Mixed martial arts legend Joe Riggs to open gym in Great Falls

GREAT FALLS – Mixed martial arts legend Joe “Diesel” Riggs is scheduled to fight in Great Falls this weekend as part of a Fusion Fight League event at the Pacific Steel & Recycling Four Seasons Arena.

He’ll go three rounds with Washington fighter Jared Torgeson. The card is promoted as “Diesel’s Last Ride”, because Riggs claims it will likely be his last fight in North America.

But when he steps out of the octagon Saturday night, he’ll be in his new home.

The UFC, Bellator and Strikeforce veteran plans to move to Great Falls this summer and open up an MMA gym.

“The reason why we’re billing it as my last fight in Montana is because I’m moving here,” he said. “I kind of want to springboard it into the gym I’m opening up, and I want to do a lot of big things here.”

Riggs didn’t pick Great Falls by chance. Over the years, several Montana fighters have trained in Riggs’ home state of Arizona and developed relationships with the combat sports veteran.

“I trained at the MMA Lab (in Phoenix) for many years and Tim Welch was the first one who came up there, and he stayed at my house for like a year,” Riggs said. “And then he introduced me to Cody (Vukasin), and he introduced me to Sean (O’Malley) and Leo (Bercier).”

Three years ago, Vukasin, a Great Falls native, tabbed Riggs as his corner man for a fight where the love affair with the Treasure State started.

“Ever since then it was always a great place where I wanted to retire,” he said. “I want to raise my kids here, it’s a great place. It’s different, the fighting is a lower level, but it’s got a lot of potential. A lot of people really want a place to train in state, especially here in Great Falls. And that’s my whole goal with this, is to let everybody know that a really good gym is going to be coming to town, and then after everybody watches me knock that cat out Saturday, it will be a nice thing to look at.”

Riggs has seen it all and done it all in the combat sports world. He’s a veteran of more than 100 MMA fights, and has branched out into boxing – both gloved and bare knuckle. In 70 professional fights, Riggs has a record of 49 wins, 18 losses, one draw and one no-contest.

“I would describe my career like a roller coaster, like this sport is euphoric, the highs are the highest you can imagine and the lows are low,” he laughed. “During the highs everyone is with you, the lows no one is with you. I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world.”

This weekend will be special to Riggs for another reason. It’s the first time his two children, Joey (11) and Jadin (9) will get to watch their dad fight.

“They’re going to walk out with me and have a cool experience,” Riggs said. “My family has always watched on TV and stuff, but since we’re going to be moving up here they want to see where we’re going to be living, so it’s going to be a real cool thing.”

Riggs, 36, said he probably has about five more fights left in him before he turns to coaching full time.

“I’ve had even a longer career because I turned pro when I was 16, but it’s starting to hurt when I get up,” Riggs admitted. “Since I left the UFC, I have only lost one time and that was by injury. So, it’s kind of hard to walk away when you just keep winning, so I feel like I’m hitting my stride mentally but not really physically.”

“Not too many fighters in this world that have accomplished what I have,” he continued. “Montana doesn’t have another Hall of Fame like me. I’m a better coach than I am a fighter, so once I do open the gym I think it’s going to be one of the best gyms in the world.”

Fusion Fight League’s ICF 35 begins at 7 p.m. on Saturday at the Four Seasons Arena in Great Falls. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased at Alias Smith and Jones Pawn or at this link.

Tom Wylie

Tom Wylie

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