Superstar Nick Diaz, DREAM Welterweight Champion Marius “The Whitemare” Zaromskis, STRIKEFORCE 145 pound Women’s Champion Cris Cyborg, and submission expert Marloes Coenen discussed the upcoming STRIKEFORCE MIAMI mixed martial arts (MMA) fights scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 30 at BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, Fla., LIVE on SHOWTIME® (10 p.m. ET/PT, delayed on the west coast).
The 26-year-old Diaz (20-7), a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt and native of Stockton, Calif, will take on DREAM welterweight (170 pounds) champ Zaromskis (13-3) in the main event and first STRIKEFORCE welterweight championship bout in history. Diaz, who will put a five fight win streak on the line, is making his first start since he submitted hard-hitting Scott “Hands of Steel” Smith on June 6, 2009. The highly explosive, 29-year-old Zaromskis, who hails from Siauliai, Lithuania, has won his last three fights on first-round knockouts via head kick.
STRIKEFORCE 145-pound women’s champion Cyborg (8-1) will defend her crown against submission expert Coenen (17-3). Cyborg made history on Aug. 15, 2009 when the 24-year-old native of Brazil stopped superstar Gina Carano with a punishing barrage of strikes in the first round of their meeting to become the first-ever STRIKEFORCE women’s champion. The long-awaited showdown between Carano and Cyborg also marked the first women’s main event in the history of any major MMA promotion.
The 28-year-old Coenen, a member of Holland’s Team Golden Glory and mixed martial artist since the age of 14, made a successful STRIKEFORCE debut and avenged one of her three career defeats by overpowering and submitting Roxanne Modafferi with an armbar in the first round (1:05) on November 7, 2009.
Also on the STRIKEFORCE: MIAMI card, football legend Herschel Walker will make his professional MMA debut as he begins the next stage of his athletic career against once beaten Greg Nagy. Undefeated heavyweight Bobby Lashley (4-0) will face an opponent to be announced.
What the athletes had to say on Wednesday’s call:
What’s it like dropping back down to 170?
NICK DIAZ: “I’m very happy to fight at that weight. I look the best at that weight. I like it, I feel the best at that weight. I’ve been waiting for a long time to fight in here at this weight class. Those last two fights weren’t my idea. I’ve fought at welterweight most of my life, so this isn’t a new thing to me. I’m happy to fight at welterweight.”
A lot of people feel like you jumped ahead of the line for a title shot against Nick Diaz. What are your thoughts on that?
MARIUS ZAROMSKIS: “Well, I don’t really think much of it. They told me to fight, so I’m fighting.”
Jay Hieron thinks you’re trying to duck him. Do you have a response to that?
DIAZ: “Ditto. I’m just fighting who they want me to fight. Whatever. That’s how it is. I’m just fighting who they want me to fight. I try not to open my mouth.
Do you anticipate that matchup happening at some point?
DIAZ: “I’m ready to fight anybody. If they can make it, then let’s do it. I’m ready to fight Jay Hieron and everybody in this weight class to get to the top. Whatever, I’ll do it.”
Cris, you beat Gina Carano, who was the face of women’s MMA fighting. I guess now you are the face of women’s MMA fighting. Do you like that role?
CRIS CYBORG: “I wasn’t thinking about who is the face of MMA when I fought Gina. Gina was just another opponent like anyone else. With me being the face of women’s MMA or not, I’m just going over there and doing my job, making sure I’m training hard and leading up the pack for all women in MMA.”
I read that she was thinking about posing in “Playboy.” Is that true or not? Also, that video of you choking out a reporter, was that real?
CYBORG: “The Playboy thing, I was literally horrified one morning when I found out everyone found out about it. I’d prefer not to talk about that right now and just focus on my fight. With the video thing, the reporter actually asked to see how strong I was and he wanted me to choke him out, so I did it.”
Is there too much of an emphasis on appearance and looks in women’s MMA coverage and what do you think it will take to get beyond that?
CYBORG: “It’s just like with anything else that women do, their appearance is very important. However, it’s not what’s going to make you win a fight or not. It is your talent and what you’re doing in the ring that matters the most. I hope we move past that.”
MARLOES COENEN: “I agree with Cris. I think it’s because it’s just a young sport and people don’t understand it’s a sport that everyone can do. Women can do it, men can do it and you can start at a young age. With women, we’re always judged by our appearance, and you see that in tennis with (Anna) Kournikova. It’s almost like Gina is the Kournikova of MMA. I hope there will be girls out there and our level of fighting will increase that much where people talk about our fighting skills instead of the beauty that we do or do not have.”
You mentioned it’s a sport anyone can do, do you see boys and girls getting into this sport at a young age?
COENEN: “I’m from the Netherlands, and MMA is getting way more popular every year. You see children doing fights at 8-years-old or 10-years-old, so by the time they’re 16 they’ve got like 50 fights under their belt.”
And that’s for boys and girls,
COENEN: “Yeah, yeah, yeah.”
Nick and Marius, can you both assess your opponent’s strengths and weakness?
DIAZ: “I think he’s a good fighter, whatever. Anybody who is willing to fight at this level is a good fighter.”
ZAROMSKIS: “I think Nick is a very well rounded fighter. He has strengths in both boxing and grappling, just all around. I think it’s going to be a very tough fight for me. As far as how the fight will go or what I’ll be able to do, I don’t want to predict that. We’ll just have to see it in the ring.”
Nick, after the problems that arose on the STRIKEFORCE: Carano vs. Cyborg card, would you ever consider fighting in California again?
DIAZ: “I didn’t know there were any problems. I’ll fight wherever.”
Marius, despite being the DREAM Champion, Jay Hieron turned down a fight with you because he said you have little name recognition. Do you feel vindicated that STRIKEFORCE offered you a title shot?
ZAROMSKIS: “I don’t really care if I’m vindicated or not, because I don’t pay attention to that. I feel that a fighter should fight whoever they put in front of you, whether he’s famous or not. If Jay Hieron doesn’t feel that I’m famous enough to fight him, then I guess he’ll just have to wait until I get famous and I’ll fight him.”
Marius, is there a timeframe on when you’ll return and defend your DREAM title?
ZAROMSKIS: “No, right now I don’t know.”
Cris, what is your ultimate goal in MMA?
CYBORG: “I’m already married, I already have a good life. I want to build a family, not right now though whatsoever. In the future, hopefully. I just want to continue fighting and continue to hold my belt as long as I can. I want to make sure I continue to get better and train harder, and eventually build a team, have students fight, have a regular mixed martial arts career.”
Your style is very aggressive, how would you describe your personality?
CYBORG: “It would surprise you, but on a daily basis I am sometimes pretty aggressive. I’m a person that likes to have goals and looks towards the goals and achieve them. I’m calm some days, aggressive some days. I have a varying personality, but I definitely set my goals high and I like to do whatever it takes to achieve them.”
Marius, can you talk about your finishes in your last few fights (KO head kicks)? Is that something you go for?
ZAROMSKIS: “I don’t really look for a high kick, because when you look for something you end up being the one who’s getting knocked out. If I see it there in a split second I’ll take advantage of it. If it’s not there then I’ll use some other weapons. But, I do not look for a high kick.”
Why are your high kicks so effective?
ZAROMSKIS: “I kick (inaudible) a lot with my legs, so I’ve got power in it.”
Did you look up to Mirko Cro Cop at all? Or is your style completely independent?
ZAROMSKIS: “I was doing high kicks before. I’m not trying to imitate Mirko, I’m not inspired by Mirko. But, Mirko has a very devastating high kick, so if there’s something I could learn from him I definitely wouldn’t mind.”
Are you always constantly looking to do different things?
ZAROMSKIS: “It’s not something I look for, I just kind of do it. In a way, it kind of energizes me. I just do it for myself, but I guess fans find it interesting. I’m not doing it to be entertaining in a fight, I just do it to energize myself.”
Cris and Marloes, what do you expect to see in the ring?
CYBORG: “I don’t really think much about what’s going to happen. I just go in prepared for whatever comes. She can bring it, so hopefully she’ll be prepared for war, too.”
COENEN: “It will be a tough fight because Cris is an amazing athlete, a real powerhouse. I know that everything I do is good. My standup is OK, my ground game is OK. I really think we’ll both bring it and go toe-to-toe and give the audience what they’re expecting.”
What are your thoughts on the future of women’s MMA?
COENEN: “Well, my goal is that I hope I never have to do office work again. I just want to stay a professional athlete. It’s very important that women start fighting. When I grew up, it wasn’t an option for a girl to fight. There was some judo, but not too much around here. I think it really helps women. If you start fighting, you feel stronger in your mind and physically you’re stronger than you thought you were. That will help you in daily life. I just think it’s very important that we have some messengers like Gina, like Cris and, hopefully, myself that will inspire women to do it, to think that ‘if they can do it, I can do it,’ and start working out.”
CYBORG: “Every woman that’s working with MMA right now and every woman that’s fighting plays a very important role in the sport and where the sport is going to take them. I really hope that I have a lot of fans out there and I hope to train little Cyborgs all over the world. I’m just excited to be part of it.”
Cyborg, do you look at this as a nationalistic battle (Brazil vs. Netherlands), or is this just one women against another?
CYBORG: “I look at Marloes as a fighter and as a woman. I look at her as just another person competing with me and trying to take my belt away. Basically, I’m always defending my country no matter where I’m fighting, so I’m always defending the flag.”
Nick, do you get sucked into the challenge of trying to beat people at their own game?
DIAZ: “No, I just do it all, you know. I try to take the easiest direction. A lot of times, it’s easier to beat (inaudible) than it has been in the past. I’ll just do whatever it takes.”
Marius, what do you plan on doing to minimize the reach that Nick has with his punches?
ZAROMSKIS: “As far as Nick’s reach, Nick obviously has a reach advantage because he’s taller. But, I don’t feel like the height difference is so drastic between the two of us to really worry about it too much. Of course, I’m concerned about the reach and I have some plans to address that. It’s not like I’m 5 foot 6 and he’s 6 foot 9. I think it’s something I can handle.”
Marloes, can you talk about what it would mean for you to win this title?
COENEN: “Winning the title? I won my first title in the ‘90s in Tokyo, and ever since then I haven’t got a nice title. I’m very eager to get this title. I hope it’s a good start to my career in America.”
Worldwide, what do you think your profile is? Do you want to be as well known as Gina and Cris?
COENEN: “To be honest, I don’t think I’m on the same level as Gina and Cris are, but I hope this fight will change that.”
Do you think people would consider it an upset if you were to win?
COENEN: “I don’t know. I know I’m considered the underdog, but I think hardcore MMA fans know what I can do and what I’m capable of. I hope that my last fight was a demonstration of that. To be honest, I don’t really care what people think. I will show them in the cage.”
How would you have to win this fight?
COENEN: “Differently. I know people are really focusing on my ground game, but I know my standup is really good and my striking is really OK because I dropped Roxanne (Modafferi) with one punch and I’ve KO’d girls before with just one punch. I know my standup is OK and I know Cris will find out about it.”
Nick, is there any different preparation for you going into a championship fight?
DIAZ: “I do extra pushups and I run extra miles. I kick the heavy bag a lot, a lot. I just do the best I can. I learn more and more as I go. I’ve been doing this for a long time, I’ve got the same partners, so we’re always working on new things together. I’m just getting good help by Jake Shields and Gilbert Melendez and my brother, everybody training for this fight.”
Marius, have you been working on anything specifically on the ground because Nick has a big advantage in that department.
ZAROMSKIS: “I’ve prepared as well as I can on the ground because Nick has a superior ground game. But, this is MMA, this is not kickboxing. I train in all of it. I train in grappling, the fighting, the wrestling, the same for all fighters. I pretty much do everything my trainers tell me to do. If they say do more ground, I do more ground. If they say do more standup, I do more standup.”
Cris, how do you feel Marloes stacks up as an opponent as compared to Gina Carano?
CYBORG: “I don’t really compare any other opponents at all. I basically take each fight individually and look at whatever issues come up.”
Marloes, based on your style, as more of a ground oriented fighter, do you think a five round fight benefits you?
COENEN: “I don’t consider myself as a ground fighter. I consider myself as a complete MMA fighter. I’m training for a fight, I’m training for five-five minute rounds. I’m ready for everything.”
Cris, how has your life changed since you beat Gina Carano?
CYBORG: “Regardless of being a women or not, a belt changes any athlete’s life. The athlete’s goal is to get a belt, I got the belt. It would have changed it regardless. Life has changed for the positive and I’m happy with it.”
Marloes, are you looking forward to a standup fight with Cris? Do you think it will go five rounds?
COENEN: “I don’t think it will go five rounds at all, because of the person she is and the person I am. If you put that together, it will not go to the fifth round at all.”
Do you train with other women, or do you just train with men?
CYBORG: “I only train with men. I usually hurt the women.”
COENEN: “For me, I usually train with men because there are not that many good women that do MMA here.”
Marloes, this fight was supposed to happen a year ago. Has the extra time off helped you prepare more?
COENEN: “No, I’m always ready to fight. I was ready a year ago and I’m even more ready now.”
Cyborg, Strikeforce recently announced a women’s tournament at 135 and 145 pounds. What are your thoughts on that?
CYBORG: “I’m definitely going to analyze all the girls from different divisions, up and down to see who’s coming near me. It’s going to be very fun for the sport to have other divisions and other belts.”