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Joe Warren: “I’ve Got An Angry Foreigner In Front Of Me”

Vinny Craig

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When you think of Bellator Bantamweights, a couple of names come to mind. Guys like Eduardo Dantas, Darion Caldwell, Marcos Galvao. Perhaps the biggest name at Bantamweight in all of Bellator is the only two-division champion in Joe Warren.

In his 18 fight career, he has wins over guys like Chase Beebe, Norifumi ‘Kid’ Yamamoto, Patricio ‘Pitbull’ Freire, Galvao, and Dantas. After losing his Bantamweight belt to Galvao at Bellator 135, Warren has a victory over L.C. Davis and a loss to budding contender Darion Caldwell. He fights Sirwan Kakai in the co-main event of Bellator 161 this Friday night.  Warren perked up for three rounds with me as we talked about his fight with Sirwan Kikai at Bellator 161, possible retirement, University of Michigan football and CM Punk.

 

Vinny Craig: Your last fight with Darion Caldwell didn’t go as planned. What can you take from your last fight against the younger guy to bring into this fight?

Joe Warren: That fight was a strange fight for me. I hurt myself, dislocated my knee and tore my MCL trying for my first takedown. I have never been hurt in the cage to the point where I couldn’t continue. When things go bad in the cage, they go really bad. I tried to get up, got body slammed and choked out. It’s shitty, he’s a young tough fighter. It was my pleasure to have a fight with him. What can I take from that fight? Try and not get hurt this time.

 

VC: You fight Sirwan Kikai here coming up. How do you handle his style of fighting against yours?

JW: I believe I am the best wrestler in the game. I win by controlling positions and taking people down. That’s what I am going to do again, hopefully, use my hands a little bit more this time. You never know until you get out there. I usually win with my wrestling and I’ll probably win with that again and finish him on the ground. He’s a dangerous opponent and I don’t look past anybody. He’s on a two-fight skid, but he’s hungry and he gets an opportunity to fight me and people usually bring their best game. I’m just focused on bringing pressure forward and being the offensive fighter.

 

VC: If you can get past Kakai, where do you go next? Who do you want to fight?

JW: We try and take care of Kakai this Friday. Then I want to beat the shit out of Dantas again. I’m the only guy to have beaten him. We have a lot of history between us. The fans want to see that fight and we want to give it to them. I have to get this win, make some money and take care of my family. Then get an opportunity to beat up that Brazilian again.

 

VC: Say this Friday doesn’t go your way. You have fought some of the best 135ers and 145ers this game has to offer. Could you call it quits with a loss this Friday?

JW: I don’t even think about me not winning. I’m not 100% sure, first thing is first we get this win on Friday. I’m safer and more technical than I have ever been right now. I will continue to fight for as long I want to. It’s a very unpredictable thing inside that cage, you just never know what’s going to happen. That being said, if that [I lose] does happen, I would think about leaving. I just don’t see that happening.

 

VC: When you do call it quits, what’s next for you?

JW: I have degrees from the University of Michigan and I’ve been running a recovery company. Those are definitely options, I’m just not sure where I’m going to go. I’m a great coach, one of the best Greco-Roman coaches in the world. I’ve been looking for things already, things outside of the cage. It’s hard to take care of your family when you lose once a year, which is kind of shitty. We’ll see what happens, before that, I have a fight with Sirwan Kikai on Friday I’m focused on. If that stuff comes to the table, we’ll deal with it then. I don’t look too far past what is right in front of me. I have a violent foreigner in front of me that wants a piece of me.

 

VC: You mentioned that you went to school at the University of Michigan. Are you a fan of the sports from your alma mater?

JW: I’m a football fan. I know Jim Harbaugh from when I was there, he would come in. I bleed maize and blue and red, white, and blue. I was at the university rec room for wrestling this summer. It would be an honor one day to be able to coach that team. You don’t get away from the big blue once you are a part of it.  

 

VC: Do you train locally in Michigan?

JW: No, there’s not a lot of training in Michigan. When I get back, I have a hard time training anything but wrestling. I train in Colorado at Factory X and drive down to the Olympic training center for some. All my training is based out of Colorado. Faithful Athletics out of Santa Monica runs my strength and conditioning, but other than that I stay locally here in Colorado.

 

VC: You said you don’t want to talk about retirement, so let’s look ahead. Is there a fight that has evaded you in your career?

JW: You know how it is with Bellator, I always either have the belt or am fighting for a belt. Every fight is usually an extremely big fight for both guys that means a lot for our careers and for a title. I want to fight Dantas again for this Bellator belt. I’d like to beat up Bibiano Fernandes again  one day with that being my first career loss. Besides that, I fight for a living and it’s a good job for me. I never really wanted to fight anyone, but they just keep coming in front of me. It’s just a body and keep going and pushing forward.

 

VC: What is your advice to young people who want to get into this sport?

JW: MMA is the toughest, most unpredictable fight out there. Getting in that cage is so unpredictable and you never know what’s going to happen. It’s like wrestling, 9/10 times the better wrestler is going to win the match. That’s not the case in MMA, you never know. It’s the flip of a coin when inside that cage. Usually, I verbally assault a guy to the point he wants to beat me up anyway, so know I’m in the cage with a mad opponent or someone that has something to prove. I’ve been the bigger name and they need the victory over me. I’ve got my hands full inside that cage. I’d say to keep strong and work on the mental side of the game because technique goes out the window sometimes.

 

VC: Prediction for your fight?

JW: That the baddest man leaves with his hand up and gets a paycheck for his family. I plan on being the offensive fighter and bringing a lot of pressure forward. My wrestling, control, and ground and pound will win me this fight.


For the latest MMA news, live event coverage and more follow @mmalatestnws on Twitter.

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Bellator: Selecting the Four Alternates for the Heavyweight Grand Prix.

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With an 8-man tournament bracket full of legends and former champions, join us as we chose four alternates for the Bellator Heavyweight Grand Prix.

Main Tournament Participants:

  • Fedor Emelianenko
  • Frank Mir
  • Chael Sonnen
  • Quinton Jackson
  • Roy Nelson
  • Matt Mitrione
  • Ryan Bader
  • King Mo Lawal

The alternate tournament bracket will consist of: two opening round fights (semi-final), and then two victorious fighters competing against one another at the finale (final). This will determine a worthy contender to step into the main tournament bracket, in case any of the main bracket fighters are injured in their semi-final bouts.

If a pull-out or injury occurs before the opening bouts, I believe Bellator have to select the most decorated fighter, and a natural heavyweight fighter. So in case of a pull-out occurring before the opening round, I would select my #1 alternate, and so on for any more opening pull-outs.

This structure covers all bases, and keeps the Bellator Heavyweight Tournament intense and prestigious.

So with the structure laid out, here is our selected alternate fighters.

  • #1: Vitaly Minakov
  • #2: Linton Vassell
  • #3: Attilah Vegh
  • #4: Emanuel Newton

Alternate Opening Round [Semi-Final]:

  • Bout 1: #1 Vs. #3
  • Bout 2: #2 Vs. #4

Alternate Final:

  • Victor of Bout #1/#3 Vs. Victor of Bout #2 Vs. #4

Linton Vassell vs. Emanuel Newton would be a trilogy that needs to be completed. Linton dominated on the ground for the most part of their first bout, but felt he gave up positions he felt he could have held longer, and took needless transitions and risks; allowing for a very sneaky Emanuel Newton to escape the clutches of ‘The Swarm’, and when the gas tank begins to empty – a scrambling Emanuel Newton is not what you want!

Fighter bios:

Vitaly Minakov: A former Bellator tournament winner, and former Bellator heavyweight champion. A Judo black belt, and multi time Sambo world champion, there’s no denying this man’s resume as one of the best put forth out of these 4 fighters.

Linton Vassell: A man who really lives up to the moniker – ‘The Swarm’, Linton Vassell has dominated and dispatched various opponents Bellator have put across from him. Having fallen short in two title fights, and a close decision loss to King Mo, Linton has shown that he’s there with the best Bellator has to offer, maybe the Heavyweight Grand Prix might see the dark-horse finally come into the lime-light! Currently contracted to Bellator with a 7-3 record for the promotion.

If you would like to follow the Bellator Heavyweight Tournament, you can check out the opening round bouts on the following Bellator MMA events:

Emanuel Newton: Already holding two victories over King Mo, who’s allocated in this Heavyweight main tournament bracket – that alone is just cause to enter Emanuel. An exciting and unpredictable entry this would be. Bellator parted ways with Emanuel in 2016. Currently, Newton is not on the best of runs, but this tournament needs a ‘wild-card’, and Emanuel owns that title.

Attilah Vegh: A former Bellator LHW champion. Not currently signed to Bellator. Was strangely released in 2014 after having a record of 5-1 with the promotion, and some victories over some very reputable names. Currently on a 2 fight win-streak outside of Bellator MMA.

If you would like to follow the Bellator Heavyweight Tournament, you can check out the opening round bouts on the following Bellator MMA events:

 

Bellator 192 at The Forum – Jan. 20, 2018: Quinton “Rampage” Jackson (37-12) vs. Chael Sonnen (30-15-1)
Bellator 194 at Mohegan Sun Arena – Feb. 16, 2018: Matt Mitrione (12-5) vs. Roy Nelson (23-14)
Bellator at Allstate Arena – April, 2018: Fedor Emelianenko (36-5, 1 NC) vs. Frank Mir (18-11)
Bellator at SAP Center – May, 2018: Ryan Bader (24-5) vs. “King Mo” Lawal (21-6, 1 NC)

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Exclusive: Hisaki Kato: “My priorities are in MMA”

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French-Japanese middleweight Hasaki Kato returns to the Bellator cage Friday as he takes on former welterweight Chidi “Bang Bang” Njokuani. Ahead of the high-level striking match-up, Kato took the time out of his busy schedule to speak with MMA Latest.

Rangy striker Njokuani makes his middleweight debut Friday as he looks to erase his loss to Andrey Koreshkov from recent memory. It isn’t lost on Kato just how tall and lanky the 6’3 striker truly is. “Well he’s very tall,” Kato tells MMA Latest. “He was a welterweight but even for a middleweight he’s really tall he’s like 6’2, 6’3 taller than me, longer reach than me. Obviously, I was watching his fights, he’s fighting with range and using his reach to fight so that’s his number one weapon.”

In Njokuani’s last fight, Koreshkov, the former welterweight champion, held Njokuani down and elbowed him until the ref stepped in. So what exactly went wrong in the fight? “Well, first I think Koreshkov is really, really strong,” Kato explains. “Chidi Njokuani normally escapes the ground part or at least he’s on top of his opponent. But Koreshkov has good pressure and good grappling and he could take the top position. Obviously, Njokuani is not comfortable when he is on the bottom. So yeah, I think he couldn’t play his game during the last fight because Koreshkov was putting too much pressure on him.”

Former UFC fighter, Gegard Mousasi, recently made his debut against Alexander Shlemenko back in October. The Dutchman had a tough debut that resulted in a controversial decision win, Kato weighed in on whether or not he’s eyeing a fight with him and what he thought of his Bellator debut. “If I have an offer I will fight him,” he says without any particular enthusiasm. “I will fight everybody in the division. Yeah, for the last fight, well, I think luckily for him it was a three-round fight. I think if it was a five round fight the victory would have gone to Shlemenko. I don’t know maybe he had a bad camp, I don’t know but he was doing terrible.”

Kato also believes a title shot isn’t far away. “I believe I’m really close to that (a title shot),” he says. “After the win, after the Gracie fight, even if it was a decision win, the Gracie is a big family name so I was expecting a title fight. I didn’t have it so I guess if I win this time I have a good chance to have it.”

Whatever you do, don’t expect to see Kato back in a kickboxing ring anytime soon. Does it interest him to return? “Not really,” Kato replies after giving the question some thought. “If the offer is good then why not, for now, I feel more comfortable in MMA so my focus, my priorities, are in MMA.”

Many fans were very disappointed with the way his last fight turned out. Paired up against jiu-jitsu fighter, Ralek Gracie, Kato ended up going to the judges for the first time in his career. “Yeah the fight itself was really frustrating,” Kato admits. “I couldn’t do what I wanted and after two rounds, I knew I had done enough to win, and I knew he would push more. So I decided ‘yeah ok then it’s going to a decision’ but at the very least I had to win that fight.  That’s why I didn’t take too many risks in the third round. During the first and the second, I really wanted to end that fight like I always try but I couldn’t do it.”

So why hasn’t Kato fought since January? “I had an offer in September,” he says. “But I got injured during the training and had to go into surgery, and after the surgery, the process is really long to recover so that’s why.”

So what does Kato predict for the fight? “Obviously his nickname is ‘Bang’ you know, he likes to fight and that’s all I like doing too,” Kato laughs. “I’m really thinking about having a big knockout with my hands.”

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Exclusive: Fernando Gonzalez talks Paul Daley and Michael Page fights

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Long-time Bellator welterweight contender, Fernando Gonzalez, has made a career out of fighting the best fighters his promotion had to offer. The always tough Californian has displayed this willingness to fight the best when he took on Paul Daley in a kickboxing match and when he took on Michael ‘Venom’ Page, in what was supposed to be Page’s coming out fight.

The kickboxing match with Daley happened back in 2015 at “Bellator MMA and Glory: Dynamite 1” in an event that featured both Glory kickboxing as well as its fair share of intriguing Bellator MMA fights. Gonzalez would go on to lose the fight in what many fans called a ‘lackluster’ contest. Speaking to MMA Latest, Gonzalez was asked if he had any interest in returning to the kickboxing ring and why he participated in Glory kickboxing.

“No. Honestly, that kickboxing match was more just to get Daley; because they kept trying to give him to me on short notice and one was on an injury,” Gonzalez told MMA Latest. “So I was like, ‘no I don’t want to give him an easy win’, but the only thing they came up with was that kickboxing match in that time. So ever since that fight, I was like ‘listen dude lets do this MMA’. I’m an MMA guy, I know how to kickbox and I’m good with it but I prefer MMA. I love doing MMA. I don’t like to have too many rules put on me. I like being able to go out there and flow freely. Honestly, I want Daley in an MMA fight so he gets the real fight.”

Gonzalez’ fight with Michael Page was booked as the veteran getting fed to the younger up and coming contender. The fight was Page’s opportunity to add another highlight reel knockout to his collection. Obviously, someone forgot to tell Gonzalez. Gonzalez went out and made sure he never gave Page any openings, unfortunately, he would go on to lose the fight by split decision. Fernando explains what went wrong in his only Bellator loss.

Honestly the only thing that went wrong in the fight is how people viewed the fight”, Gonzalez explains. “If you really look at the fight he really didn’t land anything. The whole first round they’re talking him up, how he’s dancing and how it’s putting me into a lullaby and this and that. I was never in danger. He was not throwing a single punch. This is MMA, you cant just take on the fight with one style, you have to fight different styles for different people. If it was just boxing, you would fight a boxer just one way realistically, but Michael Page has the karate style. So you have to come up with a different formula if you’re going to fight somebody like that.”

“So my style with him, I knew that he’s used to everybody rushing him and trying to take him down. I’m a striker so I don’t mind striking. If I’m not in danger then I’m going to keep it striking. So what I did was I circled, I kept him at arm’s length, so he constantly had to throw long arms where he’s having to reach out and grab you. He’s throwing those arms out, that makes him have to basically hold his arms out a lot longer than he’s used to. He’s used to guys rushing in on him. So with me playing that outside game, obviously my legs are a lot longer than my arms, so I had to throw a lot more kicks, there was a lot of head kicks to take away his power-punch where he leaps in. By doing that, that made him work a lot longer in the second and third round where he’s normally finishing guys. By that third round, he was completely exhausted and couldn’t throw. He said his timing was off and this and that, but he was just exhausted. I had already gassed him out and he had just enough to stay away from me.”

“Really it’s just how you see the fight. They automatically assumed I had to take him down to win and that’s not necessarily true. If I’m not in danger, and I’m landing kicks, and I’m landing good shots, and he’s hitting my arms. Realistically most of the shots he landed were on my arms and that really doesn’t count. So it’s really just how you see it and that’s why one judge had it 30-27. It’s just how you’re seeing the fight. If you’re a striker you would know what you’re looking at, but if you’re a ground guy, of course, you’re going to say ‘oh I got to get it to the ground’ which is what the commentators were; two ground guys talking about what I should’ve done.”

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