Soon after Healy defeated Beerbohm, Zuffa swooped in and purchased the company, establishing themselves as the only important brand in big-name mixed martial arts. The sale meant plenty to Healy, who says he had plenty of troubles with the guys who ran the old company.
“Oh man, I feel weird even calling it Strikeforce anymore. It’s completely different. You could never get a clear answer from anybody. Who was the matchmaker? Who had power? Who was calling the shots? You never knew who to talk to. It was so disorganized. You wouldn’t fight for six months, and then they would tell you three weeks out that you had a fight. I have contacts for everybody now. They gave me a sheet where I can look up anybody I want to talk to. We’ve had constant contact with Sean Shelby. He let me know at the fighter summit that I would either be fighting July 30 or August 12. He kept us updated from there on out. It doesn’t even feel like the same company.”
The sale also gave Healy access to a health insurance plan announced by the company a few months ago. It was a landmark event, the first time a major MMA promotion has provided injury and accident coverage for the fighters on its roster. It gave Healy peace of mind, but it was far more important to a close family member.
“It means a ton to me, but I think it means even more to my mother. That’s one of the things she’s all about, that I needed health insurance. What would happen if I had a serious injury? It’s such peace of mind. You do see guys dropping out of fights right now, but it’s a lot better than a guy having to take a fight while injured because he can’t afford to pay for whatever work he needs done and then pretend that the injury happened during the fight. We can all sleep easy at night and really focus on our training and not have that in the back of our minds.”
Fighter injuries have come sharply into focus over the past two weeks, ever since Healy’s teammate Dan Henderson beat Fedor Emelianenko. Referee Herb Dean has been under fire from a hardcore minority who believes that he stopped the fight too early, that he didn’t give the legend enough respect or time to recover from a vicious Henderson uppercut.
“I would have liked to see it go on a little bit longer, but I think Fedor was in serious trouble. And Dan is a great finisher. I don’t think the fight would have gone on much longer, but he did kind of have Dan on the skids right before that, so I wish they would have let one or two more punches come down. It would have put everybody’s mind at ease and let him go completely out.”
It’s hard for an average citizen to understand the inner workings of a fighter’s mind. It takes an extraordinary amount of courage to even undertake the rigors and pains of a training camp, much less stepping in the cage for a fight. But Healy says he’d rather take a few needless punches than see controversy envelop the finish of a fight.
“That’s our sport. We don’t have standing eight counts. It’s not like the fight is stopped when it hits the ground. You have to be willing to take those extra shots. We’ve seen some incredible things. Look at Pat Barry and Cheick Kongo, or Frankie Edgar against Gray Maynard. I never would have thought Edgar could have come back into that fight after the first round. You have to be willing to take those extra shots. If you wind up completely unconscious, that’s just the way it is.”
Healy faces Eric Wisely at Strikeforce Challengers 18 on Friday night in Las Vegas. Wisely owns victories over Matt Veach and Hermes Franca, but the entirety of his career has been spent fighting on the indie circuit. In the old days, this would be a problem for an opponent attempting to scout him, but the modern internet has made Healy’s job much easier.
“He has a ton of footage on YouTube after fighting on those smaller shows for a long time. I feel like I really know him well and know his style. He tends to be well-rounded but not glaringly good in any one area. It’s a good style matchup for me because he has some holes that I’m going to be able to exploit and really take it to him on Friday.”
Healy hopes a win will catapult him back into the lightweight limelight. He’s already made one UFC appearance and believes he has what it takes to compete with the best in his division, but he realizes that he can’t just beat Wisely by decision. He must dominate the fight and believes that doing so could give him a chance to finally earn a firm position in the promotion that he used to watch on VHS, back in the neighborhood in Salem.
“I need to prove myself again with the new company and Zuffa. I feel like it’s a fresh start. Once I rattle off some wins, I’m really going to be able to jump right to the top at 155,” Healy says.
“I’d really like to break into that top ten and show people how legit I am.”