Virgil Zwicker plans to show his Warrior Spirit against Brett Albee at Strikeforce: Diaz vs. DaleyPosted on April 6, 2011, 10:14 PM by Joey Santosus
Virgil "Rezdog" Zwicker (9-2) will venture into the Strikeforce cage for the second time this Saturday night when he meets Brett Albee (3-0) at Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Daley in front of his hometown crowd in San Diego, California. Zwicker caught the eye of the Strikeforce brass after winning nine of his first ten bouts, six of which came via TKO, while competing for various local MMA promotions. A proud Native American and a member of the famed Team Quest, Zwicker will bring the fighting spirit of his ancestors into the cage with him this weekend, as he looks to make a statement in what is, perhaps, the most important match-up of his professional career.
I recently had the privilege of catching up with Virgil ahead of the bout to discuss the path that led him to MMA, his opponent, his preparations for the match, and much more. Here's what I learned about the man aptly known as "Rezdog":
Fighting was a part of Virgil Zwicker's life long before amassing his current 9-2 MMA record. Growing up as the youngest boy among five brothers and six sisters on The San Pasqual Indian Reservation was a time he describes as happy, however after getting caught up with the "wrong crowd" fighting practically became part of his daily routine.
Although they may not be Zwicker's proudest moments looking back, each scrap was grooming him for a future career that he would get his start in without even realizing it.
"My brother had already been involved with MMA for a few years. He got hurt and had to pull out of his fight, so he asked me to take his place. The promotion (Cobra Fighting Federation) was owned by UFC veteran Mark Hall. I ended up knocking the guy out in 42 seconds. It was a good start, but I didn't even know it was a professional fight!"
Just as quickly as fighting in the streets had led him to Mixed Martial Arts, it also nearly cost him his future in the sport. After securing his first pro victory, Zwicker returned to the lifestyle he had become accustomed to and before long it landed him in a State Prison.
It was a tough break, but may have been just the lesson he needed. After returning home, Zwicker never looked back, instead focusing his time and energy into his fighting career. He soon began training with Team Quest and would win nine of his first ten bouts, losing only to a Super Heavyweight in 2010, before receiving an invitation to co-headline a Strikeforce Challenger's card in Fresno, California.
His opponent would be burgeoning Heavyweight star "Big" Lavar Johnson, who had recently returned to action after suffering multiple gun shot wounds that threatened to end his career. Zwicker knew he was being written-off that night, but was honored for the opportunity to prove himself on the big stage. Unfortunately, things didn't go his way, as Johnson was able to catch him against the cage with a series of fight ending blows. Don't expect someone who has been in as many physical encounters as Zwicker to make any excuses for the loss though. When asked what went wrong in there, he replied, "He hit me pretty hard in the nose. I would definitely like another shot at him."
For now Zwicker remains focused on this Saturday night, when he will meet another local talent, Brett Albee. With a professional record of just 3-0, Albee comes into the bout as a relative unknown. This, however, doesn't change anything for Zwicker, who says he isn't going fall into the trap of taking anyone lightly.
"I know he has worked a lot outside of the cage, teaching Muay Thai and stuff. Just because he is 3-0 doesn't mean he isn't dangerous. Look at Brock Lesnar, he became the Heavyweight Champion after just four fights."
"I'm still representing Team Quest. I've been working with Dan (Henderson) and bringing in guys like Ovince St. Preux, who I've fought in the past, Vladimir Matyushenko, Jared Hamman, Antoni Hardonk. I've been working really hard on my wrestling as well, I hate it, but its important. I've made major progress there. I feel great, I'm in great shape and ready to get it on this weekend."
Zwicker does, however, admit that there is a little added pressure coming off a loss and fighting in front of his hometown crowd in San Diego, just miles from the reservation he grew up on.
"Yea, there is a little more pressure now. I'm really excited to be fighting on the big stage in front of my hometown. I've been training really hard and I just want to put on an exciting fight and show Strikeforce that they made the right decision by bringing me in."
As our discussion came to a close, it became clear that, win or lose Saturday night, Zwicker will remain an upstanding member of the Native American community. He talks about a program that he describes as "very near and dear to his heart." The Inter Tribal Sports for the Youth program works to unify tribal youth and communities by providing structured athletics, such as flag football, basketball, and softball. Zwicker hopes to offer guidance to kids who may need help, as he did growing up on the reservation, and says he continues to spend "any chance he gets" doing just that.
Virgil would like to thank all of his sponsors, as well as his team at Team Quest, his family, friends, all of his fans, Strikeforce for giving him the opportunity and the media for doing such a great job with keeping up with the sport.
Fans can follow him on Twitter: @VirgilZwicker