SAN JOSE, Calif. — There isn’t another fighter in the sport of mixed martial arts (MMA) whose physical appearance coincides with his character more so than that of Renato “Babalu” Sobral (30-7). At 33 years of age, the Brazilian native and Jiu-Jitsu black belt has firmly ingrained in the minds of his followers a look and demeanor that, coupled together, amount to a pretty startling and somewhat scary individual.
Less than a week out from his long-awaited showdown with Strikeforce World Light Heavyweight (205 lb. limit) Champion, Bobby Southworth (9-5), a notorious rogue in his own right, Sobral is spewing words indicating his firm intention to humble the defending crown holder.
“Bobby called me out and I gladly accepted the challenge,” said Sobral. “On Friday, the world will learn what Bobby already knows – that this was the biggest mistake of his career.”
Over the years he has spent mastering his craft, Sobral has produced more than his share of submissions. Given what seems to be a disproportionate training schedule, leaning heavily towards western boxing, that he has maintained for this bout, though, all signs indicate that the challenger will attempt to keep the fight standing and let his hands fly.
“I’m going to be looking for the knockout,” said Sobral, who has been putting in hours upon hours of work with former world championship boxing contender, Justin Fortune. Sobral hooked up with Fortune shortly after relocating from Brazil to the Los Angeles area. “If I have to break my hand on his face, I will.”
Despite the tough talk directed at his opponent, Sobral is a man with a soft side – especially when it comes to kids. At his brand new, state of the art gym in Cerritos, he is insistent upon instructing nearly all of the children’s Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu classes.
“It is important to me that they receive the best instruction possible so that they learn the fundamentals of this art,” he said. “I want to share with them something that has been a guiding force in my life.”
When the subject of conversation turns back to Friday’s showdown with Southworth, though, Sobral becomes all business again.
“I will be a100 percent and I’m going to push the pace. I will be very aggressive in this fight.”
Tickets for Strikeforce “Destruction,” 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.strikeforce.com).
Middleweight (185 lb. limit) knockout artists Scott “Hands of Steel” Smith (13-5) and Terry Martin (18-5) will collide in a featured contest as will world Muay Thai champion Duane “Bang” Ludwig (17-8) and Yves Edwards (34-14-1) at a catch weight of 164 lbs.
Kim Couture (0-1), wife of mixed martial arts (MMA) legend Randy “The Natural” Couture, will make her Strikeforce debut against Lina Kvokov (0-1) in a 130 lb. limit contest.
Joe “Diesel” Riggs (28-11) will make his return to the welterweight (170 lb. limit) division in a matchup with Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Black Belt, Luke Stewart (6-1).
HP Pavilion doors will open at 5:30 p.m. for Strikeforce “Destruction” and the first preliminary bout will begin at 6 p.m. The main card will commence at 7:30 p.m.
The live HDNet telecast of Strikeforce “Destruction” will begin at 10 p.m. EST (7 p.m. PST).