the minute when you're going out to fight and it's cut and dry," he said. "You don't get fights pulled from you. The fighters might change, but the UFC will find you a replacement, or they'll pay you your money. So that's a huge thing."
Still, Riggs said he topped out at $17,000 to show and win, while his Strikeforce purses go to $25,000 for the same. Sponsorship-wise, no one can compete with the UFC.
Right now, he's in his final stages of preparation for Saturday. Kickboxer DukeRoufus is mimicking Misaki at Riggs' home base, the Lion's Den in Phoenix. Riggs sees a long night ahead of him when the two meet.
"For some reason, I don't go to many decisions, but for some reason I see it's going to be a hard fought decision," he said. "I don't know why. I like those kinds of fights. Every time I do have those fights, they're good experiences and I learn a lot from them. I just feel like it's going to be a good fight and it's going to come out with me on top."
Riggs was also at Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas, where middleweight FrankTrigg gave him a little inside information. Trigg pummeled Misaki last February, and had a thing or two to say about the Japanese fighter's weaknesses.
"He said that (Misaki) has a hard time with southpaws and right hooks," Riggs said. "And that's my big punch. I always land it on everybody that I fight, and everybody that I spar with, so if I catch him with that he's going to have problems. I think that's going to play out in my favor, him having problems with my right hook."
But wherever the fight goes, Riggs feels his luck is about to change.
"Nobody can ever map it out," he said. "You're standing in there with the toughest guys in the world. I plan to beat him up and if I knock him out, that's great. I just don't see him as the type of fighter that's going to give up. All the Japanese fighters are very tough and I don't see him going down with a single shot. It'd be nice if it did, but I'm prepared for a war."