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Former NFL defensive end Warren Sapp has lost none of his appetite for a fight

'Motor mouth' made his living feeding on the frailties of his opponents and he's lost none of this in the commentary box

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 09 March, 2014, 1:18am
UPDATED : Sunday, 09 March, 2014, 1:18am

In 13 years as an NFL defensive tackle, Warren Sapp never really took a backwards step - and retirement hasn't seen him lose the habit.

The Hall of Famer lit up the highlight reels while playing for both the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and, as his career wound down, the Oakland Raiders, and his bone-crunching hits must still haunt the dreams of some of the best quarterbacks to have yet played the game.

But, as fast as Sapp's feet would move him in for the kill, it oftentimes seemed his lips still somehow managed to move at a faster rate and that's the skill he's been able to carry on with him into retirement as he has moved into the NFL commentary booth.

I'm a 300-pound foodie ... keep me away from tourist spots and just throw me right in ... I'll eat anything
Warren Sapp

The 41-year-old loves to talk, almost - he offers - as much as he loves to eat and when he sits down for a chat deep in the bowels of the Venetian Macao he rapidly fires off a few requests, both for advice on where to eat in the city, and what dishes he should indulge in.

"Sleeping and eating - that's what I love to do," says Sapp.

"I'm a 300-pound foodie. When I travel I say keep me away from tourist spots and just throw me right into the heart of where people eat. Anything. I'll eat anything."

Incredibly, considering all those hits over all those years, Sapp says he came out of the NFL with hardly a scar.

"After 13 years, everything is still good," he reveals. "I never had a concussion. I mean, I was out there hitting the quarterback. I never wanted to hit the running backs or those fullbacks. Most linebackers want to hit everything moving. Me? Nah, I don't want to hit the running back. He wants to fight. I want to hit the quarterback - that's dessert. He'll go right down. I realised that after the third or fourth year. The quarterback's the prize."

But just who Sapp considered the biggest prize is something he won't reveal, only saying he enjoyed the jousts he had with the Green Bay Packers' Brett Favre - both physically and verbally.

"But they caught on that I played better when I talked so then everyone ignored me," he says. "I didn't care who really because they all taste like chicken to me."

Sapp's involvement with NFL broadcasts means he has been close at hand for the two most recent headlining stories - the Richie Incognito bullying scandal and Missouri defensive end Michael Sam's pre-draft decision to declare his sexuality. The first, he claims, should be regarded in isolation "In every office building there's one, right?" he says of Incognito. "And that's our one. It was done to the one person who had been a victim right back to high school. It's a one-off."

And he is similarly dismissive of any noise being made about Sam's decision to come out, and on how it might affect his future relationships within NFL locker rooms. "Who cares?" says Sapp. "Can you play? Can you put your hand in the dirt and get that quarterback? That's all I want to know. After we've finished? Go enjoy yourself. It's a wide-open world out there. There's somebody for everybody so go enjoy yourself.

"Of course, there were gay players when I was playing. But they weren't going to tell you. But you know, it's like life.

"If you walk into an office building you'll run into different characters. In a locker room there's 53 of the world's finest athletes. You want to tell me none [are gay]? Impossible."

Tonight the big man is having his post-footballing appetite for action whetted by the monsters of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, who on the card here include among their number one-time NFL defensive tackle Matt Mitrione, who - as we will soon see - is pretty handy when it comes to the biff as he sends one-time Louisiana State University fullback Shawn Jordan down and out in the first round.

Sapp says he's never been tempted to find another sport to play, post-retirement, but now finds the UFC an addiction.

"I'm not a warrior. I had to have a helmet on and some pads to be brave. Then I'm ready to go," he says. "But this? This is a fight from the word go.

"The referee is only in there to count you out or to stop the other guy from beating the hell out of you. He's not in there to break you up, or give you a warning. This is a fight and I love a fight. I can't stand boxing. Boxing lost its allure a long time ago. I still can't understand why they get mad at each other. But this? This is skill. Grappling, submission holds, knees, elbows, everything."

What also has Sapp buzzing is the state of the modern NFL and before heading to Macau he was on hand at the league combine when 252-pound Auburn running back Tre Mason posted a 4.5-second dash over the 40 yards. "Just when you think you've seen it all, here comes the next season or bowl or the next player," he says. "I'd never seen anything move before like that in my life. My god. And I'm from Florida and we're Florida fast. We had the fastest man in the combine in Chris Johnson. Florida fast! But this kid was something else. And that's what you have to love about the game - it's crazy."



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