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EXCLUSIVE: Gegard Mousasi talks belts, Michael Bisping and being a family man

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It was a cold and gloomy autumnal day in England’s capital city, London. But amidst the falling leaves and darkened sky sat the UFC’s bright new personality, Gegard Mousasi. As part of the new approach to his combat career, the Dutch middleweight spent an entire day speaking to media, doing interviews, and generally being Gegard. Taking the time to chat to our very own Jim Edwards, MMA Latest gets the lowdown from the man himself.

The Netherlands has a rich history with mixed martial arts, with names such as Bas RuttenBob Schrijber and Semmy Schilt propping up its reputation, but it doesn’t just rest with them. Over the past decade, there’s been a wave of top talent that has emerged as the new standard bearers for the Dutch contingent, and Mousasi is one of them.

After the UFC touched down in Rotterdam this May, an event that saw Alistair Overeem beat Andre Arlovski to earn himself a shot at the heavyweight title, it was said that 2017 would be the year that the UFC graced the Dutch capital with a champion’s homecoming – but it wasn’t to be. Overeem lost to current champion Stipe Miocic at UFC 203, but despite this setback, Mousasi is hopeful that an Amsterdam event will still take place next year, and he doesn’t care about the details, he just wants on it:

“No it still can be [anyone], we have good fighters, we have Stefan Struve, we have Alistair [Overeem], I am fighting there, so if the UFC ever decide to come to Amsterdam it’s going to be sold out, especially in Amsterdam, last fight was also sold out. So it doesn’t matter, if they [UFC] come, it’s going to do very well in Holland.”

“I hope to be on the card 100%. Main event, co-main event, just on the card, I don’t care. Fighting in Amsterdam, all the people that can come watch your fights, friends, family, you don’t get those chances a lot.”

Mousasi’s recent victory over Vitor Belfort at UFC 204 was arguably his most significant in recent years, and the former Strikeforce and Dream light heavyweight champion now has his sights set on the UFC middleweight strap. But with two fights left on his contract, Mousasi has little time to make this goal a reality. Being aware of the looming expiry of his current contract, Edwards asked what would be the next ideal move for the Dutchman:

“Ideally if I could fight Michael Bisping for the belt. It doesn’t matter for me who I fight, it’s all about the belt. Like I said, whoever has the belt makes the most money, so that’s why everyone wants to fight for the belt. Let’s say, Michael Bisping has the belt, are there better fighters in the middleweight division, yes, are there better fighters than Michael Bisping in the middleweight division, yes. But he has the belt, so everyone wants to have the belt. It’s as simple as that.”

After Michael Bisping successfully defended his title against the now-retired Dan Henderson at UFC 204, many said that order could be restored to the middleweight division. Bisping has been a dedicated servant to the sport and so has Henderson, but the legitimacy of their rematch was questioned, as Henderson languished in the lower half of the 185-pound division. But since the Manchester event has concluded, Bisping has been vocal about his peers at the top of the division, however, Mousasi has not been included in this discussion:

“Why would he mention me because you know, you have the top four guys, it doesn’t make sense for him to fight me. So of course I don’t blame him, he has bigger names he can fight. So, no problem with that. But I’m coming, and I’m coming soon to those four guys. Luke Rockhold or Chris Weidman, soon. And then let’s see if they’re going to give me a title shot or not.”

Mousasi’s impressive display against Belfort, coupled with his new focus on public relations, has propelled him to number five in the 185-pound rankings, sitting just beneath the middleweight melee of Luke Rockhold, Chris Weidman, Jacare Souza and Yoel Romero. When asked for his thoughts on the upcoming clashes between the aforementioned, Mousasi replied with a hint towards his preference:

“All of them tough fights. You know all of those four guys can be champion. On a good given day they can beat each other. So it’s just a matter of who has the game plan, right mentality, who feels good that day. I’d prefer to fight one of the American fighters.”

For some, the limelight comes natural, but for others, it’s simply a matter of course. But in this current climate of prize fighting, no one can afford to stand still. Most evolve stylistically, and the focus on sports science has increased, but not every fighter realizes that building their brand is just as important in today’s sport, something that Mousasi has now recognized:

“Well you know media is part of the work, but I am not here to be famous, I am here to get that belt, that’s my goal but you know part of the work is media, so I do it. But I am not a driven guy for fame, money, that I wake up for. That’s why I do this sport, I don’t do it for my fun, for fun I can do a lot of other stuff that’s more entertaining than going into cage, breaking bones, training every day. There’s a lot more fun stuff to do than that. But you know, you have a small opportunity in this sport, it’s not like I can fight for ten years, so we’re trying to make the best out of it.”

The new side to Mousasi’s personality has grabbed the attention of many, a contrast from his previous self, a man that was quiet and reserved. In an attempt to unpick this intriguing character, and why this change has occurred, Edwards tried to understand what the Mousasi behind closed doors is like, and what makes him tick:

“I don’t like big changes. I like my family close, my friends, I don’t do crazy stuff, just normal stuff. I’m trying to get a big house where me and my family all go and can live there, just a family guy. I don’t have my own family, but a family guy, like my own family.”

With a decorated mixed martial arts career spanning 48 fights across 13 years, under pretty much every credible promotion that has existed, it’s hard to imagine what an accomplished fighter like Mousasi sees as his goals for the future. But to the contrary, he has a clear focus on the next stage of his development, and how needs to achieve it:

“I wanted to fight one more this year, but it’s going to be a little bit difficult I believe, so two fights next year, and hopefully the belt, in those two fights. But you know, I need to win, I need to win impressively in the next fight, and against a big name, otherwise they’re not going to mention me as a contender. But like I said, some fighters got title shots without beating anyone significant. I deserve to fight for the belt, like I said, a lot of other fighters deserve it also. I think, with my resume, I am up there.”

“Give me meaningful fights, and with that I mean, it’s all about name recognition. Let’s say Vitor Belfort. He’s not at his best, I don’t believe so, but when I beat him, everybody knows Vitor. Let’s say I fight Yoel Romero, a tough competitor, but he’s not going to give me that attention as I get with Vitor. So can I fight everybody, yes of course, but is it smart to just take fights because you want to fight, no, it’s a business so we’re going to do business.”

To see the full video interview with Mousasi, check out our Youtube channel.

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Bellator

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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Exclusive: Derek Brunson: “Anderson was definitely a little lubed up”

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Derek Brunson fought Anderson Silva back in February of this year, at UFC 208. Brunson would go on to lose the fight by controversial unanimous decision. However, the controversies didn’t stop at the questionable decision, Brunson also claims Silva was greasing during the fight. The Wilmington, North Carolina native, posted about it on Twitter a few days ago:

Speaking with MMA Latest, Brunson explained why he believes Silva was greasing during the fight. “Anderson was definitely a little lubed up. Every time I grabbed him he was just slipping out of everything, and his takedown defense was really good that night. I was definitely curious to know why he was very slippery, which I definitely think he had some kind of substance on his body. He knows I’m a wrestler obviously, he’s an old, savvy veteran, so he was definitely trying to play all the rules and be very strategic, and make it harder for a wrestler to grab him.”

Brunson is set to face Lyoto Machida come October 28, when asked about whether he was worried about Machida greasing, considering Gegard Mousasi accused him of doing so in their fight, Brunson admitted he wasn’t too worried.

Well I’m not too worried, but like I said, I put it out there because I know they’re friends and I know, obviously, that’s kind of what the guys do when they know they’re fighting a wrestler. They want to lube their body up really good to make it hard to grab hold, Anderson did a great job defending my takedowns. It’s because he was all greased up so he was able to stop a lot of them. When I grab guys in the clinch, it’s very tough for them to get away and I’m pretty good with my Greco takedown. He was pretty much pulling through my clinch when I had a tight grip on him and if you have some kind of substance on your body it’s easy to pull them.”

Neither Silva nor his management have commented on the greasing allegations. Anderson Silva makes his return against Kelvin Gastelum later this year, in China. While Brunson makes his return to the Octagon on October 28th, in Brazil, where he looks to add Lyoto Machida’s name to his impressive list of victories.

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Bellator

Michael Page Not Focusing on Opponent Ahead of Boxing Debut

Harry Davies

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MMA Latest spoke to Bellator’s Michael ‘Venom’ Page, as he makes his boxing debut this Friday at the Hayemaker Ringstar Fight Night.

Page (12-0 MMA) is renowned for his entertaining fight style inside the cage, with most of his knockout and submission victories ending up in highlight reels online, that almost always go viral.

‘MVP’ was supposed to make his boxing debut on the undercard of David Haye vs Tony Bellew in March of this year, but due to ongoing negotiations with Bellator, his debut was delayed. Shortly after Page signed with Haye’s promotion “Hayemaker Ringstar.”

Q: So, Michael, we’re about five days out now from your big boxing debut, and still we have no name of an opponent? Can you break the big news, who will you be fighting next week?

I honestly couldn’t even tell you his name right now! I know I’ve got an opponent, but I haven’t even looked at him because it has changed so many times. I don’t like to pay too much attention to it, because it’s added stress. For me it’s just a case of turning up, and firing punches at whoever is across the ring.

Q: Is this fight 10 or 12 rounds? Given a standard boxing fight is a lot longer than your typical 15-minute MMA bout, has there been an emphasis on cardiovascular work in your training camp?

Depending on the opponent, I think it’s 6-rounds. The preparation has been different, I’m having to stress out my shoulders and core a lot. The kicking distance as well is very different, getting used to having people a bit closer. I’m getting used to the corners of the ring, I’ve done it before but not to this extent so I am familiar of it, but my body wasn’t really used to it.

Q: So, is this kind of like a one fight deal for Haye’s Ringstar promotion? Regardless of this fight’s outcome, will you return to MMA?

Not at all, I’m taking it seriously. Otherwise, I would have just had a super fight against a big name like McGregor did. This is why I can’t just jump into a 12 round fight, I need to adjust my body and get it prepared for boxing.

There’s no future plans yet, I’d like to have an MMA fight again before the end of this year, as I haven’t fought this whole year, but another opportunity for boxing may come up and I might get a chance to jump on that, so it depends.

Q: Were you frustrated that Bellator booked Paul Daley vs. Lorenz Larkin, and if you could send a message to Daley right now what would it be?

I have no interest in him anymore. It feels so pathetic and unnecessary now. I don’t think he deserved that fight with Larkin right after the shocking display he put on in Wembley against Rory MacDonald. But good on him he beat Larkin, however he calls me out immediately after then goes on to say he’s past that fight, it just doesn’t make sense.

Credit – michaelpagemvp – Instagram

Q: A statement we hear a lot is “MVP is the only guy outside the UFC that I want in the UFC” People criticise the talent in Bellator and say you’re fighting nobodies, what do you say back to them?

The amount of times you hear “you shouldn’t fight this person, you should have fought that person.” Everyone’s got an idea of what the correct steps someone should make are, but at the end of the day it’s their career. People are so fickle and easy to forget. If you are a fan of somebody, just be a fan of them regardless of win or loss.

Q: I’ve got to ask about how things are with Bellator, because from the outside looking in it’s quite unclear. How is it relationship at the moment?

Yeah I get on with most of the guys, it’s like a small family. I’ve still got a couple of fights left with them, they’re growing very well, the only problem is I feel like they’re focusing a bit too much on ex UFC fighters. For me it says you’re classing yourself as second best. Bellator generate some amazing superstars and young talent, they should continue to promote them.

You can watch ‘MVP’ make his boxing debut this Friday night, as the Hayemaker Ringstar Fight Night will air at 21:00PM on Dave.

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