Renato Sobral. Photo property of the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
Southworth vs. “Babalu” Greenlit For Nov. 21st: Riggs battles Stewart, tickets for Strikeforce “Destruction” on sale Monday
SAN JOSE, Calif. — Only two months after injuries to both fighters postponed their scheduled showdown, a healthy Strikeforce World Light Heavyweight (205 lb. limit) Champion, Bobby Southworth (9-5), will make his highly anticipated title defense against surgically repaired superstar, Renato “Babalu” Sobral (30-7), in the main event of Strikeforce “Destruction” at San Jose’s HP Pavilion on Friday, November 21st.
Joe “Diesel” Riggs (28-11) will make his return to the welterweight (170 lb. limit) division in a featured contest with Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Black Belt, Luke Stewart (6-1). Strikeforce World Lightweight (155 lb. limit) Champion, Josh “The Punk” Thomson (16-2), will set out to defend his crown for the first time and notch his ninth consecutive victory against an opponent to be announced.
“It’s my title and I plan on defending it,” said Southworth, who had originally been slated to put his belt on the line against Sobral in the main event of Strikeforce’s second affair at the world-famous Playboy Mansion on September 20th. Stabilization problems stemming from a past knee injury, however, sidelined Southworth. “The stabilization in my knee is back and so is my strength.”
Southworth successfully retained his title at HP Pavilion on June 27th by neutralizing the wrestling skills of Anthony “A Train” Ruiz for five rounds before walking away with a unanimous judges’ decision.
A veteran of the first season of Spike TV’s “The Ultimate Fighter” reality series, the 38-year-old Southworth is recognized as a founding member of Team AKA, the fearsome San Jose-based fight squad that boasts the likes of Thomson; Strikeforce World Middleweight (185 lb. limit) Champion, Cung Le; Josh Koscheck; Mike “Quick” Swick; and Cain Velasquez.
“Babalu’s a tough fighter. He matches up well with anybody because he’s strong in every area,” said Southworth. “I’m the same. I feel I have good wrestling, good standup, and good Jiu-Jitsu skills. This is a step up in competition, but my camp is working hard to prepare me and we’re coming to win.”
The 33 year-old Sobral, a former UFC light heavyweight championship challenger, underwent surgery on August 28th to mend a torn meniscus that he had sustained in his knee while preparing for the first scheduled meeting with Southworth. Four weeks of physical therapy followed the medical procedure.
“I’m definitely going to be looking for the knockout,” said an encouraged Babalu from Los Angeles, California, where he relocated from his native Brazil a year and a half ago to focus on his training needs. “I’m one month away and I’m 218 lbs. right now. I’m feeling great. I will be strong enough to win this fight.”
Since the move, Sobral, a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Black Belt, has dedicated a great amount of time to improving his western boxing skills under the tutelage of former world heavyweight championship challenger and conditioning guru, Justin Fortune.
“I’ve been working very hard on my boxing so I’m going to try to keep this fighting standing,” said Sobral, who is also working with the likes of heavyweight superstar, Josh Barnett.
Sobral’s last effort saw him score a unanimous decision victory over Mike Whitehead at The Honda Center in Anaheim, California on July 19th. The win was his third straight.
Sobral will soon move his training camp for the title fight to a brand-new Gracie Barra Academy that he is slated to open in the Los Angeles suburb of Cerritos on October 18th.
Riggs will attempt to rebound from the second round stoppage he suffered at the hands of top 10 middleweight, Kazuo “The Grabaka Hitman” Misaki, at the Playboy Mansion-hosted Strikeforce event. On the same card, Stewart returned to the win column with a first round armbar submission of Jesse Juarez.
HP Pavilion doors will open at 5:30 PM for Strikeforce “Destruction” and the first preliminary bout will begin at 6 PM. The main card will commence at 7:30 PM.
Tickets for Strikeforce “Destruction,” priced from $30, go on sale Monday at 10 AM PST and can be purchased at the HP Pavilion box office (408-287-7070) as well as at all Ticketmaster locations (408-998-TIXS), Ticketmaster online (http://www.ticketmaster.com), and on Strikeforce’s official website (http://www.strikeforce.com).