Later this evening on MTV2 eight lightweights will take to the Bellator cage and battle it out in hopes of moving on to the next round in the company’s Season 4 tournament. And, while the men competing at Bellator 36 in hopes of moving one step closer towards their goal of eventually procuring promotional gold and a $100,000 paycheck couldn’t be more different from a stylistic standpoint, it seems there is at least one characteristic the lot shares – confidence.
The field of 155-pounders recently spoke to media (minus last-second replacement Josh Shockley) about their expectations for the event with all looking forward to the challenge at hand with a firm belief their opponent’s dream of facing champion Eddie Alvarez at the end of the season will be short-lived.
“I think everyone says they’re going to stand and strike with me, but then when it comes down to it, they’re going to try to take me down,” explained former WEC title-holder Rob McCullough. “I don’t expect Patricky Freire to be any different, so it’s all good. I hope he tries to stand with me. That would be awesome, but it doesn’t matter to me. Anywhere this fight goes, I plan on finishing it.”
“I have a whole new focus in life,” McCullough continued. “My mind is right, my training is on point, my timing is there, my conditioning is there – I’m ready to do this. I have a family to provide for, so this is serious business. This fight is kill or be killed in my mind. I plan on getting in that cage and leaving my mark. This is a tournament fight, and I’m not planning on it going three rounds. I plan on putting a stamp on this puppy. I’m pacing back and forth just thinking about it. I’m ready to get to work.”
As you might expect, Friere has a different viewpoint on the matter, expressing excitement about the opportunity to face a former world champ and making it clear people shouldn’t discount his own abilities simply because he hasn’t had “Razor” Rob’s exposure thus far in his career.
“I’m coming into this fight knowing that the odds are on his side. He is favored, and I am the underdog. Rob is strong and a great striker, but I think fans are going to be in for quite a surprise,” the brother of Bellator featherweight Patricio Freire began. “I know (McCullough) is a former Muay Thai Champion, and I’m prepared to stand and trade strikes with him. I’m prepared for any situation.”
Perhaps the most self-assured in the field was Michael Chandler who feels he is the favorite to win the tournament. The undefeated prospect made his position clear, stating, “If I decide to take the fight to the ground, that’s where I’m going to take it. But at the same time, I will have the option to keep the fight standing, because I truly feel like I’m better than Marcin Held in all aspects of the sport.”
“I’m coming out in this fight with Held to send a direct message to anyone else I might be fighting in the future,” he continued. “I’m planning on going out there and putting on a completely dominant performance in front of hundreds of thousands of fans on MTV2. People are going to know that I’m the real deal.”
Nineteen-year old sensation Held isn’t so sure with the 10-1 Polish fighter paying respect to all eight of the evening’s competitors. “I know that Chandler is very good fighter, but in this tournament there are no weak fighters. I am happy that I have the opportunity to fight against a fighter like Chandler. I want to put on a good fight. I’m going to go out there and do my very best, and if I win, then for sure people will keep an eye on me.”
Bellator veteran Carey Vanier, like Held, is also facing an undefeated fighter in his Bellator 36 match-up and feels poised to end to perfection based on a well-rounded approach and the level of training he’s endured.
“I don’t think that Lloyd Woodard has ever fought anyone like me. I feel like I’m a tougher fighter than the guys he’s come across in the past. I think I’m going to show him something that he hasn’t seen before,” said Vanier. “(He) isn’t going to be able to show me anything that I haven’t seen before. Training down at Greg Jackson‘s, I’ve been blessed to be able to see it all. From Jon Jones to Donald Cerrone, it still amazes me that I get to spar with some of these guys and see all of these different things.”
Woodward didn’t appear to be phased by Vanier’s assertions, even agreeing with aspects of his adversary’s assessment.
“I know (he) is a talented fighter with strong wrestling and really good takedowns. I’m training to fight the best (Vanier) ever right now. I know he’s been training down at Greg Jackson’s, so I’m sure he’s been working on the mistakes I’ve noticed from his last couple fights. I’m also pretty confident that he’s going to be showing up in shape, so I’m ready for the best he has to offer. I really want this fight to be a battle.”
“I just like being in really exciting fights,” he elaborated on his desire to get down. “I honestly wouldn’t mind if this fight with Carey turned into a war. I’m actually hoping that it does. My coach hates it. I go in there wanting to be really technical, but once that adrenaline starts going I just can’t help myself. I fight better when I get rocked. It makes me step my game up that much more.”
Unfortunately, while most of former Bellator finalist Toby Imada’s responses were restricted to original opponent Ferrid Kheder, who refused to step on the scale at weigh-ins based on a gross inability to hit the right mark, his desire to sidestep scorecards still rings true towards Kheder’s replacement (Shockley).
“I’m definitely hoping that it doesn’t go the distance. My goal is to make sure that it doesn’t especially after the way the decision went in my fight with Pat Curran. I never want to leave my fate in the judges’ hands again.
Fans can tune in to see how things unfold live on MTV2 starting at 9:00 PM EST and also follow results here, including preliminary outcomes, on Five Ounces of Pain starting about an hour earlier.