For ayone unfamiliar with Cyrille, he always puts on a great show and is a pleasure to watch. I enjoy seeing tall fighters take advantage of their extra reach with crisp and polished striking, and Diabate has a pterodactyle-like wingspan at 6'6", and puts those extra inches to good use. Unless someone can point out a taller fighter of relevance at 205 pounds, Cyrille very well may be the tallest light-heavyweight around.
Although it's still far ahead on the horizon, UFC 114 on May 29th is taking shape quite nicely. Also expected for the show is the highly anticipated pairing of Rampage vs. Rashad as the headliner, with Forrest vs. Lil' Nog, Diego Sanchez vs. John Hathaway, the return of Todd Duffee, and Diabate-Cane rounding out the card.
I've also embedded a highlight reel of Cyrille Diabate at the end of the article. Thanks to Ken Pavia and Julian Gregorio of www.MMAagents.com for their help with the interview.
DW: You're a tall guy, standing 6'6". I've been trying to think of another 205'er with comparable height, and I'm not coming up with anyone. Even when Overeem shrunk down from heavyweight, you still had an inch on him. Have you ever encountered anyone else at your weight who was taller than you, or does this mean you might officially be the tallest light-heavyweight in the business?
CD: "I really dont know! I'm sure there are guys my height out there. Even some guys in the smaller divisions are nearly my height! But in MMA I've never fought someone 6'6". In muay thai or kickboxing, a few times."
DW: You usually have an enormous advantage in both height and reach over your opponents. I would be very interested to hear you explain, in a technical sense, how you feel this advantage helps you in your striking, clinch, and on the ground--and then also what you think are the biggest disadvantages (if any) in the same three scenarios?
CD: "The reach advantage I have in the striking department has always helped. Having said this, there are a lot of tall, lanky guys out there that don't use this advantage enough.
Throughout my Muay Thai career, a lot of opponents tried using different techniques or footwork to close the range instead of staying on the outside and being picked apart. So I developed my elbows, straight knees, and knees from the clinch to be effective in close range fighting.
There are various styles of the Thai clinch... one of them is really effective for tall guys that use it on smaller guys. On the ground, I would say that its 50/50... some techniques favor the tall guys, others the smaller guys."
DW: Alright, on to your UFC debut on May 29 versus 10-2 Luis "Banha" Cane, who suffered his first "real" loss (the other was a DQ versus James Irvin) in his last fight. Without giving too much away strategy-wise, tell me, of what you've seen so far, where do you see him as a threat, and what do you think you might be able to exploit with your offense?
CD: "First, I like his style. His stand up technique is way above average for MMA and apparently he's a black belt as well. He's an aggressive fighter that looks for the kill all the time. I like that. I do well against those fighters.
I think the fight is going to start as a Muay Thai match and he'll soon start trying to take me down like in my fight with Shogun. I'll be working a lot on my striking, my wrestling and getting back up. I want to win both fight of the night and KO of the night bonuses!!! Do one fight and win a lot of money! (laughs)
'Banha' is the kind of fighter that makes you push your limits. I like that."
DW: With four UFC fights under his belt, and twelve total in his career, Cane is a relative newcomer to the spotlight. Although this is your first fight in the octagon, you've been competing in kickboxing and against solid MMA competition for a long time--well over a decade. How many years have you spent training in both kickboxing and MMA, and do you feel your experience will be a factor against Cane, and help you avoid the dreaded "octagon jitters"?
CD: "You know, when I fought my fight in Pride in front of 48 000 people for the Open-Weight Gran Prix against Shogun with 2 weeks notice, some people thought I might get nervous going in. In fact, I was thrilled and excited to be there. I hope this time it will be the same.
I have been fighting for nearly 20 years and no matter the number of people in attendance it doesn't change much. The only thing that matters is that generally the bigger the show, the better the opponent."
DW: Give me your overview on what you hope to accomplish with this amazing opportunity of fighting in the UFC, and any other closing comments or messages to the fans you might have.
CD: "First, I would like to perform like I know I can. The result of the fight will depend on how well I'm able to fight to my fullest potential, not how good my opponent is.
If I fight at 100%, the Brazilian will be knocked out or submitted. If not....it's gonna be a tough fight. Either way I think I'm an entertaining fighter to watch, so as long as the fans are happy.
Thanks for the support."