Much like toasted ravioli and frozen custard, this Saturday's Strikeforce card has a distinctly St. Louis flavor to it. Of the 22 fighters on the card, eight are from the St. Louis, one is from nearby Columbia, and the card features two All-American wrestlers from the University of Missouri. This will ensure a crowd that gets there early, and is very loud and pumped up for the televised card. The night will even be topped off with a local fighter, as Robbie Lawler is from Granite City, Ill., a suburb of St. Louis in Illinois.
Jesse Finney, a local promoter and MMA gym owner in St. Louis, is fighting Josh Bumgarner on the card, and helped the Strikeforce team put together the STL-heavy undercard. He is looking forward to how this event, the largest MMA event ever to come to Missouri, will help fighting grow in his area.
"Looking back four or five months ago, when we started working together, I don't think we could have put together a better undercard. St. Louis guys, we need this," Finney said.
Tyron Woodley (pictured), an All-American at Mizzou and former coach at nearby Southern Illinois-Edwardsville, has been all around the country training for this fight. The welterweight, who is fighting Sal Woods, has spent time at American Top Team in Florida, Team Quest in Oregon, American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, and in Dallas with Yves Edwards. He's looking forward to having a large cheering section -- as of last week, he had sold at least 100 tickets -- but he would fight anywhere.
"I don't feel like it's more pressure. As long as you prepare for the fight correctly, once I get in the cage, it doesn't matter if I'm in St. Louis, Philadelphia or wherever. I can focus on the fight and worry about everything else afterwards," Woodley said. "I think it's to my advantage. I don't have to travel. I can sleep in my bed."
Even Mike Whitehead, who trains in Las Vegas and is facing another Nevadan in Kevin Randleman, has a Missouri connection. He was a teammate of Woodley's at Mizzou, and will still have a lot of local fans cheering him on as he fights "The Beast."
Strikeforce decided to put the fight in St. Louis because the ratings from their last fight were so strong in the area. They are setting themselves up for more success, this time at the gate, by putting so many St. Louisans on the card. Now, they just have to make sure that toasted ravioli and frozen custard are served at the Scottrade Center.