I spoke with one of the UK’s top heavyweights, UFC vet, former UCMMA and IGF champion and winner of 2006’s Britain’s Strongest Man, “The Spartan” Oli Thompson, who will be facing Matt Mitrione at Bellator 158 on July 16th at the O2 Arena in London. We spoke about the unusual nature of the announcement, how he sees the fight going and coming so close to a bout with Fedor Emelianenko.
So, a couple of weeks ago you entered the cage following Mitrione’s fight and Jimmy Smith broke the news that the two of you would be fighting on the London card. Mitrione didn’t seem to remember too much about the fight he’d just had and suddenly they were announcing his next fight just 3 weeks later. What do you think about the timing of that announcement?
Oli Thompson: Well I didn’t really know why I was flying out initially, I did have a few ideas, a few possibilities but obviously Mitrione still had a fight so we didn’t know what was going to happen. I went out and did some promotional photos, had my medical because I’d signed a contract anyway, I wasn’t really sure what was going to happen. I can understand people saying that maybe it was a bit premature but at the same time it would have been a shame to waste the fact that we were there together. If it hadn’t come off then obviously there’d have been a change of plans but I guess it was an opportunity they didn’t want to miss.
Would this match up still have been put together if he’d lost that fight?
That did come close to happening, Mitrione was caught by a huge right hand early on in his Bellator debut and looked close to being finished. You said to him yourself you were worried he’d blown it for a minute. What did you think of Mitrione’s performance?
OT: [Laughs] Yeah, I did. The performance was definitely sloppy, there wasn’t much of it to judge him on but what did happen was sloppy. He was fortunate that Carl wasn’t more clinical and Carl didn’t grapple as well as he could have in there.
Were you worried that Matt might not be medically cleared to compete in London?
OT: Yeah, I mean I knew that I’d signed a contract with Bellator and I was going to fight one of their top names, I was sure of that whether it was London or somewhere else. Mitrione fitted the bill and I was definitely keen to fight him. When he went down, if that door had shut it would have just opened up the door for one of their other guys, I wouldn’t have cried about it but I was pleased he passed the medical, for myself competitively and for him, for his health.
Things could have gone a couple of different ways at Bellator 157, were you already in a fight camp before the actual announcement?
OT: When the fight was first spoke about as a possibility, just maybe a week or two earlier I upped the intensity of my training and planned things out a bit better, put a bit more structure to it. I was prepared for the possibility the fight would happen, it wasn’t a long camp but generally I don’t get too far from fight shape most of the time.
Would you have fought someone else on the Bellator card or was your deal always to fight Mitrione?
OT: I would have fought on the card and fought anyone they wanted me to fight, as long as it was exciting for me and motivating for me. I wanted to fight in London, that’s exciting but if I’d had to fight on a different Bellator show I’d have been equally excited and had the chance to get some more training in, so I’d be happy either way.
Your fight is at the O2 arena in London. Obviously you’ve had big fights in big promotions, fought in the UFC but this has to be up there as one of the biggest fights you’ve had, how much are you looking forward to fighting in London?
OT: The fight itself, to me is the biggest fight I’ve ever had. Obviously if you’re a good competitor your next fight is always your biggest fight, that should be how it is but Mitrione is a guy who’s been successful against guys who have been successful, he can do a lot for me. It’s in my hands, it’s in London, I have a good support network and a lot of home comforts in my surroundings.
This card has been nothing if not eventful, we had the tragic untimely passing of Kimbo Slice who was obviously scheduled to main event against James Thompson, Josh Koscheck pulled out of the Paul Daley rematch that feels destined never to happen at this point, Michael Page’s opponent withdrew due to visa issues, we’ve had late fight announcements, Linton Vassell withdrew due to injury, Mark Godbeer pulled out of his fight with James Mulheron citing a contractual dispute. Has this been a pretty crazy introduction to Bellator?
OT: Yeah, sure. Lots of ups and downs. Like any other combat sports fan I was gutted about Kimbo’s passing. That was a tragedy regardless of the show, just in general. Before that happened there’d been talks about the possibility of this fight with Mitrione coming up, it was already a possibility to go on as well as that fight initially on the same card. That tragedy happening probably accelerated things through necessity. I’m sad to see Linton out, he’s a friend of mine, I train with him he’s a great guy and it’s sad to see him out so close to the fight. It’s sad for my pal James as well, he was preparing for a fight that he’s not getting now.
Specifically on the Mark Godbeer issue, Tapology rank you as the number 1 heavyweight in the UK, James Mulheron and Mark Godbeer are 2nd and 3rd respectively. Is it disappointing for the UK heavyweight division that this fight isn’t going ahead?
OT: It was an interesting fight definitely, for both guys. They’ve had a lot of success over the last few years. I’m focused on my own battles though, I don’t really look at the UK heavyweight scene in general. I’m really pleased that James Mulheron, someone who I respect a lot is matched up now and will get to show what he’s got on the big stage one way or another.
Is it true you were offered a fight with Fedor Emelianenko earlier this year?
OT: Yeah, I’ve been offered three fights this year, I’ve accepted all three of them. I’ve been offered Fedor Emelianenko, I accepted but he said no and took what he thought would be an easier fight. After that I was offered Vitaly Minakov as a replacement, he wanted an easier fight as well. Earlier in the year I accepted a fight with Alexander Volkov but there were some issues with the promotion out there.
Was the Fedor offer for Rizin or for Eurasia Fight Nights (EFN)?
OT: The Fedor and the Minakov fights would have been on the Fight Nights show.
Seeing what happened at that event, how Fedor looked against Maldonado, do you feel like there was a missed opportunity for you to get a really big win?
OT: Yeah, it would be nice to be sitting here now on a 6 fight win streak, Fedor as the latest name and 50 grand in the bank.
How do you see your fight with Mitrione ending?
OT: I see it ending very similarly to what happened to Matt a few weeks ago but with a more physical guy on top of him.
Has that been an extra motivation for you, seeing how he was dropped, albeit by a huge right hand but really it was the first real shot that landed and Matt was really close to being finished, maybe if Seumanutafa had followed up a little better he could have finished that fight, has that been a boost for your confidence?
OT: Yeah, I mean I wouldn’t say it’s boosted my confidence because I’m confident in what I can do to him but it just reaffirms what I already know.
Oli Thompson faces Matt Mitrione at Bellator 158 in the O2 Arena London, July 16th
UFC looks for undefeated fighters for the next season of TUF
As the latest season of The Ultimate Fighter comes to a close in a few weeks, UFC has set tryouts for the next season of The Ultimate Fighter on December 12th but there is a catch, participates must hold an undefeated record.
Titled The Ultimate Fighter 27: Battle of the Undefeated, the next installment of TUF will be looking for male fighters with an undefeated record with a minimum of 3-0 to apply for the show. The casting call asks for featherweights and welterweights but in the early stages of tryouts, a weight class will be decided later in the process.
Fighters must be aged between 21 – 34 and will grapple and light spar in front of UFC matchmakers and must be prepared to stay in Vegas until December 16th.
It is unknown what the future of TUF will be after the TV deal with FOX ends next year but the show has been a success for the company and many fighters to emerge from The Ultimate Fighter have become champion including current interim Lightweight champion Tony Ferguson, Bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw and Strawweight champion Rose Namajunas coming from past seasons of the show.
This will be the third time in a row that a gimmick will be added to the show that has been on the decline in the ratings in recent years but yet to use only undefeated fighters. An undefeated streak can be one of the most prestigious records to keep in mixed martial arts with the wins and losses being so vital in a fighters career.
Who will keep their zero? Who will be the next Ultimate Fighter? Who will be the coaches?
These questions will be answered when the new season of TUF begins shooting in January and the show premiering later in the year.
Tom Gallicchio on UFC Release “It’s Been a Dream of Mine to Fight in KSW”
MMA Latest spoke to TUF 22 and 25 season competitor Tom Gallicchio about being cut from the UFC, and potential promotions that he could sign for in the future.
Gallicchio (19-10) signed for the UFC after reaching the semi-finals of The Ultimate Fighter: Season 25. Losing to James Krause in his debut, “Da Tank” was informed earlier this month that the UFC had parted ways with him.
Q: Before we jump into the whole free agency stuff, talk me through how the UFC broke the news that they were going to release you?
I thought I was going to have another fight, this time at lightweight. I got a letter dated July 7th, saying they were going to keep me, I received it in September. I was getting emails to update my USADA, I never got a cut letter and I got tested by USADA on October 24th. I was hoping to fight sometime in January or February, then they broke the news to me that they need to make a room for new talent.
Q: You made your UFC debut against James Krause in July, then 4 months down the line, they cut you. How surprised were you at this somewhat out of the blue decision?
I’m thankful for my opportunity in the UFC and the fact that they gave me another shot, but it was definitely surprising how it happened. They released a newsletter in September welcoming Jesse (Taylor) Dhiego (Lima) and myself into the UFC, all signs pointed towards another fight. Hearing that I was cut was just heartbreaking.
Q: Have any talks started with a new promotion. I saw you name a few on Twitter, the likes of Bellator, BAMMA, KSW and ACB. Who do you see yourself signing for?
I would love to compete in any of those! A couple of them hit me up, one of which I am very happy to talk with. Since they came out, It’s been a dream of mine to fight in KSW. They’re taking care of their fighters, I would love to fight for them. I want to travel, I want to see the world, I want to fight. I’ve got a lot of fans overseas and I want to give them a show.
It’s been a dream of mine to fight in KSW.
— Tom Gallicchio (@TomGallicchio) November 15, 2017
Q: Your long time friend Jesse Taylor was victorious in the TUF 25 Finale, but he has since accepted a 1-year ban for failing a USADA test. What is your take on this given how close you two are?
I know Jesse is not a juicer, I’ve known him ever since I came down to (Team) Quest. It’s probably come from some supplement that he’s taking, it sucks for him. I think he went into a little bit of panic mode, he could have done a better job of handling it.
— Tom Gallicchio (@TomGallicchio) November 16, 2017
I don’t take supplements, if there was a way, I’d still keep myself in the USADA pool just because I believe in a clean sport. I think it’s important we keep the sport clean and if we’re cleaning up the supplement companies then good, because no one else is.
Where would you look to see Tom fight next? Let us know below!
2017 IMMAF World Championships: Finals fixtures
After 4 days of non stop action from Monday to Thursday we have our final 14 bouts to determine the 2017 IMMAF World Champions. Most of these fighters have fought four times for their slot in the final and tomorrow will be their chance to finish off what has been a fantastic week of fights.
Kicking off the action tomorrow will be Michele Oliveira vs. Danni Neilan. Both women have looked extremely impressive in their bouts so far, Oliveira has spent less time in the cage than her opponent after finishing two of her fights. Neilan is the Irish teams last chance of a gold in this competition and comes into this after a war of a last fight. She is constantly pressuring and has solid striking with incredible ground and pound from any position on top.
Joel Aronlainen came down to featherweight after testing the water at lightweight in the European Championships. His lanky build and impressive overall skill set has seen him pick up 3 finishes in the competition so far. His opponent Delyan Georgiev is undefeated and will be a tough challenge for him. Georgiev has dominated the featherweight division at amateur, his gold medal at the European Championships could now lead to him becoming a world champion if he continues to perform like we’re used to seeing him do.
At 155lbs, Vitali Andruhovich will take on top American prospect Quintin Thomas for the gold. Andruhovich has been on the right side of two very close split decisions in this tournament so far. His controversial win over Irishman Ciaran Clarke had many people scratching their heads at the decision. He now has the chance to prove himself with a win against Quintin Thomas. Thomas is the UMMAF National Champion and a very experienced amateur fighter. Racking up 13 wins he has been a dominant fighter in most of his fights, his sole losses coming from sustaining an injury and a split decision loss.
For the Middleweight medal we have a battle of the Nordic fighters. Iceland’s Bjorn Lukas Haraldsson has looked phenomenal in his fights so far, finishing each and everyone inside a round. The Mjolnir fighter has been to many the highlight of the tournament, but has a tough task a head of him in Laallam who’s had half the number of fights in this tournament and looked impressive in both.
Bahrain’s last hope for a medal lies in the hand of Light Heavyweight finisher Murtaza Talha Ali. Ali has finished all four of his bouts so far, 3 via TKO/KO and his last being by way of submission. Standing in his way of gold will be Pavel Pahomenko from Belarus who’s proven to be lethal with submissions once an opportunity arises scoring two submission wins inside the first round.
Here is the full fixture list for the finals tomorrow:
- Michele Oliveira vs. Danni Neilan 125 lbs
- Anna Astvik vs. Hannah Dawson 115 lbs
- Chamia Chabbi vs. Manon Fiorot 135 lbs
- C. McCrudden vs. Fabiana Giampà 145 lbs
- Gase Sanita vs. Kaycee Blake 155 lbs
- Yernaz Mussabek vs. Serdar Atlas 125 lbs
- Gamzat Magomedov vs. O. Moldagaliyev 135 lbs
- Joel Arolainen vs. Delyan Georgiev 145 lbs
- V. Andruhovich vs. Quitin Thomas 155 lbs
- Sola Axel vs. Benjamin Bennett 170 lbs
- B. Haraldsson vs. Khaled Laallam 185 lbs
- Pavel Pahomenko vs. Murtaza Talha Ali 205 lbs
- Irman Smajic vs. Lev Vins 265 lbs
- Atanas Krastanov vs. Marcin Kalata 300 lbs
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