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Antwain Britt comes full circle with Strikeforce main event bout at the Palms

The Ultimate Fighter” 8 alum hopes to surge with move to middleweight

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ASSOCIATED PRESS

Strikeforce middleweight Antwain Britt stands in his corner after a fight against Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante in 2010. Cavalcante won via first round knockout.

If You Go

  • What: Strikeforce Challengers 20
  • When: Friday, November 18, 6 p.m.
  • Where: The Pearl At The Palms
  • Tickets: $50 to $115, Ticketmaster

Antwain Britt will make a long overdue appearance at the Pearl at the Palms Friday in the headlining bout of Strikeforce Challengers 20 against Lumumba Sayers.

Britt was a cast member on the eighth season of “The Ultimate Fighter,” the UFC’s biannual reality show. Although Britt won his first fight on the show, he had to pull out of the competition before the quarterfinals with a broken hand.

Britt returned home to Virginia Beach, Va., and hoped to get a call to appear on the “TUF” 8 finale card — which was scheduled for Dec. 13, 2008, at the Palms — when he was healthy. The offer never came.

“I felt like I did really well on the show, so that was really rough for me,” Britt said. “I didn’t understand it. I didn’t know what to make of it.”

Britt (11-5 MMA, 1-2 SF) never found out why the UFC decided against giving him another opportunity, but it began not to matter to him. He pushed forward.

Britt went on a 4-1 stretch when fully healthy in mid-2009. The only loss came when he encountered UFC veteran Rodney Wallace in the finals of a one-night tournament in Aruba.

It was the fighters’ third bout in six hours and Britt was drained. He called fighting three times on the same day the hardest thing he’s ever done.

“It’s like career suicide,” Britt said. “You take so much out of yourself by doing that. It was a good experience. It made me a better fighter, but it’s definitely nothing I would recommend to any fighter.”

Most importantly, Britt caught the attention of Strikeforce officials after the tournament. He signed a contract with the promotion, which was still separate from the UFC at the time, and notched a TKO victory in his Strikeforce debut two months later.

But Britt’s two Strikeforce fights in 2010 ended in defeat to former light heavyweight champion Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante and contender Ovince St. Preux. It was then that he decided to drop down from the 205-pound class to the 185-pound division for the first time.

“You’ve got guys who are willing to cut the weight from 250 to get to light heavyweight instead of staying at heavyweight now,” Britt explained. “It was very rare when I stepped into the cage at 205 and fought someone my size. I was already fighting uphill every time.”

The fight with Sayers (4-2 MMA, 0-1 SF) is Britt’s debut at middleweight. By the time Britt walks into the cage Friday, it will be 364 days since his last fight.

He took the time off to re-energize himself and change his lifestyle to get to 185 pounds. Britt began tinkering with new training regimens and also completely switched his diet.

“I needed that time to reset,” Britt said. “I was burnt out and needed to get back to the old me by putting MMA on the backburner and focus on me, my company and priorities at home. Now I feel like it’s not a job anymore. I can really go in there and do what I need to do.”

Click to enlarge photo

Ronda Rousey questions referee Herb Dean while catching Sarah D'Alelio in an armbar at Strikeforce Challengers Friday, August 12, 2011 in the Pearl Theater at the Palms. Rousey won by submission.

Britt’s bout will cap off a card of nine fights. The action starts at 6 p.m. and Showtime will air the final five fights via tape delay on the West Coast.

The co-main event features a women’s featherweight bout between Ronda Rousey and Julia Budd. Rousey is one of the fastest rising prospects in mixed martial arts, as the former Olympian judoka has won each of her first three fights via first round submission in less than a minute.

“I’m always going to try to win as quickly as possible,” Rousey said. “I feel like things are going well, but I still have a lot of work to do.”

Britt has strides to make, too, but thinks the middleweight division is where he can move his way up the ranks. There’s no better place to start than at a venue he deserved to fight in years ago.

“I didn’t get to finish what I started on ‘TUF’,” Britt said. “I was really surprised the UFC didn’t give me another shot immediately after that to come back, but it was bittersweet. Everything happens for a reason.”

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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