On Friday November 6th, in St Louis Mo., on Spike TV, Marcin Held (21-3, 10-2 BMMA) will face reigning champion Will Brooks (16-1, 8-1 BMMA) for the Bellator Lightweight belt. At only 23 years old “The Polish Prodigy” has already ran through a large portion of the division. He won the lightweight tournament and is currently on a six-fight win streak. I recently had a chance to talk to Marcin.
CW: You’ve got a lot of fights under your belt for only being 23. Your first pro fight was when you were 17. Obviously the experience is an asset but do you worry about becoming old before your time?
MH: No. I don’t see this as a problem. I train a lot and I train hard to be a better fighter. I think this also helps me everywhere. My training makes me healthier and stronger, so I think I am in better shape. All the fights do have an affect on my body obviously but I take care of myself and I am smart about training and fighting so I think I will have a long career.
CW: You take fights you don’t really have to from a career standpoint. Is it because that’s how you stay at your best? Is it because this is your job and you believe in going to work or is it to prove that you’ll fight anyone anytime and you want everyone to know it.
MH: I take the fights that will help my career. I think all fights help my career. If I take a fight on short notice, I still feel like I will win so I don’t see them as taking a risk only that they will improve my record show my skill and that I can win against anyone.
CW: Polish fighters seem to be making their presence known in MMA. There is Joanna Jedrzejczyk, Marcin Wrzocek on this seasons of The Ultimate Fighter, yourself, and a few others; is this the start of a Polish invasion like we’ve been seeing from the Irish?
MH: MMA is very popular in Poland. It is growing very fast. Most Polish fans watch the Polish fighting organizations they don’t see as much of the American fights but they do know when Polish fighters are doing well. I think the sport will keep growing in Poland and that there will be more Polish fighters to be known around the world and this will make the Polish fans more happy and maybe they will see more fights from more organizations all over the world.
CW: You’re often called a leg lock specialist but I see you as a very well rounded wrestler/BJJ practitioner. Does it bother you some when people distill your style down to just leg locks?
MH: No. I like the leg locks very much I think I can get them on every fighter. I think maybe because I am good at them people call me a specialist but I am training all jui jitsu. I have arm bars, chokes; I think I am well rounded, so this does not bother me.
CW: Do you feel a little overlooked. Chandler and Brooks fought for interim belt. You took the Nate Jolly fight even though you didn’t need to. Chandler lost a split decision and got an immediate rematch. Then you defeated Pitbull but they give a title shot to Jansen before you.
MH: No. I feel like my time is coming. After I won the fight against Pitbull Dave Jansen already had a fight scheduled with Will Brooks so I know that I will fight the winner next. I just wanted my chance to fight for the title so waiting one more fight did not bother me.
CW: Then you took the Sarnavskiy fight when you didn’t need to. That was a risky fight. He is a great striker. Were you worried about that maybe affecting your title shot if you lost?
MH: I didn’t want to wait too long between fights. I think I am at my best when I fight more. I train a lot in the gym and am always trying to get better and learn new things but you cant know what you have learned in training until you fight so I like to fight as a way to see how my training is going, to see what works and what I need to improve on.
CW: In your Fight against Ryan Healy I noticed improved striking. You landed several hard rights before you knocked him down and out. Have you been making an effort to focus more on your striking?
MH: This is something I am looking to improve on. I am looking to improve on all aspects but I train striking more because you have to be well rounded to be champion.
CW: About that, I know you spent some time at Roufusport in the past. Are you still working with Duke Roufus?
MH: No. I am training at home now. I think to train other places is good sometimes but I think that it goes best for me at home. I have good coaches and I think that I can get everything I need at home.
CW: Will Brooks like to stay at range, cut angles and uses a lot of kicks. But you like to move forward and all his kicks would seem like he’ll be inviting you to take him down. How do you think that matches up against your style?
MH: He is a good fighter. He is the champion. We have watched his fights and I have a plan for fighting him. I don’t want to talk too much about this but I think we have a good plan. When we fight I think Will Brooks will be surprised. This is all I can say about this. He will be surprised.
CW: Last question. I have to ask you this. I was wondering if you had any thoughts on Rousimar Palhares. You’re both leg lock specialists. You’ve injured a couple of guys and broken some legs. What do you think about his situation?
MH: With the leg locks you can easily hurt someone but I think he tries to hurt people and because of this I don’t too much like him. He holds the leg lock too long when he should let go. I think people can get hurt in MMA but we are not trying to hurt each other, we are competing. It is sport. When you get the submission you should let go. If I break an opponents leg, it is my opponents fault because he did not tap before this happened. I fight hard and am trying to win but not hurt people. I let go as soon as the fight is over. I don’t want to hurt anyone. But I think Palhares tries to hurt people. This is not good. I don’t like it.
CW: Marcin, thanks so much for your time. I look forward to talking to you again.
MH: Thank you. Ha-Ha. Yes, yes. We will talk when I am champion.
Recently Will Brooks made some unflattering comments about Held’s fighting style and in keeping with his humble nature Marcin dismissed it all as merely words. The fight is certainly a clash of styles but Marcin’s improved striking and his iron chin might close the gap on Brooks stand up advantage while Held’s ground game is unquestionably far superior.
A win for Held would not only make him the lightweight champion but bring his career with Bellator full circle since his only losses in the organization are against the men Brooks has beaten in his two title defenses. Held isn’t thinking about that though. As far as the Polish Prodigy is concerned, no matter what happens he intends to take on all comers, for a long time to come.
Bellator: Selecting the Four Alternates for the Heavyweight Grand Prix.
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
— Bellator MMA (@BellatorMMA) November 28, 2017
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
- 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!
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:
@BellatorMMA @ScottCoker I want in on this World Grand Prix, anyone gets hurt or injured I want in, I want to be that alternant. Plus I got some unfinished business to attend to. #cantstopwontstop pic.twitter.com/zHtpMzHcya
— Linton Vassell (@LDV_TheSwarm) November 19, 2017
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)
Exclusive: Hisaki Kato: “My priorities are in MMA”
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.”
Exclusive: Fernando Gonzalez talks Paul Daley and Michael Page fights
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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