Carter Williams says it’s time for some new blood in K-1 USA. And he thinks he’s just the guy to add a much-needed transfusion to a

New Fighting Sport badly in need of fresh faces.

One of eight quarterfinalists battling for the fifth K-1 USA title May 2 at The Mirage in Las Vegas, Williams maintains there’s nothing wrong with the competition a new, younger champion wouldn’t cure. You see the same fighters, the same techniques, the same moves every year, complains Williams, a 23-year-old fighting out of Gene Fields’ AAA Kickboxing Academy in Modesto, Calif. It’s time for a change, it’s for something different. Trouble is, until someone can beat the same old fighters using the same old techniques, nothing will change.

Among this year’s crop of hopefuls are a couple of top-drawer veterans refusing to bow to the pressures of Father Time. Former champion Rick The Jet Roufus, who won the inaugural K-1 USA in 1998, is coming off a career-threatening knee injury sustained last year, while venerable Michael McDonald will begin defense of his K-1 USA and Grand Prix

Eliminations titles.

Roufus’ appearance is by far the most surprising. Following his K-1 USA Championship loss to McDonald last year, Roufus had major surgery on his left knee to repair several torn ligaments. Observers believed it would take the fighter a minimum of a year to gain full use of his knee.

No one ever dared suggest he’d fight again.

But fight he will. And along with McDonald, a 38-year-old battler just now hitting his prime, the pair provides a formidable roadblock for any upstart hoping for a legitimate shot at a K-1 USA crown.

Say all you want about their age or diminishing skills, but Roufus and McDonald keep showing up in the championship bout because the young guns don’t have the complete game to compete on the K-1 USA level. Some may have the punch, but they don’t have the leg kicks. Some may have the size, but they don’t have the speed. Some may have all the physical tools, but they don’t have mental capacity to pace themselves through three often-grueling fights.

Williams, nicknamed The Beast, discovered just how tough K-1 can be on a fighter’s psyche when he lost to Andre Walker in an undercard bout last August. Although Williams came out of the shoot with a vengeance, dominating Walker in the opening round, he quickly ran out of the gas in the ensuing three minutes and eventually lost the bout. This was after scoring as second-round TKO of Manuel Que-sada in a heavyweight prelim last May.

The stunning setback against Walker knocked the confident Williams for a loop. He won the battle but lost the war. He left it all on the canvas two rounds too early. It’s a fact of life many K-1 fighters learn the hard way.

Witness the rise of McDonald. By the time he met Maurice Smith in the championship bout two years ago, he barely had enough energy to throw a punch or launch a kick. When the fight went to an extra round, he did all

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