Many two division stars have been born recently in MMA. Guys like Conor McGregor, Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone, ‘King’ Mo Lawal, and Benson Henderson have shown that fighters can be successful in multiple weight classes. You can add Saad Awad to that list after his beatdown of former Strikeforce title challenger Evangelista ‘Cyborg’ Santos.
Despite being a household name at 155 with wins over Will Brooks, Martin Stapleton, and Joe Duarton at Lightweight, Awad moved up to 170 to challenge himself against a known name in Santos. A first-round beatdown showed the skill and diversity of Awad’s game to go up a division and beat a durable guy. Awad returns to action this Friday night against Derek Anderson in a Lightweight bout. While the main event is likely a title-eliminator in the 155-pound division, Awad is looking to go out there and steal the show to earn himself a shot at the title that has eluded him so far.
Vinny Craig: The top of the division is crowded with great title contenders ready to step in for a chance at Michael Chandler. What sets you apart from those guys?
Saad Awad: My timing. I have 12 fights in Bellator fighting some of the best guys. My style helps, I’m an exciting fighter and people like exciting title fights. I have a lot of wins in Bellator so I can hopefully get a title shot.
VC: With a win over Derek Anderson, where do you see yourself getting a title shot?
SA: Not really, not because of him [Anderson], but because they have already announced who gets the next title shot. I’m not going to sit back and wait if that fight is a couple of months away because I wouldn’t get a title fight in six or seven months. I hope to win this one and rack up on more win to be in line for a title shot.
VC: Anderson is a very good fighter and has fought a who’s who in the division. What about his game is worrisome for you?
SA: I think it’s his durability. He can take a punch and guys like that just keep coming. He’s willing to take damage in rounds 1 and 2 to take the fight in the third. I think that’s the only thing I’m concerned about, but my style counters that. I hit hard and he likes to stand right in front of guys and I don’t take think he takes one of my punches let alone a few of them.
VC: You moved up a weight class to take a fight at Welterweight in your last fight, showing off your power there. What was the biggest difference between a fight at 155 and a fight at 170?
SA: I believe I’m a lot stronger than 155ers because I’m a big Lightweight. I have to keep a good diet to keep my muscle and strength (at Lightweight). At 170, I felt like I kept more of my strength, but you’re fighting guys who are coming down from 195 or even 205 to cut down to 170. I believe I can still hang with them, a lot of my training partners are 170 pounders who cut from higher weights, so I’m comfortable either way. I have a disadvantage at Lightweight and I have a disadvantage at Welterweight, but there are different disadvantages and advantages at each weight.
VC: What division do you see your future in?
SA: Right now, it’s 155. I’m going to win that title soon enough [when the opportunity presents itself]. I’ll be ready and I’m going to win the title. When I win it, unless something big opens up for me at 170, my plan is to keep the Lightweight title for a long time.
VC: Your last fight was at 170 pounds. Who had the better performance against Cyborg Santos between your 62 straight strikes landed on the ground or Michael Page’s knee that landed?
SA: Mine was because I won the fight outright. For MVP, he could have lost the first round and Cyborg came out gassed in the second after he wasted his energy holding him down. He had the better-timed strike, a flying knee is one of the best strikes you can land on someone. His timing in his striking is very good. What he did to end the fight was better, but overall performance mine was better.
VC: What can you bring from your one fight at Welterweight to bring back to Lightweight with you?
SA: The old Saad that comes out and doesn’t stop throwing until his opponent is done. That’s what I did in my last fight against Santos, and that’s what I plan on doing in my next fight.
VC: A fighters union started in the UFC, but has not come to Bellator yet. Is this something you’re interested in seeing all professional MMA organizations adopt or even entice you to go the organization that does have a union?
SA: They’ve been talking about this for awhile, but talks just got brought to the surface recently. I’ve been focused on my camp, so I’m not trying to put my focus on something else. When I get into something, I like to go feet first and I don’t want to put my attention anywhere else. I haven’t really paid attention, but I do know it’s supposed to be good for the fighters and anything good for the fighters, I’m with it.
VC: What were some of the best and worst parts of this particular training camp?
SA: The best part was actually being able to train. 90% of the time my training camps are filled with injuries that don’t allow me to do certain things. With this camp, I was able to do everything I needed to do. I’ve been working a lot with my strength and conditioning coach and that really played a big part. He helped strengthen a lot of my muscles that needed to be stronger for this fight. It’s helped me work through old injuries that I have had and not let them hold me back. As far bad parts, everything has pretty much gone my way this time. If something didn’t end up going my way, I probably wouldn’t share it anyway. Overall, everything has been great. I haven’t had to miss training sessions and I’ve been healthy.
VC: What’s it like training while you have a young baby at home?
SA: This is my first camp with my child because I took the Cyborg fight on two week’s notice. They told me, “you’re fighting in less than two weeks.” This time, I’ve had a full camp and I’m fortunate to have such a good baby. She doesn’t cry much unless she’s really hungry or really bored. We can put her down and do what we need to in the day. She sleeps the majority of the night, maybe wakes up once. I’m thankful I have an awesome wife who will wake in the night for me so I can get my rest and cater to our child. Right now I’m in camp, and my wife is making it as easy as possible for me. It hasn’t been a burden on me, if anything it’s brought me joy as get to come home and get to see my baby and I feel better. It’s like a treat for me to come home and see my baby.
VC: Prediction for your fight?
SA: If Derek fights me the way he’s been fighting and he doesn’t switch stuff up, I see my hand getting raised in the first round. If not, I’ll hit him for three rounds and I won’t lose a round. I’m going to go out there and show the world who I am once again.
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!
Rany Saadeh pleased with the opportunities ACB brings, promises a finish in his debut on Saturday
The BAMMA Flyweight belt was ruled for years by none other than Rany Saadeh, During his reign as champion he successfully defended the belt on two occasions. His dominance over the division saw him go undefeated in BAMMA and without a loss since 2012. Following the expiration of his contract, Rany vacated his BAMMA belt to explore new challenges.
He has now signed with ACB and is set to make his debut in only a matter of days at ACB 74 in Austria where he will take on Darren Mima. In a recent catch up with Rany, he explained his reasoning behind joining ACB and his goals in the promotion.
“ACB is the fastest growing organization in MMA. They’ve promised me an active career with events all over the world and a tempting bonus structure. It was just what I was looking for. I’ve looked into the competition and I can honestly say that the competition at flyweight is just as good, if not even better than in the UFC. Being the ACB title holder would make me a legit world champion.”
Ahead of his bout with Mima, we are set to see some new stuff from Saadeh as he claims to have changed up his style after a solid camp for this fight, guaranteeing us a surprise.
“I didn’t need to change anything for him but my style changed in general since my last fight. I’ve had an excellent camp with high-level training partners and coaches. I’m very grateful for my coaches who have put hours of private work into me this year. Especially with my new boxing coach Luciano Robledo, I can guarantee a surprise.”
The confidence is evident as he tells me how he sees the fight going. Promising his well-rounded arsenal of both strikes and grappling are worthy of bonuses, something he’d be very keen on considering the set-up in ACB.
“I will not just completely dominate but also finish.” He began, “I can imagine this fight being a wild brawl and dropping my opponent. Also on the ground, I have some slick submissions that are bonus-worthy.”
Having been successful in BAMMA, Rany is striving for more glory as plans on taking home the ACB title becoming the first Western European to do so.
“Of course!” he says with determination in his voice, “I’m coming into ACB as a world champion and the #1 ranked flyweight in Western Europe. After winning this fight, the title fight is right there”
It’s now been over a year since we’ve seen, “Prince” enter the cage. A decision voluntarily made by the German as he adjusted his game.
“It was mid last year when I had started to adjust my game. These changes take time and as the wished competition wasn’t there, I decided to take some time off fighting to prepare for a bigger challenge.”
Now having departed ways with BAMMA, the British promotion now has a new champion in Daniel Barez. Unfortunately for Rany, his reasons for leaving was the lack of competition has beaten everyone put in front of him with money being an issue that stepped in the way too. Despite any negativity derived from his departure, he does not rule out a return to the promotion where he was once Flyweight king.
“The competition in Europe just got very thin. With five fights in BAMMA, I somehow wasn’t very impressed with the opportunities left. Neither I got the fights, nor the purse that I needed to take my career further. After two title defenses, it felt like I was standing still which isn’t just BAMMA’s fault. Altogether, they are a great promotion and I wouldn’t exclude a return.”
When the UFC announced they would have the best flyweights from around the world enter the TUF house with a shot at the belt going to the winner. Many would have thought Rany Saadeh would have been up there. The season had champions from all over the world but no one from BAMMA, something strange considering the number of champions they signed in the past year from the promotion.
In an unfortunate circumstance for Saadeh, it was not his fault he wasn’t in the house as the UFC did come knocking but BAMMA just weren’t letting their champ go. Despite this situation, there is no bad blood anymore as Saadeh has moved on with things now.
“The UFC was definitely interested in putting me on the show and it is not true that BAMMA wasn’t asked. They were asked but didn’t want to be part of it. Without their permission, I wasn’t able to take part in the TUF. But I’m not mad at that anymore, I feel like it will make better opportunities possible.”
Having missed out on a possible UFC opportunity before, it isn’t on his mind anymore as he remains pleased with his life and is mainly looking to support his family in the future.
“I really don’t care, I’m set for the next few fights. All I want now is a decent living from fighting and provide for my family in the near future. ACB is not just giving me the chance to reach that goal but also giving me the challenges that I need. So far, I’m a very happy person”
Anthony “PrettyBoy” Taylor wants to knockout Trey Branch then fight Brian Moore in Bellator on St. Patricks Day
Going from postlim fights in Bellator to a co-main event and then a main card fight after with such little professional experience isn’t something you’d hear of very often in the slightest. In this case Anthony “PrettyBoy” Taylor is the exception, who in only his third professional fight went to Ireland as part of the co-main event for a fight with James Gallagher. Taylor became well known to many in the build-up to that fight for being so outspoken and quite an entertainer, something he carries with him to the cage.
Anthony Taylor now has himself a fight lined up in a regional show near his home in California at California Fighting Championships. This will be his first time fighting back in America since May 2016. His last two bouts were in Europe as part of Bellator’s expansion into Europe. Following two losses he now hopes to get back in the win column in front of a home crowd. Taking this fight as a tune off fight Anthony is confident he won’t be touched by his opponent Trey Branch.
“Well, I’m taking this fight because Bellator said I’ll be fighting next year for overseas and it will be a good tune off fight for me. I think of trey like any other fighter. Just a guy who’s not going to touch me nor beat me.”
His opponent Trey Branch is jumping up from flyweight for this fight, Anthony believes he’s going to dominate his opponent and knock him out with ease. Now having 3 career losses coming via submission, he is not worried about his ground game, guaranteeing it was improved from training with some of the top fighters in Bellator.
“I believe I’m going to overpower him and KO him. He’s coming up from 125lb to fight me which I stated to the world on Bellator that I’m the strongest 45er in the world!! And as far as my ground game, it’d be covered and it’s great. Thanks to AJ McKee, Baby Slice, Joey Davis and Aaron Pico. My ground game is great and up there to the level, as there’s”
Looking ahead to next year when he competes in Bellator again, Taylor has his eyes set on a big fight in a return to Irish soil.
“Well Bellator loves me and I proved them that I belong there. I haven’t been told when I was fighting but I hope it’s back in Ireland, and maybe on St. Patricks day and hopefully I’ll fight Brian Moore because me and him been wanting to fight the longest.”
As a training partner for AJ McKee, Taylor was very pleased with how the fight went down, claiming it was a simple enough fight for his teammate that apparently didn’t train much for the fight. Suffering a loss on the initial trip to the emerald isle, “PrettyBoy” wants to come back and take home a win next time around.
“Oh man it was an easy fight for AJ, he only trained 2 weeks for that Brian Moore fight” he laughs “but absolutely it would be a great show if I was also on the show me and James alone still holds the record of views internationally and I’m looking to come back and taking what’s mines which is that W”
The win against Brian Moore could now potentially line up a fight between McKee and James Gallagher, fight fans have long sought after. Having fought against James and training with McKee on the regular Taylor isn’t convinced that Gallagher is ready for the AJ just yet. He also had some words about SBG fighters who were calling out Baby Slice.
“James is not ready for AJ. And people calling out slice since he’s new in the game. Why are sbg guys not calling out Joey Davis?? They are all talk and think that they’re better than everyone.”
With a win on Saturday, Anthony Taylor thinks it will kick him off to a series of consecutive wins that could ultimately land him in a fight with Emmanuel Sanchez.
“Yes it will start off (Saturday) and I believe it will set me up tremendously. I’m only getting better and I plan on winning fights in Bellator and then taking out Emanuel Sanchez. I do not like him, I hate him”
“I don’t like his style and he’s always hating on my teammates so I want his head” he added
Away from the fight scene, Anthony is pleased with the life that he’s got set up for himself with his newfound love since joining Bellator as he now aims to break into the movie industry too.
“Man it’s been great I now have a wonderful woman in my life so I’m happy. I’m acting too, trying to get into the movies industry and God has blessed me which so much love”
You can follow Anthony Taylor on all his social media accounts to keep an eye out for all his upcoming fight information and results.
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