For many years now bantamweight fighters have performed under the shroud of almost total anonymity. Unless you were a hardcore fan who followed smaller Japanese promotions such as DEEP and Shooto, chances are that you didn’t really care about the 135 lbs. division in MMA.
But times care changing, thanks in large part to World Extreme Cagefighting, which has helped expose many U.S. fans to the tremendous talent that exists in the smaller weight classes. And thanks in large part to the exploits of WEC bantamweight king Miguel Torres, the interest in the 135 lbs. division in this country has never been greater.
Torres currently sits at the top of what many consider to be a deep and healthy bantamweight division in the WEC which has experienced improved depth recently with the return of Rani Yayha as well as former WEC featherweight title challenger Jeff Curran’s decision to move down in weight.
The depth in the division has also increased thanks in large part to the development of 6-0 bantamweight prospect Brian Bowles, who improved his record in the WEC to 3-0 following an impressive first round submission over Damacio Page at WEC 35 earlier this month.
The fight, which was televised on VERSUS on a tape delay basis, was Bowles’ highest-profile victory to date and it served as a strong indication that it’s only a matter of time before he’s granted a shot at the WEC bantamweight title currently held by Torres.
In an attempt to learn more about the 28-year old up-and-comer, FiveOuncesOfPain.com recently caught up with Bowles for an exclusive one-on-one interview in which he discussed his possible return to the cage; his thoughts on Curran moving down to 135 lbs. and whether he’d welcome a match with him; how far he feels he is from a title shot; and more!
Sam Caplan: I first wanted to ask about how you first got started in MMA and how you were discovered by the WEC?
Brian Bowles: I got started when one of my friends found the Hardcore Gym and started training there. He told me about it and said he was having fun doing it and that I should come and join. I joined it and I loved it. Rory (Singer) had some connections from when he was on the reality show (second season of “The Ultimate Fighter) and just called the WEC and asked them to give me a chance and they gave me a chance. So far, it’s working out.
Sam Caplan: You’re training out of the Hardcore Gym in Atlanta with Adam and Rory Singer, which is where Forrest Griffin used to train. In addition to the Singers, who else do you work with at the gym?
Brian Bowles: At my gym, I train a lot with Stephen Ledbetter. He fought Jeff Curran. I (also) train with Jeff Bedard, Rafael Assuncao, Chad Shafer, Yayo, Junior (Assuncao) — just a lot of guys who aren’t members of the Hardcore Gym but we still get together at different gyms and train together.
Sam Caplan: It’s interesting that you bring up Ledbetter and the fact that he fought Curran. Curran recently announced he’s dropping from featherweight to bantamweight. What are you thoughts on that?
Brian Bowles: It doesn’t really matter to me either way. He’s a great fighter and I welcome the challenge. Whoever, whenever. I don’t really care.
Sam Caplan: You’re undefeated in the WEC at this point. Do you feel like you’ve been challenged?
Brian Bowles: I feel like all of my fights have been challenges. They have all been good opponents. Some of them I’ve just been lucky enough to catch and get the victory.
Sam Caplan: You were able to finish Damacio Page at just 3:30 of round 1 during WEC 35 earlier this month. Myself and a lot of people expected the fight to be a back-and-forth battle but you ended it quick. Were even you surprised how soon it ended?
Brian Bowles: Yeah, I really thought the fight was going to be able to get out of the first round. I felt it was going to be back-and-forth but you make one mistake and you give someone your neck and I’ll level it and it will all be over.
Sam Caplan: WEC bantamweight champion Miguel Torres says he’ll next be defending his title in Dec. Have you gotten any indication as to whether you’re under consideration for the title shot?
Brian Bowles: At first I was told that I was going to be fighting in February and here recently I was told December. They’re saying it’s not going to be Miguel and that they want me to get another victory and then possibly fight Miguel after that.
Sam Caplan: Do you think a fight against Curran is a possibility?
Brian Bowles: It’s a possibility but I have no idea who they’ve even offered. As far as I know I haven’t heard anything yet.
Sam Caplan: Who are some other fighters at 135 that you have a strong interest in fighting?
Brian Bowles: I don’t really care who I fight but I think it’s probably going to be Will Ribeiro; he’s the one who beat Chase Beebe (at WEC 34 on June 1). I’m thinking that’s who is going to be my next opponent. But I don’t really care who it is.
Sam Caplan: Who do you consider to be the top five fighters at 135 lbs. in the WEC?
Brian Bowles: Obviously, Miguel Torres. I think I am. Rani Yayha is one. Dominic Cruz is one. And Will Ribeiro. That would be my top five.
Sam Caplan: Is there anything you’d like to add in closing?
Brian Bowles: I’d like to thank a few sponsors, if possible. I’d like to thank Red Carpet VIP, Paramount Supplements, Skin Industries, H-Side MMA, Party Cove USA, and Mamouth Industries. And I’d like to thank Paul Creighton for helping me with my grappling and the guillotine that I got the win with.