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
Douglas Lima found out about change to co-main event at Bellator 192 from the internet
Bellator 192 fight card has gone through a shake-up over the past week. Bellator president Scott Coker revealed last week that the scheduled welterweight title fight between Rory MacDonald and champion Douglas Lima will now be serving as the co-main event and the heavyweight matchup between Chael Sonnen and Rampage Jackson would instead take top billing. At the time no explanation was made for the change. Monday Douglas Lima was a guest on The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani to discuss this change.
“I was little bummed, but it is what it is, it’s business you know. I was pretty excited you know? Being the main event, having Rampage fight as the co-main event, I was happy there. Then I was bummed out that they changed it back to the co-main event. It’s not going to change a thing for me, I’m just focusing on the fight.”
Lima has been notoriously looked over in the eyes of fight fans. A longtime member of Bellator and a two-time champion has not gotten the notice he deserves and hopes to get.
“I found out through the internet, nobody tells me anything, I didn’t know. the same thing happened in New York, I thought my fight would be before the two main events there, but it ended up being the first fight of the night on Pay-Per-View. Hopefully, it doesn’t take anything away from the fight, you know spotlight and stuff.”
Lima is looking to make all the naysayers take notice at Bellator 192 that takes place at The Forum in Inglewood, Califonia on January 20th.
“This is the fight I’ve been waiting for for a long time. To get my name out there, to get people to know who I am. I’ve been delivering a lot of good fights, fights fans like to watch but no attention yet. I’m hoping though that after a win over Rory this week it will really put my name out there and show all these welterweights out there that I am for real.”
Refereeing’s Loss is Bellator’s Gain
When former Bellator color commentator Jimmy Smith left the organization last week, not many expected MMA veteran referee, John McCarthy, to be his replacement. There is little doubt that McCarthy will make an excellent color analyst. However, it’s hard not to be disappointed that the sport is losing one of the best and most experienced referees.
McCarthy has been part of the fabric of MMA and the UFC in particular, since 1993. He was hugely influential in creating and enforcing the rules of the cage that have changed MMA into the respected sport it is today. Back in early to mid-nineties, the ‘sport’ was fairly labeled by some critics as ‘human cockfighting’. Without McCarthy as an instrumental player in changing regulations and rules, who knows where the MMA would be today.
What we have grown to appreciate most about McCarthy over the past two decades is how simple he makes this tough job look, which can be credited to years of experience and dedication. To the layman, it would appear that it’s a simple as stopping the fight when a fighter is knocked out or submitted. MMA fans know there’s a lot more to it than that.
It’s difficult to remember a moment in recent memory where McCarthy has let a fight go too long, or even stopped a fight too soon. His timing is almost always perfect. His composure and rationale in the cage are unmatched. When McCarthy is the third man in the Octagon we know the fighters are in safe hands.
It’s worth reiterating how important McCarthy is in maintaining the standard of referring and judging in the sport. The sport of MMA is still very young and is growing rapidly and so are the rules. The former LAPD police officer created his own training school known as C.O.M.M.A.N.D. The course teaches the next generation of MMA referees and judges, and there is no better person to be educated by. Referees must complete this or a similar course run by Herb Dean to be licensed as an official.
Former fighter Frank Trigg, who has pursued refereeing since his career wound down, has taken the course. He recently appeared on The MMA Hour to explain just how tough C.O.M.M.A.N.D is. It took Trigg three attempts to pass, emphasizing just how difficult a career path officiating is.
While ‘Big John’ as he is more affectionately known hasn’t completely left refereeing, he will likely no longer be seen in the cage at the biggest shows. The pool of referees trusted with the big title fights is rather small. Normally McCarthy and Herb Dean are tasked with the important title fights.
It’s not all bad that McCarthy is stepping aside for the time being. The likes of Mark Smith, Jason Herzog, and Chris Tognoni have all shown they are capable officials. There is now a great opportunity for them to move into the main event slots. There are also the likes of Yves Lavigne, Mike Beltran and Marc Goddard who can be trusted to referee the big fights.
While it is surprising, it’s understandable that McCarthy is looking for new career ventures. It is no secret that MMA referees are poorly paid relative to other sporting officials. Las Vegas often discloses referee pay when assignments are announced. The pay tends to range between $1000 and $2000 for the night. Trigg explained on The MMA hour that there is no money in becoming a referee and that most also have full-time jobs. McCarthy’s passion for the sport of MMA has been the biggest incentive for refereeing. It is totally understandable that he would take a bigger payday and put all his knowledge of the sport to good use in the commentary booth.
McCarthy will almost certainly be as dedicated to his new job as he was with his refereeing duties. He can also offer a fascinating insight into the officiating of a fight that nobody else can offer. If there wasn’t already an excuse to watch Bellator 192 on January 20th, headlined by Rory MacDonald vs Douglas Lima, then there most definitely is now.
Chael Sonnen vs. Rampage Jackson the new main event at Bellator 192
Bellator is getting ready to kick off their heavyweight grand prix at Bellator 192 on January 20th. The grand prix gets started with two former UFC greats who have now set their sights on Bellator gold, Chael Sonnen and Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson. Today it was announced that this heavyweight matchup of two ordinarily light heavyweights will be getting the bump up to the main event. The reason for the change has not been announced.
Can confirm via @BellatorMMA President Scott Coker, the main event of #Bellator192 will be Chael Sonnen vs Rampage Jackson with Douglas Lima vs Rory MacDonald WW Title Fight as the co-headliner. #MMA @sonnench
— Steven Muehlhausen (@SMuehlhausenMMA) January 12, 2018
The main event was scheduled to be the much anticipated welterweight matchup between champion Douglas Lima and former UFC title challenger Rory MacDonald. Bellator has been promoting this event as such the welterweight title fight would get top billing. Earlier this week the fighters involved in the main and co-main event were part of a conference call. At the time there was no mention of the switch to the lineup.
This fight between Sonnen and Jackson is just the first in a series of heavyweight fights leading up to the crowning of the Bellator heavyweight championship in December. There has been great interest shown in this heavyweight grand prix between fans and media, which could attribute to the last minute change.
Lima vs. MacDonald will now serve as the co-main event on January 20th. Lima, who has been with Bellator since 2011 has been accused of being overlooked by the organization. He has held the welterweight title since November 2016 and perhaps has not gotten the showcases he deserves. This event will take place at The Forum in Inglewood, California.
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