Courtesy of mmaweekly.com
With the breakneck pace that mixed martial arts has taken over the last couple of years, to take any kind of extended layoff seems like a gamble, a fighter risks falling out of place with an organization as athletes jockey for position in crowded weight classes.
Perhaps more importantly they fall out of the public eye and demand wanes, giving even more reason for a promotion to forget them.
As Strikeforce welterweight Luke Stewart recently explained to MMAWeekly.com, his 13-month layoff wasn’t intentional, but he’ll buck the trend and feels the gamble will payoff for him in the long run.
“I had surgery right after the (Joe Riggs) fight, but I got back to training right away and was trying to get a fight,” stated Stewart. “Then what happened with EliteXC (being bought out) and Strikeforce expanding, it kind of made it hard for some of the local guys to get fights right away.
“It ended up just being a good reason for me to take time off for myself and just focus on training and other stuff in my life. I kind of feel like I needed the break and it really refreshed me.”
Stewart went on to further explain, “I’m excited to get back into fighting because I realized why I do it. I actually enjoy it. I was kind of getting burnt out after my last fight, so I’m feeling a lot better than I was at that time.”
When Stewart returns this Friday in Fresno, Calif., for the Strikeforce Challengers 7, he’ll be matched up with a fellow fighter looking to get back on the winning path after a long delay in former Dream fighter Andre Galvao.
“It’s a match-up I asked for,” said Stewart. “They asked me who I wanted to fight, and they gave me a list of names and he’s the one I asked for.”
With some impressive performances in Dream, many look at Galvao as the favorite, but Stewart thinks otherwise.
“I don’t feel like I’m a stepping stone for this guy,” exclaimed Stewart. “People think I’m the underdog in this fight, and it’s kind of weird to me, I don’t see how that works out. I think if anyone’s going to worry it’s going to be him.
“I think I have superior stand-up and wrestling. Jiu-jitsu is something he excels in, but I’m not afraid to be on the ground with him at all. I train with some of the best in the world, I’ve competed with some of the best in the world, and I feel really confident heading into this fight.”
While he feels the time off helped him, Stewart isn’t eager to go through the same situation again, as he looks to return to the sport full time in 2010.
“Hopefully after this fight I’ll take a little rest and then get right back in there,” he commented. “I don’t want to take too much time off. I want to build myself back up in the ranks.
“I’m excited about the welterweight division in this organization. I hope to make my place in it right away, especially if I can end this fight in spectacular fashion.”
Having rejuvenated himself over the past year, Stewart is eager to prove himself once again and come out on the other end better than ever.
“Just a big shout out to my training partners, all the guys that have been helping me, and my sponsors: OnTheMat, Clinch Gear and Full Tilt Poker,” he concluded.
“I’m stoked to be back, so all the fans should be ready for an excited fight. I’m pumped and I’m going to put on a good show for you guys.”