Bellator 106’s Joe Riggs: ‘Working with Ben Henderson turned my career around’

Joe-RiggsSometimes, all you need is a change in environment. It probably feels like an eternity ago, but 2011 was not a good year for Joe Riggs. “Diesel” experienced his worst performance of his career. He wasn’t training properly, he wasn’t working with the right people and his performance showed in the cage. Riggs lost consecutive fights for the first time in his career, losing via stoppage to the likes of Jordan Mein, Bryan Baker and Kendall Grove respectively. Many were even calling for the former UFC title contender to call it quits at just 28 years old. But then he moved to The MMA Lab in his home state of Arizona. Despite his tremendous experience, Riggs went into a new training environment eager to learn and he was humbled every day in training working alongside the likes of former UFC Lightweight Champion Benson Henderson and more. The results? Riggs scraped together five straight wins and then auditioned for Bellator’s Fight Master reality series on Spike TV where he not only made it onto the program but was ranked the number one seed by top MMA minds like Greg Jackson, Frank Shamrock and Randy Couture. Riggs blew through the competition and everything will culminate tonight (Nov. 2, 2013) when he finally gets to compete against fellow finalist Mike Bronzoulis on the Bellator 106 main card in Long Beach, California. The long-time veteran spoke to MMAOddsbreaker about the positive changes, the improvements in his weight-cutting and why he feels this could be his last chance to make a run in this exclusive interview. Check it out: Brian Hemminger: How are you feeling physically, particularly the weight cut as you head into this fight because I know you’ve had some pretty rough ones throughout your career? Joe Riggs: This was the easiest weight cut I ever had in my life. I was getting out of practice two days before weigh-ins, took a spin on the eliptical and I stepped off weighing 177. Brian Hemminger: So is that due to all the work you’ve been doing with the MMA Lab lately, helping you get into peak physical condition? Joe Riggs: Oh yeah. I really modeled my conditioning after Ben Henderson. When I got here I tried to do everything he did and realized how hard it was and how out of shape I was when I got there. When I first came to the Lab, I had lost three in a row and I hadn’t properly trained in over a year. I just kept pushing and pushing and now I’m in such great shape. I have more muscle and am more lean than I’ve ever been in my life. I’m in the best shape of my life and it’s all because of the MMA Lab and my training partners. I feel really good. It’s such a great environment there. They care about everybody and it’s a great place to be. Brian Hemminger: What was it that drew you to MMA Lab because you’ve bounced around places throughout your career? Joe Riggs: Yeah I’ve never really trained in the same place besides the beginning of my career. At that point, I had lost three in a row, wasn’t training at all anymore. I’d lost to Jordan Mein, Bryan Baker and Kendall Grove. I was out of shape and I was going to retire. I heard about The Lab and they were in my home state of Arizona and I talked to John Crouch and reached out to him and asked if I could go out there. I had my hat in my hand when I asked if they’d let me come train and they took me with open arms. It’s been a great run. Brian Hemminger: What do you think it was that you were doing wrong before that you’ve corrected now? Joe Riggs: I wasn’t with the right people. Sometimes you’re not in the right camp or the right group and it makes all the difference in the world. My coach John Crouch, he’s very, very mental. It’s hard to explain but everything he says, I just believe it, I know it’s true and I know it’s the right thing to do. He’s really helped clear all my mental issues up from my fights. Brian Hemminger: How much easier is it to do your weight cut and training now compared to when you on Fight Master having to do those brutal weight cuts every week or so to advance through the show? Joe Riggs: Yeah, I got up to 211 pounds after my fights and then I’d have one more week to make it back down to 170. People don’t know that. People don’t understand how much weight I cut when I was on the TV show. Literally, that’s 40 pounds a week. I’d be fighting and then after my fight I’d get on the treadmill and I’d go run and it sucked. I really didn’t train and didn’t have much of a training regimen. Greg [Jackson] had a lot going on and I didn’t have anyone really helping me push with my diet. Tim Welch was my best friend and he was there but he’s a young kid. It was all mental. That whole show was mental. Something that really pushed me was the shit Joe Warren would say, “He’s gonna gas out, he can’t cut that much weight and keep going. He’s gonna get tired.” I never got tired. I never stopped and never had a loss.┬áBut now this time, you’ll see a better weight cut and a better fight. Brian Hemminger: Do you feel any extra added pressure being that number one seed throughout the entire show, knowing that most people who watched it expect you to win? Joe Riggs: People had written me off in my career because I’d lost three in a row but now I’ve won five straight and I had the success on Fight Master and people still doubt me because they say the show didn’t have the best competition. What it comes down to is the guys I fought, their records compared to The Ultimate Fighter were way better. Mike Bronzoulis is a really tough guy. He’s fought a lot of great guys and won. He’s another guy that people count out and he wins. I think I’m the favorite going in but I don’t feel any extra pressure. I’m just going to go out there and do my thing and everything else will fall into place. Brian Hemminger: As you head into this fight, you’re actually a few years younger than Bronzoulis but you’ve been fighting for a much longer time. What do you think matters more, a fighter’s age or how old they are in “fight years?” Joe Riggs: Physically, you’re in your physical prime between 28 and 32 years old now. That’s what they’re saying. Mike’s fine but I’ve had more fights than him and I’m sure I’ve had more injuries than he’s had, but I’ve had triple the experience he’s had. He’s had some good fights but I’ve won everywhere. I’ve won in every situation you can put someone in and he can’t say that. To say something good on his part, he’s a warrior. He battles. When he fought Chris Lozano, that was a great fight. He lost the first round and came back to win the second to. You have to dig deep to accomplish something like that. He’s a tough guy. Brian Hemminger: You’ve brought this up before, but do you almost feel like this is your last chance to really make a big move in your career? Joe Riggs: Oh yes, definitely. I don’t plan on fighting into my late 30s. I fight because I love the sport. I’ve been fighting since 1999 ever since I was 17. They have my first official fight listed at 2001 but I’ve been fighting for a long time. I still love it and I don’t go in there and think I can’t compete. I go and I train with guys in the UFC and I know what I’m capable of. I know how good I am and that’s what keeps me going. I want people to know that. Brian Hemminger: What would it mean to you to go out there and get that win, perhaps get that second wind in your career? Joe Riggs: It would mean a lot. It would be the culmination of a long year. It’s been close to a year since I talked to Sam Caplan and I told him I’d do it. There was a long wait where I couldn’t fight and we went to a break and the show happened and then the fight got delayed due to that cut injury. It’s been a long time. It’s gonna be a good feeling when I finally put a cap on this whole thing. Brian Hemminger: How do you picture victory? Joe Riggs: I don’t know. I’m not one to predict a knockout or anything. But every time I picture this fight, my head’s down, my hand’s up and I know I’ll win. I’m not gonna say I’ll steamroll him or anything because Mike’s a tough guy. He could give anyone a tough fight. I just prepared hard and I know I’m gonna win the fight. I see at the end that I’m the winner. Joe would like thank everyone at the MMA Lab, his sponsors Knockout Energy Drink and Larry Miller Volkswagon. You can follow him on Twitter @DieselRiggsMMA.

Written by Brian Hemminger

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