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Darrion Caldwell talks to MMA Latest: ‘I would beat Eduardo Dantas senseless.’

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I spoke with undefeated Bellator bantamweight prospect Darrion Caldwell ahead of his upcoming bout with Joe Taimanglo at Bellator 159 on Friday July 22nd at the Kansas Star Arena. We spoke about Caldwell’s title aspirations, Eddie Alvarez flying the flag for Bellator and a potential “special” backflip this Friday night.


Jimmy Smith called you the best kept secret in Bellator. Does it feel like that secret is starting to get out after your last fight?

Darrion Caldwell: Yeah I think that people are starting to realise, after six fights under the Bellator banner now my performances speak for themselves you know?

I think everyone sees your upcoming bout as a number one contender fight, have you been given absolute confirmation of a title shot if you defeat Joe Taimanglo?

DC: Yes, I think that this fight is a tune-up fight. I want to clear out the division after I’ve won that belt and Joe’s in my way.

How would you see a bout between you and current bantamweight champion Eduardo Dantas going?

DC: I think I would beat Eduardo Dantas senseless, he doesn’t know how to deal with pressure. I’d go out there and beat him up, make him not want to fight a professional bout again.

The Bellator bantamweight title was held up for over a year due to injuries and fight withdrawals, how frustrating was that for you looking on as a top contender in the division?

DC: I think eventually I’ll get my hands on both of those guys [Eduardo Dantas and Marcos Galvão], my time will come I’m just being patient and trying to act professionally.

From Taimanglo to your last opponent Joe Warren, you’ve been facing veterans of the sport recently, those two have almost 50 fights between them and of course, Warren had an extensive wrestling background before that. Some fighters at 8-0 and 9-0 wouldn’t be requesting these matchups still relatively early in their career, are these tests that you wanted, that you specifically asked for?

DC: Yeah this is what I want, I don’t want to be beating up on guys that aren’t going to test me, you know? I want the best guys in the division, I want to fight the big fights and be under the big lights. I think the way Bellator have brought me up so far has been perfect. I’ll fight this fight on July 22nd, I’m not looking past Joe but I’m gonna beat him up, and then take my throne as the King of the Bellator bantamweight division.

Your last fight was a breakthrough performance. That suplex of an elite wrestler in Joe Warren will be on your highlight reel for the rest of your career. You outwrestled him start to finish, were you surprised at what you were able to do to a wrestler of Joe’s calibre in that fight?

DC: No I wasn’t surprised. I’m not trying to discredit Joe, he’s a world champ but had I stuck with wrestling who knows what I would have done in that sport? I beat three Olympians at my weight class, Frank Molinaro in 2006, Jared Frayer in 2008 and Brent Metcalf in 2012- I beat all of those guys head-to-head. That’s three Olympians I have head-to-head wins over in wrestling. I just felt like MMA was my calling. No disrespect to any wrestler out there who is trying to win a gold medal or be the best at their weight class but I think I just had a different calling. MMA was more for me, it has a lot more upside in terms of what I’m looking for in my life. I think we have some great wrestlers but if I decided to come back and wrestle I’d be the number one guy in the US.

How much confidence did it give you to finish a former champion inside the first round, and will that experience help in a future title shot?

DC: Every fight is different, Joe Taimanglo is not gonna fight like Joe Warren and Eduardo Dantas is not gonna fight like Joe Taimanglo. This fight may be harder than the title fight, you know? It might be a dogfight you never know. I do believe I’m progressing and getting better in every area, so I’ll be able to handle these fights as they come.

Former Bellator champ Eddie Alvarez became the UFC lightweight champion last week. Of course, it’s just one victory but do you feel that validates the quality at the top of the Bellator divisions?

DC: I do, I believe the UFC is known as the best organisation because they are doing a great job as an organisation but also because they’ve been around so long that they market their fighters well and people gravitate towards that. Every fighter wants to be in the UFC so unfortunately, that can be detrimental for us where you’ve got a guy who stands by something, like fighters’ rights, but then another guy who will sign something just because it’s the UFC, you know? They have a lot more depth but I don’t think their champs are necessarily the best in the world of any organisation. They’re guys like Michael Chandler, Andrey Koreshkov, myself who can beat the champs at our respective weight classes in the UFC.

How big of a factor was sponsorship opportunities in signing your recent 7 fight extension with Bellator?

DC: Every fighter needs to train, and train comfortably and Bad Boy help me out with a lot of that. Month by month just making it easier to focus on training and that’s the ultimate goal. When you’re a fighter you’re one of the best athletes in the world and you want to be able to train comfortably like these NFL players, we want to be able to train comfortably and for Bad Boy to get behind me, believe in me, and think I have what it takes, I’m very grateful for that.

You’ve gone between Power MMA in Arizona and Pinnacle MMA in South California in recent bouts, you’ve said before you’re a firm believer in having variety in your coaching, not staying in one spot, where did you prepare for this fight?

DC: I trained at Pinnacle MMA again, fortunately for me I have two gyms that are behind me whichever way I want to go, they know I’m just trying to make the best moves for my career and be strategic on who I’m fighting. Every fight can change but I feel like I get all-around training at Pinnacle and at Power, those are definitely the two camps that I roll with.

You seem to have been posting a lot of Instagram and twitter posts of you training your muay thai during this camp, do you anticipate this fight taking place in the stand-up realm or in the grappling realm you’ve been so dominant in thus far?

DC: I would love to showcase my stand-up. That’s something I’ve not yet been able to do, be able to damage someone on my feet. I know I’ve got it in me, it’s all about making it happen in the cage.

Is it sometimes hard when you’re so accomplished in one area, like wrestling, to really show your other abilities?

DC: Yeah, it’s like if it’s not broke don’t fix it. That’s how I feel until someone can stop my wrestling then why go somewhere else?

How do you see this fight finishing?

DC: I see it finishing in 3 minutes. This guy’s going to be asleep or tapping out in 3 minutes.

Finally, will we see any backflips after this fight?

DC: Yeah you’re gonna see a backflip, this backflip is going to be special because it’s the last backflip before my title-backflip so you’re definitely going to see me in the air, after I’ve put Joe in the air there’ll be backflips overhead.

Keep an eye out for that special backflip at Bellator 159 on Friday, July 22nd

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Saad Awad talks Zach Freeman, kickboxing, 165 lb division and more ahead of Bellator 186

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Long-time Bellator veteran Saad Awad takes on Zach “the Pico slayer” Freeman at Bellator 186. Awad is currently coming off of a unanimous decision win over Ryan Quinn back at Bellator 178. Awad looks to beat top prospect Freeman in an attempt to go on a two-fight winning streak, in a stacked lightweight division.

Speaking with MMA Latest, Awad let it known he believes Freeman has the better ground game. “I think he’s a solid fighter, pretty durable, obviously better on the ground, so I know I just have to be sharp, and be precise with my striking, and get ready for a good ground game.”

Freeman made his name by beating Bellator’s hyped prospect Aaron Pico back in June, Awad had the chance to give his thoughts on the fight. “I thought it was good, I thought it was a fast win, but he didn’t shy away from it, he didn’t let Pico come in and impose his will, he struck back when he needed to, and dropped him, and got a nice submission.”

With every win helping fighters get closer to a title shot, it’s unclear whether or not Awad is close to a title shot, but he hasn’t given up hope. “I’ve been with Bellator since 2012, I think, or 2013 and I haven’t got a title fight yet so I don’t know man. To be honest, it’s on Bellator and on me to go out there and preform. So I need to win as many fights as I can, so I can go out there and win it.”

For a long time, Awad has been known mostly as the man who knocked out former Bellator champion Will Brooks. Awad believes he’s moved past that fight and more importantly, has moved on from that title. “Definitely at the time I was that guy and I feel like Zach Freeman is that guy for Pico because Pico was pumped up, obviously more than normal. I had that title for a while, but Will Brooks did go off and win a title right after he lost to me, so he had his name buzzing for a while. I definitely think I’ve moved on from that and I’ve beaten some really good guys after that, and I’ve had some really good wars since that fight. I’ll never let one fight dictate who I am and I’m glad I’ve moved past that”

Awad comes into the fight back in the win column and up against an up and coming opponent, Awad details the amount of pressure he’s on. “You know what I always put pressure on myself. Whether I’m winning or losing, because at the end of the day you want to win, whether you’re coming off of a loss or you’re coming off a win. If you lose, you lose, and that’s it, you lost, so there’s always expectation with me and yeah if this time I lose, I could possibly get cut if I lose this one, because I just won my last one and I’m not trying to have a win one, lose, win one, lose one. So there’s still that pressure to perform, especially being that Zach has only one fight in Bellator and I’m probably ten fights in. So I do have some pressure behind me.”

Awad was unable to watch the Henderson-Pitbull fight, lucky, but he did have a theory on why it went the way it did. “You know what I didn’t even watch it, normally I watch all the lightweights but I missed that fight. I read it online, people were complaining saying they both weren’t doing as much, but I understand why Henderson probably wasn’t doing as much, because Patricky hits pretty hard and usually when someone hits pretty hard, you don’t want to go out there with that person and mix it up, because you don’t want to get knocked out. I don’t know if that’s exactly what happened, but I know it could’ve happened. So I take nothing from them because they’re both really good fighters and he won a split decsion so it was obviously close enough for them to go to a split decision.”

Awad also spoke about whether he preferred lightweight or welterweight, and why Bellator should consider a 165-pound weight class. “Honestly man I hate cutting weight. I hate cutting weight but I feel like I’m one of those guys that like if there’s a 165-pound weight class, that would fit me the best. I’m a huge lightweight but I’m a small welterweight, not small but I don’t cut that much weight like my normal walk around weight is probably 165 so you know I’m not the biggest welterweight so I prefer 165 if they added that weight class. If Bellator gets that weight I’d probably be one of the first in line to fight for it.”

With Bellator’s recent splurge on free agents and former UFC fighter’s, Awad believes it’s only helped make Bellator stronger. “I think its cool. No matter where they come from at the end of the day we’re fighters and whether we get cut or we opt to get out of our contracts, it’s because we want to make money, we want to get paid as much as we can, and sometimes we feel like we’re not respected and, were not getting paid what we think we’re worth. So sometimes you have to get out of a contract whether it’s with the UFC, ONE FC or Titan wherever the hell they’re at, or Bellator even. They leave because they want to get paid more. Even if they lost a couple fights, guys can have bad nights and they lose a couple and get cut. It doesn’t mean the guys suck. They could have had something going on or they just have bad match-ups and those guys could be still just as good and dangerous as they were when they first started. So I think nothing of them, I don’t look down on any of the fighters that come here, whether they were cut or opted to get out. At the end of the day, they’re still fighters so there’s respect for their abilities.”

Awad has also been training with Duane Ludwig ahead of this fight. “You know what Duane used to train with my coaches back in the day, I think back in ‘99, 2000 and so they have a really good relationship. He was out in Colorado and we had some teammates that would train with him. Now he’s back out here in Cali, so now we have some teammates going out and mixing it up with them. I’ve only met him once but the dude brings a different aspect to training and for me training with them I would definitely like to train with him more because, like I said, it opened up a whole new book in the chapter of training. I’ll definitely look forward to learning his style of standup because I think it would be good. I’m a big fan of Muay Thai, kickboxing, and boxing, and that’s how I’m going to end being the best I can possibly be, so I think that can add a lot to my arsenal.”

Speaking of kickboxing, Awad has also shown interest in participating on Bellator’s kickboxing cards. “You know what I did ask them, it kind of got shunned away because they’re keeping me busy with MMA. If they cant keep me busy next year I’ll definitely ask them to put me on one of those cards.”

Saad Awad takes on Zach Freeman on November 3rd, at Bellator 186. MMA Latest would like to thank Saad for taking time out of his busy schedule to speak with us.

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Watch: Bellator 185 Prelims

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Gegard Mousasi takes on Alexander Slemenko live this Friday night October 20th at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville CT. This is the first appearance for Mousasi in the Bellator cage as he looks to secure a title shot with a win over the very tough former Bellator champion Slemenko. Joining these men of the main card will be a pair of welterweights as Neiman Gracie from the famous Gracie BJJ family takes on Zak Bucia in the co-main event.

Complete Bellator 185: Mousasi vs. Shlemenko Fight Card:

Middleweight Main Event: Gegard Mousasi (42-6-2) vs. Alexander Shlemenko (56-9, 1 NC)

Welterweight Feature Bout: Neiman Gracie (6-0) vs. Zak Bucia (18-8)

Women’s Flyweight Feature Bout: Heather Hardy (1-0) vs. Kristina Williams (Debut)

Lightweight Feature Bout: Ryan Quinn (13-7) vs. Marcus Surin (4-0)

Women’s Flyweight Feature Bout: Ana Julaton (2-2) vs. Lisa Blaine (1-0)

Preliminary Card:

Catchweight Preliminary Bout: Jordan Young (6-0) vs. Alec Hooben (5-3)

Middleweight Preliminary Bout: Costello van Steenis (8-1) vs. Steve Skrzat (8-9)

Welterweight Preliminary Bout: Vinicius de Jesus (5-1) vs. Joaquin Buckley (7-1)

Lightweight Preliminary Bout: John Beneduce (2-1) vs. Dean Hancock (2-1)

Featherweight Preliminary Bout: Timothy Wheeler (1-4) vs. Pete Rogers (2-4)

150 lb. Catchweight Preliminary Bout: Don Shainis (3-1) vs. Matthew Denning (5-6)

150 lb. Catchweight Preliminary Bout: Frank Sforza (6-0) vs. Vovka Clay (3-2)

Lightweight Preliminary Bout: Kevin Carrier (Pro Debut) vs. Jose Antonio Perez (Pro Debut)

Flyweight Preliminary Bout: John Lopez

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*Watch* Bellator 185 Weigh in: Live Stream, Results

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Watch the live weigh-ins for Bellator 185 here.

Gegard Mousasi takes on Alexander Slemenko live this Friday night October 20th at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville CT. This is the first appearance for Mousasi in the Bellator cage as he looks to secure a title shot with a win over the very tough former Bellator champion Slemenko. Joining these men of the main card will be a pair of welterweights as Neiman Gracie from the famous Gracie BJJ family takes on Zak Bucia in the co-main event.

Full Weigh-in Results: (Updated in real time)

Main Card:

Gegard Mousasi (185) vs. Alexander Shlemenko (186)
Neiman Gracie (170.5) vs. Zak Bucia (170)
Heather Hardy (126) vs. Kristina Williams (126)
Ryan Quinn (155.5) vs. Marcus Surin (155)
Ana Julaton (125.5) vs. Lisa Blaine (122)

Preliminary Card:

Jordan Young (200) vs. Alec Hooben (194)
Costello van Steenis (185) vs. Steve Skrzat (186)
Vinicius de Jesus (170) vs. Joaquin Buckley (171)
John Beneduce (154.5) vs. Dean Hancock (155)
Timothy Wheeler (144) vs. Pete Rogers (144)
Don Shainis (150) vs. Matthew Denning (149)
Frank Sforza (149) vs. Vovka Clay (150)
Kevin Carrier (156) vs. Jose Antonio Perez (153)
John Lopez (126) vs. Billy Giovanella (125)

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