The attention for tonight’s Strikeforce card will be centered around the finals of the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix featuring Josh Barnett taking on the undefeated former Olympian Daniel Cormier. Also guaranteed to garner its fair share of attention is the third bout between Strikeforce Lightweight Champion Gilbert Melendez and the last man to beat him Josh Thomson. Considering that these four men are the biggest names remaining on the roster it should come as no surprise they’ve garnered so much of the fans’ focus.
Truth be told there are some intriguing match-ups on both the main card and the undercard which will be televised on Showtime Extreme. Gesias Cavalcante will take on the Greg Jackson-trained Isaac Vallie-Flagg and Virgil Zwicker will drop down to the light heavyweight division when he faces Guto Inocente of The Blackzilians. Known as “Rezdog”, the Native American Zwicker is fighting for the first time in over a year.
Judging by the excitement in Zwicker’s voice during a recent conversation with Five Ounces of Pain it seems it could be a long night for Inocente.
Bryan Levick: For those fans who aren’t all that familiar with you can you give us a little insight into your background both athletically and personally?
Virgil Zwicker: I played a lot of basketball and football while I was growing up. I played Pop Warner and during high school. My older brother John was fighting and he had gotten injured. He called me up to see if I was interested in replacing him and I took the fight with no training as I just needed the money. I wound up knocking the guy out in 43 seconds. I took my first few fights under similar circumstances. I had no experience what so ever I just went in there and used my hands.
Bryan Levick: I know you had spent some time in prison, can you tell me a little bit about that time in your life?
Virgil Zwicker: I was living on the reservation and got into it with the sheriffs. There was a problem on the mad and they told me to leave and when I didn’t react right away they started beating me with their Mag Lights. One of the Sheriffs swung and missed and by doing so he fell and was injured. I took off running ten miles barefoot and wound up losing all of the skin off of my feet. I went through all seven layers on the bottom of my feet. When it was all said and done I was charged with assault and battery as well as making terroristic threats.
Bryan Levick: Where are you currently training in preparation for this fight?
Virgil Zwicker: I am training with Team Quest in Temecula, CA. I train alongside Jesse Taylor, Dave Herman and Bryan Harper. The gym has a lot of great grapplers which has been a huge help to me. Ovince St. Preux recently came out and helped me get ready for this fight. He’s good to work with because of his size. We had fought in the past and now we are good friends, it’s weird how MMA is. You can beat the hell out of each other one minute and be friends the next. That’s what great about the sport, the respect that you have for one another is always evident.
Bryan Levick: How would you describe your fighting style?
Virgil Zwicker: My strengths are definitely when I am on my feet, but I have really worked a lot on my wrestling over the past couple of years. It’s really gone through the roof and that comes from working day in and day out with such an outstanding group of grapplers. It’s been a lot of fun to see myself progress. I am really enjoying putting the work in and seeing my hard work pay off. These fights aren’t going to get any easier so I know I need to keep working harder and harder.
Bryan Levick: What can you tell me about your opponent Guto Inocente?
Virgil Zwicker: He’s a real tough guy who is really big and tall, he’s going to be a tough opponent. I don’t know that much about him other than he’s a World Kickboxing Champion and he has a blackbelt in Jiu-Jitsu. He seems to be very well rounded and although he doesn’t have too much experience inside the cage he works with a very good camp in the Blackzilians.
Bryan Levick: How have you adjusted to the drop from heavyweight to light heavyweight?
Virgil Zwicker: My first few fights were at 205 and then I moved up to heavyweight until the fight with OSP. I went back up to heavyweight after that fight so this will be my first back at 205 in a few years. Right now I’m only three or four pounds away from where I need to be, I am feeling really good now. I am working with my friend Norm Johnson who works with Elite Fitness and he has really helped me with my diet. He has helped me prepare both mentally and physically, he is the reason why I feel so good.
Bryan Levick: How are you enjoying your time fighting for Strikeforce? How do you see the main event between Cormier and Barnett going?
Virgil Zwicker: It’s been awesome; they really are a great organization. They have really taken care of me and they are really respectful of my career. I am so excited to be on this card because I have been a huge fan of Barnett since I was a kid. He came down to train with us a couple of weeks ago. It was an awesome experience to be able to train with him for just one day. Cormier is just an absolute beast and it says a lot about him being in a fight of this magnitude so early into his career. I’m hoping that Josh pulls it out, but Cormier is no joke. I just hope that they put on a great fight and bring some positive attention to Strikeforce.
Bryan Levick: How did you hook up with Alchemist?
Virgil Zwicker: My striking coach Billy Scheibe was good friends with Nima Safapour and we went and lunch a couple of years ago and I’ve been with them ever since. At the time my wife and I were going out and getting sponsors on our own and I needed someone to help me out in that regard so I could concentrate on training. With Alchemist I have all the support I need they have done an amazing job for me. It’s like one big happy family with Nima, Lex McMahon, Jeff and MC Hammer; they really know how to take care of their clients. It’s a huge relief knowing that I can call them and know that they will take care of what I need; I have total faith and trust in them.
Bryan Levick: Do you have anyone you’d like to thank?
Virgil Zwicker: Definitely I’d like to thank my coaches Billy Scheibe, Bryan Harper and all of my training partners at Team Quest. I want to thank my mother, my father and my brothers and sisters. I’d like to thank Uei Water, TapouT, Pala Braves, Team Kupa, Baad Medicine, Rod Brothers, Fast Track Insurance and The Jalapeno Bar & Grill. I also have to thank Alchemist for all they do for me. Last, but not least I’d like to thank all the Native American fans who have supported me. If anyone wants to know what I am up to you can follow me on Twitter @VirgilZwicker as well as on Facebook. I’d also like to thank Kevin Duenas who is my strength and conditioning coach.
PHOTO CREDIT – STRIKEFORCE