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Emmanuel Sanchez: ‘I didn’t get in this sport to be a millionaire; I did it for the love of the sport.’

Vinny Craig

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What is the most stacked division in Bellator right now? If your answer is anything other than Featherweight, then please find me and let’s talk about this. With guys like champion Daniel Straus, Patricio Freire, Pat Curran, and Daniel Weichel, the division is long on talent and continues to be one of the most exciting divisions in any MMA organization.

One of their biggest rising stars is Roufus Sport product Emmanuel Sanchez. While Bellator has yet to crack the Mexican scene, the first call they will make would be to Sanchez. A winner of three straight and 5-1 in Bellator, he’s a fast rising star in this super stacked division. ‘El Matador’ will open up the main card of Bellator 159 this Friday, July 22, against former title challenger Daniel Weichel. I spoke with Sanchez on his fight, Bellator going to Mexico, and CM Punk’s training.

 

Vinny Craig: I spoke to Lightweight Patricky ‘Pitbull’ Freire a few weeks ago and asked him about Bellator reaching Brazil. They have also yet to enter Mexico, when does Bellator hit Mexico.

Emmanuel Sanchez: I don’t know, but when they do, man, do I really want to be on that card!

VC: What fight would be ideal for a card like that?

ES: They could be put me against a fellow Mexican fighter, a Brazilian fighter, whoever Bellator deems worthy. Ideally, I go out and win the belt and defend it Mexico.

VC: When the UFC went to Mexico City, proven cardio ready guys like Cain Velasquez and Gilbert Melendez seemed to have issues in the high altitude. How do you make the changes if you get onto a Mexico City card?

ES: I’d go down and train there! Just to get acclimated and do what I need to do.

VC: You train with a great team with guys like the Pettis brothers, Ben Askren, and Tyron Woodley when he comes by. What are the advantages you have training with such a diverse group and with such a great coach in Duke Roufus?

ES: It’s such a huge advantage. I know it’s a fight and so many people bring different things to the table, but I have absolutely no fear of anyone’s game. I have the best jiu-jitsu guys, the best wrestling guys, the best guys for striking in MMA. I’m ready for anybody, anywhere, anytime! When I enter the cage I’m 100% ready for battle and nothing breaks me in there. I know I’m ready each and every time I step into that cage [because of them].

VC: CM Punk trains there as well, how is his training coming along?

ES: He’s great, he’s a hard worker. People can say whatever they want to say, and think what they want to think, but the man is always working. He’s not just trying to go in there and put on a show as the WWE superstar and make a mockery of it, the man is here everyday training his striking, jiu-jitsu, getting ready for the fight. He’s not looking to go out and talk some crap to make some money, he’s looking to go out and win and win in impressive fashion, that’s how you put on a show. He’s going to prove the doubters wrong and go out and put on a hell of a show.

VC: Will you get the pleasure of being in his corner in Cleveland?

ES: I’ll be there, for sure. My coaches have top priority, but whoever he chooses after that. I know for sure I’ll drive down there to Ohio and watch the scrap.

VC: You will fight for the sixth time in sixteen months after this fight. Do you like this frenetic pace? Is this how you stay in shape is by fighting so often?

ES: I love to stay active. Yes, it’s important to take time off for your health and well-being and to get better. I’m Mexican, I don’t know how to take breaks. It’s how my parents raised me, it’s just what I do. My trainer [Duke Roufus] calls me ‘Overtime’ like we have ‘Showtime’, he doesn’t call me that for no reason. We’re MMA fighters, we don’t have an off-season. I know If I want to provide for myself, get better, and become a champion, I have to go out and fight. Let’s beat these guys and do whatever it takes to beat these guys. I don’t prepare for fights as they come, I’m always in the gym training. I’m not always training for a fight, but looking to improve in every way, shape, or form.

VC: You fought so many times in 2015 alone, and champion Daniel Straus has yet to defend since winning the belt in November. If you win and the title fight isn’t there, do you take another fight in between?

ES: If that’s what the bosses want, whatever they say goes. If [the title shot] is not there, it’s not there. I will continue to get better. I’m in a better place now after signing a new deal. I’m not in this sport to make money, but I am in it to provide for myself. Let’s be intelligent with what fights we take and not just fight. Time will tell, I’m just focused on destroying Daniel Weichel right now.

VC: You mentioned pay there and you getting a new deal. Your gym sees many different fighters from other organizations. Do you think everyone is happy with their organizations and the pay they receive?

ES: I mean, the Pettis brothers and others have established themselves already. Anthony got established in the WEC and had good sponsors, he’s even separately sponsored by Reebok. He has other ways to make income, but I don’t want to compare myself to those guys. I didn’t get in this sport to be a millionaire; I did it for the love of the sport. The money doesn’t mean much, it’s all about the love and that’s more than enough. I’m still a realist and I want to be able to provide. I understand the importance of being wise with my investments and putting what I make to good use for myself and my future.

VC: Is this fight with Weichel the toughest fight of your career?

ES: I believe every fight is the toughest of my career, not to sound cliché. I’ve said that since my first amateur fight, all I’ve ever wanted to do was win. Your health, your physical well-being is on the line during a fight. I understand the extremities of what can happen in the fight. None of that intimidates me or makes me back down, it just makes me more intelligent to implement my game plan and do what’s best for me to go out and be victorious. No matter what, I’m going to go out and get my hand raised.

VC: Your last three fights have gone to Split-decision and have been very close. What can you do differently to make that margin a little wider between your opponent and yourself?

ES: I need to be there to counter more. My coach says I admire my work by staying there after my combinations. I stick and move and that works well in boxing with the shorter rounds and the lack of other avenues to win a fight. In MMA, I have to worry about the takedown and clinch, and for me, I need to get started right away in what I do. I wouldn’t say I’m a slow starter, I just say I feel my way too much and I can’t wait for that perfect opportunity. My coaches tell me I can’t sit there and wait for the perfect opportunity and admire my work after a big moment and think ‘I am winning the fight’. With close fights and opponents who are also looking to win, you have to be there [from start to finish] to put them away. I have to keep that mentality and go out and have fun. To quote Ali, ‘float like and sting like a bee.’

VC: You quoted Muhammed Ali, now I feel I need to go here. We lost two great fighters from Bellator this year as Jordan Parsons and Kimbo Slice has both passed away. Did you have any connection with either of them being in Bellator?

ES: Jordan Parsons I didn’t really know other than him being in my division, but I think he was going to move up. I’m only a month or two younger than him, so I can’t imagine a guy around my age with the same professional accolades not having life anymore. Someone’s son, nephew, brother just died. My heart is crushed by it.

Kimbo himself, I started the main card for his fight against Dada 5000 in Houston. Now, he’s gone, just like that. I actually got to speak to him in February, and now he’s gone at such a young age of 43. It really makes you think about life. That’s why I take fighting so serious and why I cherish the moment. Knowing Jordan and Kimbo as fighters, I’m sure they didn’t think that their last fight would the last one they ever fight in. That’s why I think my fights are so exciting because I treat it just like life. I don’t know if I’ll live to see my next birthday, tomorrow is never promised. If this fight is going to be my last, I’m going to cherish every moment, even this conversation I had with you. I’m going to enjoy life to the fullest.

VC: If you get two phone calls right after this, one asking if you will headline a card in Milwaukee and the other asking if you will headline in Mexico City. Which one do you take?

ES: That’s a tough one. I’d have to go with Milwaukee, the less travel the better. Any fighter would agree that the less travel, the better. If I don’t need to fly anywhere, and I can sleep in my own bed and drive or walk to the venue, then that’s a dream come true. It’s also easier for family, we would sell out the show completely with just our family and friends. Another reason, I know Bellator would put some of my teammates on the card as well. We have undercard and main card guys who are killers right now who are signed with other organizations, but I know we have guys who can make it to Bellator as well and that’s what the company would do. I know there’s a lot of guys who need to be signed and are deserving of it.

VC: What is the prediction for your fight?

ES: I’m looking to finish the fight. First round, second round, third round, doesn’t matter. I know I can submit anyone in the Featherweight division. I’m going to go out there and finish him, I’m confident in my entire MMA game and I believe I am better at every aspect of MMA. I know he’s a problem, and I have the solution for this problem.

 

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Bellator

Douglas Lima found out about change to co-main event at Bellator 192 from the internet

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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.”

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Refereeing’s Loss is Bellator’s Gain

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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.

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Chael Sonnen vs. Rampage Jackson the new main event at Bellator 192

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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.

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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