With the third season of Bellator Fighting Championships fast approaching, the organization is scrambling to prepare for another twelve-week marathon. The fighters are in their training camps, preparing for their opponents. Everyone is working hard toward what will, if the recently concluded second season is any indication, end up being one of the most wildly entertaining rides in the world of mixed martial arts.
Nick “Garfield” Mamalis, surprise entrant to the Bellator Season 3 Bantamweight Tournament, has without a doubt worked harder than any other competitor to earn his spot. He fought Mark Oshiro, a previously confirmed part of the tournament and heavy favorite, and finished him via submission in the second round. That earned Mamalis a tournament qualifier bout with Albert Rios four weeks later at Bellator 23— and once again the underdog, he finished Rios with strikes in the very first round.
So now Mamalis is in. He was kind enough to take some time out of his busy schedule to talk to us about what earning his way into the Bellator tournament means to him, how he prepares for his fights, and how he never stresses over the things he doesn’t control—including who he fights. Read the full interview below.
Evan Cassity for FiveOuncesofPain.com: You went in to your last two Bellator fights as the betting underdog, and both times you won convincingly. Do you expect the same thing to happen in the upcoming tournament, or do you think you command a bit more respect now that you’ve been on TV twice, dominating guys who were supposed to beat you?
Nick Mamalis: I have no control over any of that, and honestly I don’t get caught up in that one bit. That’s why we get in the ring, to figure that out. I said it before—in my eyes I’m never the underdog.
FiveOuncesofPain: Do you know yet when your first tournament fight will be? Or who you’ll be fighting? There have been reports that you’ll be fighting Zack Machovsky on September 2nd.
Nick Mamalis: I haven’t seen a bracket yet. Once again I’m not concerned with the things that are out of my control. As of right now I don’t know who or when I will be fighting. All I know is I’m in the tourney so I’m just going to stay in shape and be ready when I get the call.
FiveOuncesofPain: How do you usually train for your fights and has anything changed since you found out you’d be a part of the tournament?
Nick Mamalis: No, not really. I’m a college wrestling coach at Western Wyoming Community College so I spend a lot of time wrestling. I have been working my stand up and jiu-jitsu at Grudge training center in Denver. I have fought five championship rounds before but I’ve been really focusing on my cardio here in Wyoming utilizing our 6100 ft elevation.
FiveOuncesofPain: What does it mean for you and your career that you are now a part of the Bellator season 3 tournament?
Nick Mamalis: It means everything to me. I am very thankful for the opportunity Bellator has given me.
FiveOuncesofPain: How would winning the Bellator bantamweight championship change your training and your life?
Nick Mamalis: The chance to be a world champion is exactly why I do this. After winning the tournament my life won’t change much in my eyes. Except for the fact that I will be a married man. I’m getting married in November. But hopefully it will help me gain more sponsorship to continue to do what I love.
FiveOuncesofPain: You’ve said before it’s one of your goals to be WEC champ. Is that still true, or does Bellator offer a viable alternative?
Nick Mamalis: I have said that before, and I meant it, however I fight for Bellator now and I couldn’t be happier. My goal is to win this tournament and that is all that is on my mind.
FiveOuncesofPain: How has your overall experience with Bellator been so far?
Nick Mamalis: Fighting for Bellator has been a great experience. Their production is among the best in the business. They treat their fighters great and put on great shows every time.
FiveOuncesofPain: Two of your losses are to Raphael Assuncao and Tyler Toner, two guys who have gone on to be successful in the WEC. Do you chalk those losses up to being young and inexperienced?
Nick Mamalis: I chalk those up as losses. I still am young, and a little less inexperienced, however those fights were both on short notice. I fight whoever they put in front of me whenever they tell me and I see each fight as an opportunity, an opportunity to succeed.
FiveOuncesofPain: You have fought as a bantam and a featherweight. Which do you prefer?
Nick Mamalis: I prefer bantamweight for sure. I can actually make 125.
FiveOuncesofPain: What do you think of your competition in the tournament? Is there anyone you think you match up well against, or vice versa?
Nick Mamalis: I haven’t seen the bracket yet. I’m sure the competition is top notch. As for matchups I’m going to do what I do best regardless of who I’m fighting.
FiveOuncesofPain: According to your website, you fought 13 times in 2009. Does a schedule like that make Bellator’s tournament pace seem easy?
Nick Mamalis: I love to fight, that’s what I do. Honestly I would fight more than that if they would let me.
FiveOuncesofPain: Speaking of the record on your website, why the disparity between it and mainstream fight databases? I don’t doubt that you had those fights, and won them—there’s video to prove a few of them—but were they amateur bouts? You beat Brandon Visher in 2008 and some folks online are saying it was an amateur fight, two years after you went pro, which I doubt. Can you shed any light on that or is it just an incomplete fight record that other websites show?
Nick Mamalis: As you know I live in Wyoming where there isn’t a commission or governing body to sanction fights. I did beat Visher in a fight held in Rock Springs, Wyoming. Once again, I have no control over that.
FiveOuncesofPain: Do you work outside of MMA or do you train full time?
Nick Mamalis: I am the head assistant wrestling coach at Western Wyoming Community College. Luckily I have been able to train full time but it has been very hard making it work. Any sponsors out there?
FiveOuncesofPain: You’ve shown yourself to be a really complete fighter—good wrestling, dangerous submissions, and some really crisp standup in your last fight. Do you plan your style for your opponent or do you just go with what works in the cage?
Nick Mamalis: I do like to know what style of fighter I’m fighting but that doesn’t change my preparation. I am always gonna try and dictate where the fight goes. I am very comfortable taking what they give me too. My game plan is simple. I see every situation as an obstacle to overcome.
FiveOuncesofPain: Any people, sponsors you’d like to thank before you go?
Nick Mamalis: I would like to thank all of my family and fans. Relentless Fight Gear, they have been with me from the start. And 8 Ball Nutrition, and everyone who has been helping me train for fights. My cornerman Art, and the grudge training center.
FiveOuncesofPain: Thanks a ton for taking the time to answer all this! We all look forward to seeing you a lot in the next few months.
Nick Mamalis: I am thankful for the opportunity to answer your questions. Hopefully I can gain a few fans along the way. Don’t be a stranger.
Once again, we here at FiveOuncesofPain.com would like to thank Nick for taking the time to answer our questions. We wish him the best of luck in the upcoming tournament, and if his previous fights have been any indication, you don’t want to miss it when he competes—whenever that is, or whoever his opponent is.