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LI's Gian Villante signs with Strikeforce

Gian Villante, a heavyweight mixed martial artist in

Gian Villante, a heavyweight mixed martial artist in Ring of Combat, trains at Bellmore Kickboxing MMA. Credit: Photo by Mark La Monica

Gian Villante, a two-time champion in Ring of Combat and Levittown native, has signed a multifight contract with Strikeforce, Newsday has learned.

Villante will make his Strikeforce debut in the heavyweight division against Chad Griggs on the Feb. 12 card at the Izod Center in East Rutherford, N.J.

“Maybe I can afford my own food now instead of eating my mom’s cooking all the time," joked Villante, a former All-American wrestler at MacArthur High School and football player at Hofstra University.

Villante signed the two-year deal for six fights late last week around 11 p.m. inside his gym at Bellmore Kickboxing Academy. He then went to Staples in Freeport to fax it. "Cost me $26, too, no joke," he said. “Hopefully, I’ll have the money to pay for that stuff soon."

All jokes aside, Villante (7-1) moves from the regional promotion circuit, where he has had to help sell tickets in order to make some money. Now, all Villante has to do is train and fight -- and, of course, win.

Villante will debut as the first fight on the Showtime broadcast against Griggs (9-1), who defeated Bobby Lashley in his Strikeforce debut in August. Being on the main card for a promotional debut is usually reserved for higher-profile names with established reputations in major organizations. The Feb. 12 broadcast figures to garner plenty of attention as it's the first round of the Strikeforce Heavyweight World Grand Prix, which includes Fedor Emelianenko.

“There are a lot of guys in Strikeforce that I look up to," Villante said. "Now I'm going to be in the same locker room, the same weigh-in. Now, my first fight, I’m on the same card as Fedor. I can't ask for a better situation."

Villante had been set to defend his light heavyweight title on the card for Ring of Combat 34 on Feb. 4 in Atlantic City.

New York Sports