TACOMA, WA. - Former University of Washington football star and NFL lineman turned martial arts fighting sensation, Bob “The Beast” Sapp (8-2-1), will make his highly-anticipated return to the fight world when he headlines Strikeforce’s debut mixed martial arts event at Tacoma Dome on Saturday, February 23rd.
Former UFC Heavyweight Champion and K-1 North America king, Maurice “Big Mo” Smith (73-20-4), will battle fellow legend and six-time world kickboxing champion, Rick “The Jet” Roufus (57-7), in a heavyweight contest during “Strikeforce At The Dome,” which will be presented by BodogFIGHT. Sapp’s opponent will be named shortly.
At 6 feet 4 inches tall and 375 lbs, the 33-year-old Sapp, a native of Colorado Springs, Colorado, is nothing short of a monstrous specimen of man. Following his college football career as an offensive lineman for the University of Washington, where he won the Morris Award, Sapp went on to play for three different NFL teams over the course of four years.
In 2002 and 2003, Sapp was recruited by Japanese martial arts fight federations, Pride Fighting Championship and K-1, respectively. His astonishing size and strength, which he has used to defeat some of the most seasoned martial arts combatants, including five-time K-1 World Champion, “Mr. Perfect” Ernesto Hoost, helped catapult Sapp to the forefront of pop culture in Japan and earned him starring roles in over 200 television commercials there as well as dozens of endorsement deals for a wide array of Japanese consumer products ranging from bento boxes to ice cream.
It wasn’t long before the American media caught wind of Sapp’s story and plastered it everywhere from the cover of The Wall Street Journal to the pages of ESPN magazine and The Seattle Times. Prior to his K-1 fighting debut in The United States, which saw him stop mixed martial arts legend Kimo Leopoldo at Las Vegas’s Bellagio on August 15, 2003, Sapp was a guest on Jay Leno’s “The Tonight Show.”
More recently, Sapp has been courted by the world of Hollywood. In 2005, he made two appearances on the silver screen – the first as a villain in the comic book adaptation of Elektra, which starred Jennifer Garner, and, the second, playing a supporting role in the Adam Sandler re-make of Burt Reynolds’s football comedy, The Longest Yard.
One of the original pioneers of mixed martial arts, Smith was crowned UFC heavyweight champion on July 27, 1997 after he took a judges’ decision from fellow legend, Mark “The Hammer” Coleman. Three months later, he defended his title by stopping David “Tank” Abbott.
A former world kickboxing champion, Smith is, in large part, responsible for bringing back the relevance of striking to the sport after the Gracie family had set off a revolution in the martial arts world by dominating competition in the early ‘90’s with their Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu ground fighting techniques.
His superior kicking and punching skills led Smith to the K-1 North America tournament championship at Las Vegas’s Mirage on May 5, 2001. Smith defeated three consecutive opponents in one night of action to conquer martial arts fighting’s most coveted tournament.
Three years before Smith was crowned K-1 champion, it was Roufus who stood in the winner’s circle in Las Vegas after a trying night of tournament action. During his career, the Milwaukee, Wisconsin native has defeated nearly every major rival including Michael “The Black Sniper” McDonald and Stan “The Man” Longinidis.
While maintaining his standing at the top of kickboxing’s heavyweight division, Roufus has also explored the world of professional boxing. After losing a judges’ decision in his debut, “The Jet” turned his fortunes around and reeled off 11 victories in his next 12 appearances. On August 10, 1996, Roufus was crowned World Boxing Council (WBC) Continental Americas Cruiserweight Champion after stopping Sean McClain in the fourth round of their meeting in Las Vegas.
“Strikeforce At The Dome” will feature 10 world-class, professional mixed martial arts bouts. Doors at Tacoma Dome will open at 7 PM PST and the first fight will begin at 8 PM PST. The event is being promoted by Strikeforce in conjunction with Brian Halquist Productions.