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Interview: Emmanuel Sanchez Says He Is Ready to “Take Care of Business” Against Pineda at Bellator 149



Emmanuel “El Matador” Sanchez had a busy year in 2015. He fought four times, going 3 and 1, bringing his Bellator record to 4-1 overall. He racked up impressive wins over fighters like UFC veteran Justin Lawrence, former King of the Cage Champion Henry Corrales, and Costa Rica’s Alejandro Villalobos. His only blemish from the past year came by way of former featherweight champion Pat Curran. Up to that point, he hadn’t lost inside of a Bellator cage. While many would consider his 2015 run as a very impressive one, Sanchez had a little different take when he spoke to

“I look at the positives and negatives to [it],” explained Sanchez.”…now, I am looking to do something completely different here, I fought too many rounds in 2015. I wanted more finishes. I pride myself on being a finisher and I know that I can go out and finish. So in 2016, if there [are] less fights and [they are] all finishes, I will take that. I want to go out and put on great performances, but I want to finish fights like I know I can.”

“El Matador” says that 2016 will be “an even bigger year.” It all starts with his fight this Friday against UFC veteran Daniel “The Pit” Pineda at Bellator 149 in Houston, TX.

Sanchez, who trains in Milwaukee with the renowned Roufusport MMA Academy, is very pleased with how his camp has gone. A week out from his fight he is weighing about 150 pounds and is expecting to weigh a little less on Monday before he travels to Houston. Training at a gym with so many great fighters and champions, like Ben Askren and Anthony Pettis, makes it easier for him to be prepared to make the Featherweight limit of 145 pounds.

While he “has never had a nutritionist or anything” Sanchez said that he learns a lot from his team by seeing “how different fighters do things” and by doing so, he has found what works for him, allowing him to compete at his best. Like most MMA fighters Sanchez trains year round. He is always ready for the next fight and was already back to training, getting ready to “go out and take care of business again”, when Bellator sent him the contract to fight Pineda just two weeks after his decision victory over Justin Lawrence back in November.

Some fighters and trainers might take a look a Pineda’s record and notice that he has never won a fight that went the distance. They might think that it might be a smart game plan take him deep into the later rounds of a fight. Then, if you thought you were ahead on the score cards you could ride it out and play it safe for the easy win. Another glaring statistic is that he has 15 submissions victories out of his 21 wins and he has finished his last three opponents via submission. A statistic like that would tell most people that Pineda should have the advantage should the fight go to the ground. Sanchez, however, is confident that no matter where the fight goes he will be victorious.

“I am looking to go out and exploit all the holes and win by submission or knockout…”

His entire outlook going into this match exudes confidence and it really doesn’t matter to him where the fight goes. If it remains standing or goes to the ground Sanchez is looking for one thing, a finish. “Honestly… I believe I can beat him everywhere,” said Sanchez. “I believe that I am better at every single aspect of the game. If we were to start a Jiu-Jitsu match – on our knees or standing – yeah, he might have the edge. He might be able to catch me but this is a mixed martial arts fight.”

Sanchez went on to comment about the flaws in his opponent’s record stating that Pineda has, “…been finished more than once”. Sanchez wasn’t specific about a strategy but he made it clear that he’s keeping his eyes open for weaknesses. “I am looking to go out and exploit all the holes and win by submission or knockout,” said Sanchez. “I want either of the two.”

Another thing that people may speculate about is the fact that the winner of this bout may very well become the next in line for a shot at newly re-crowded two-time Bellator Featherweight Champion Daniel Straus. Sanchez however doesn’t concern himself with those thoughts. He gets the questions and he is used to them but you will never hear him complain if the fight doesn’t happen.

He just feels fortunate to be at this point he is in his career, staying busy for the last year in a half, being signed with a great company like Bellator, and being able to do what he loves to do. “There is no need to make a campaign,” Sanchez says. “When the time is right, it will be there.” Only focusing on what is in front of him, he knows that by taking care of his opponents one fight at a time, and “moving the needle” in the process, he will earn that title shot. That is the same advice he would give to guys just starting in the sport. Be patient and put in the work and your time will come, just as it did for him.

“I have fought in pretty much all my opponents backyards. Unless I fought in Milwaukee, all my opponents were hometown heroes and I was getting booed, so I am used to it.”

Pineda will also be the hometown favorite in this fight. Born in Dallas and now living and training with the 4 oz Fight Club in Houston, the Texas crowd will undoubtedly be behind him. As you might guess, that doesn’t bother Sanchez either. Being from Milwaukee, he says this is just, “the same ole’ dance.”

“This is not the first time,” said Sanchez. “I have fought in pretty much all my opponents backyards. Unless I fought in Milwaukee, all my opponents were hometown heroes and I was getting booed, so I am used to it. I have tough skin… we see it this way, it’s a fight… I am going to come into your backyard and I am going to mess you up.”

With his record sitting at 12-2 and being 5 fights into his Bellator career, many would feel that at this point in his career, every one of his next fights is his ‘toughest fight’. Stress and pressure would be expected but Sanchez would be the first to tell you that there is no pressure at all and that he never feels any type of pre-fight anxiety.

No nerves, just faith. To Sanchez, his faith is “everything.” It not only motivates him during a fight but it drives him throughout his training camps and his career. He knows that he is on the right path in life and feels very fortunate to be able to do what he knows he is meant to do. He sees his gifts inside the cage as a blessing, a blessing that he will use until he sees the signs that it is time to call it quits. At 25 years old that type of purpose and understanding is something that we all can admire and after what we saw in 2015, don’t expect for Senor Sanchez to see those signs anytime soon.

Along with faith and patience, taking care of business is the theme that is repeated over and over again in the fighting life of Emmanuel Sanchez. However, there is one thing that he does get tired of. Tired of thinking about his opponent and having to answer the same questions about him. Sanchez is more about action. Living in a city that is known for “cheese, brats, football [and] baseball” would have to make the grueling nature of training and making weight that much tougher. As “El Matador” puts it, “someone has to suffer for this if I have to suffer… I really want to get this over with and enjoy a slice of pizza.” Just make sure you make it with plenty of vegetables because chances are he will be back in the gym on Monday.

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Bellator 194, Nelson vs. Mitrione Pre-Fight Notes



Bellator takes over the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut later tonight. The promotion hosts, Bellator 194: Nelson vs. Mitrione from the venue, beginning at 6:30 pm (ET). Bellator 194 marks the 17th trip to the Mohegan Sun Casino. Their last trip, took place a little more than a few months ago in October of 2017, Bellator 185. The first trip to the Connecticut casino, occurred all the way back in April of 2009, and the second ever event held by the promotion, Bellator 2.

Twenty four fighters will make the walk later tonight, giving fans 12 bouts to watch from prelims to main event. Of the 24 athletes set to compete, five make their professional debuts. Peter Nascimento, Mike Kimbel, Pat Casey, Ross Richardson, and Ronnie Leon all fight for the first time, professionally. As amateurs, the group holds a combined record of 18-12. Only Ross Richardson maintained an undefeated amateur record (3-0).

In recent cards past, only some full broadcasts brought forward newly professional fighters. Events such as Bellator 191, 190, and 187, only broadcast short main card. While events like 193, 192, 189, 188, and 186 broadcast full fight cards. Since November of 2017, 15 fighters made their pro debuts with the Bellator promotion. Including Khonry Gracie in his unanimous decision loss to Devon Brock (Bellator 192), and Ty-wan Claxton, in his amazing KO finish of Johnny Bonilla-Bowman in the first round of Bellator 186. Claxton makes his second pro appearance tonight at Bellator 194 against Jose Antonio Perez, whom also fights for the second time professionally.

Upon completion of Bellator 194’s broadcast, 50% of the promotions first round matches in their Heavyweight Grand Prix will be decided. It is nearly impossible to choose, one match-up more interesting than the others. Yet, the Mitrione vs. Nelson match up is not only puzzling to fans and media alike. One half of the main event, at least, was once annoyed by the prospect of fighting his former TUF cast mate. Mitrione spoke to MMAJunkie about his reaction to the match-up, “Well, I asked them, how does that make sense? Roy is arguably the #2 guy in the division… Explain that to me, is there any seeding?…” He continued, “But the more I thought about, the less I really cared. Either I beat Roy when I have the strap, or I beat Roy to get the strap. What the hell difference does it make?”

In one bit of event news, fan favorite flyweight, Heather Hardy missed weight, in what turned out to be an odd set of circumstances. According to Hardy, she believed she made weight, without stripping down and using the towel. It was her understanding that the Mohegan Tribe Department of Athletic Regulation gave her a weight allowance for the bikini top and bottom she wore while on the scale. Hardy weighed in at 126.25 lbs. with the aforementioned bikini top and bottom.

This understanding was not shared by president of Mohegan Tribe Department of Athletic Regulation, Mike Mazzulli. The president made the decision to record Hardy’s weight without allowing her to disrobe, or take use the extra two hours allotted to make weight. It was his understanding upon examining and attempting to communicate with Hardy whilst she stood on the scale that brought him to the decision. After renegotiation of the bout agreement, Hardy was fined 20% of her purse which goes to her opponent Ana Julaton.


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Bellator 194 Weigh Ins Live Video



Bellator 194 takes place Friday, February 16th at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut. The stacked main card features the second bout in the Bellator Heavyweight Grand Prix matching Roy Nelson against Matt Mitrione. Both former members of the UFC roster, Mitrione and Nelson look to make a further impact in the Bellator Heavyweight division with a potential step towards the divisions championship crown. In the co-main event, MMA veteran Patricky Pitbull takes Derek Campos. The two will most likely battle for the next shot at the promotions Lightweight title, following the Brent Primus (c) vs. Michael Chandler rematch. Other notable bouts on the card include Liam McGeary vs. Vadim Nemkov, Heather Hardy vs. Ana Julaton, and Tywon Claxton against Jose Antonio Perez. Bellator 194 airs live on the Paramount network, main card beginning at 9 pm.

The official weigh-ins took place earlier today, the results are listed below.

Main Card (9 PM ET, Paramount Network)

Roy Nelson (23-14) vs. Matt Mitrione (12-5) Heavyweight bout.

RN: 265 lb.

MM: 255 lb.

Patricky Freire (18-8) vs. Derek Campos (19-6) Lightweight bout.

PF: 155 lb.

DC: 154 lb.

Heather Hardy (1-1) vs. Ana Julaton (2-3) Women’s Flyweight bout.

HH: 126.25 lb*

AJ: 125 lb.

Liam McGeary (12-2) vs. Vadim Nemkov (8-2) Light Heavyweight bout.

LM: 203.75 lb.

VN: 205 lb.

Tywan Claxton (1-0) vs. Jose Antonio Perez (0-1) Featherweight bout.

TW: 145 lb.

JS: 142.25 lb.

Preliminary Card (7 PM ET)

Ross Richardson (3-0, Amateur) vs. Ronie Arana Leon (2-5, Amateur) Lightweight bout.

RS: 155.5 lb.

RL: 156 lb.

Mike Kimbel (4-4, Amateur) vs. Geoffrey Then (0-1) Bantamweight bout. 

MK: 135.75 lb.

GT: 135 lb.

Regivaldo Carlvalho (4-2) vs. Thomas English (6-8) Featherweight bout.

RC: 145 lb.

TE: 146 lb.

Jarod Trice (2-0) vs. Walter Howard (3-4) Light Heavyweight bout.

JT: 205.5 lb.

WH: 203 lb.

Marcus Surin (4-1) vs. Dean Hancock (3-1) Lightweight bout.

MS: 156 lb.

DH: 155.25 lb.

Peter Nascimento (2-1, Amateur) vs. Kastriot Xhema (1-1) Catchweight (165 lb.) bout.

PN: 163.5 lb.

KX 164.5 lb.

Tyler Hamilton (1-0) vs. Pat Casey (7-2, Amateur) Lightweight bout.

TH: 154 lb.

PC: 155.5 lb.

*Heather Hardy missed weight by ¼ of a pound and subsequently fined 20% of her purse. The fine will go to her opponent Ana Julaton.

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Exclusive: Saad Awad looking for the quick knockout at Bellator 193



Saad Awad makes his return to the Bellator cage Friday as he takes on JJ Ambrose.

The veteran Awad has been with Bellator since 2013, amassing a 9-5 record in the process, with five of those wins coming via knockout. Impressive wins against Will Brooks and Evangelista Santos feature on his 21-9 record.

The heavy-handed striker gets to fight in his backyard of California for the first time in over a year. A native of San Bernardino, Awad is fighting only forty-five minutes from his home, in the co-main event no less.

It’s great,” Awad told MMA Latest about co-main eventing in California. “I’m about forty-five minutes from my house, the arena sold out the week they released the tickets. So I know a lot of people are going to be here and the energy’s going to be really good, it’s going to be great, and it’s going to help me mentally.”

Meeting Awad in the co-main is a fellow California native himself, JJ Ambrose. Ambrose has been fighting since 2005 and has amassed 26 wins in his 13-year career.

He’s a veteran, he kind of flew under the radar,” Awad said. “He’s fought all over the place. I think he brings a lot of experience, a good solid stand-up, and ground game, and wrestling.”

Although Awad highlighted Ambrose’s quality, make no mistake, the “Assassin” believes he holds all the advantages.

I match-up with him great, to be honest, I think my striking is a little bit better, I think I hit a lot harder and my jiu-jitsu’s going to be a bit better, and I’m going to be able to outwrestle him,” Awad explained. “So I think stylistically it’s a bad matchup for him.”

Awad is coming off of a quick KO, one minute, seven seconds, over Zach Freeman. The quick win didn’t come as a surprise to Awad as he always expects to finish his opponents quickly.

I mean, not be cocky, but I expect to get a quick KO against everybody,” Awad said. “When I don’t get a quick KO then I’m like ‘okay something’s wrong’ so then I have to change my gameplan up. So nothing against Zach Freeman, I mean, every fight I go in there looking for the quick knockout.”

Currently, on a solid two-fight winning streak, Awad highlights what exactly the key’s been for him to get this far.

Honestly, I’ve just been training a lot,” Awad said. “I’ve just been training and focusing a lot on little details that I knew were my flaws, and every fight I’ll keep something new. If I see something go wrong in one of my fights, I’ll tweak that out and train it and get a little bit better and then just try and keep improving.”

With a win taking Awad to three victories in a row, it would make sense to offer the veteran a big fight. But Awad doesn’t have a name in mind next, although he doesn’t believe it would matter anyway.

Whoever they give me,” Awad said. “I can ask for fights but they won’t give them to me. “My only thing is trying to get a title fight, I’m not even going to ask for that anymore. I’m going to ask them to keep me busy. I just want to stay busy. I get paid the same no matter who I fight so as long as they keep me busy, that’s what I’m happy for.”

As for 2018, Awad’s goals remain simple.

Keep winning,” Awad said. “Stay busy and keep winning.”

If things go the way Awad expects, fans are in for a treat. As for Ambrose? Not so much.

I’m going to go in there and leave with a knockout, a violent knockout,” Awad said. “Get my hand raised, talk some shit, and leave.”

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