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Bellator 207’s ‘Hollow Point’ Ready For ‘Stand Up War’

Bellator 207: “Mitrione vs. Bader” takes place this Friday night (Oct. 12, 2018) at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., featuring a semifinal match in the promotion’s Heavyweight Grand Prix between Matt Mitrione (13-5) — who is riding a four-fight win streak — against the five-fight winning run of current Light Heavyweight champion Ryan Bader (25-5).

Earlier in the evening, a crucial women’s Featherweight bout pits two potential contenders — Janay Harding (3-4) and Sinead Kavanagh (5-2) — against each other, with the winner possibly earning a future shot against reigning champion Julia Budd (12-2), which is no small matter given that Budd has a longer win streak than both Mitrione and Bader combined.

Kavanagh rattled off a four-fight win streak of her own until 2017, then experienced some of the growing pains young fighters do with two losses, including a split decision at Bellator 187 against “Angerfist” Arlene Blencowe. She rebounded nicely from that rough patch with a main card technical knockout win, setting up the SBG Ireland-trained prospect for a big 2018. “Hollow Point” Harding, meanwhile, has also been on the wrong end of a fight with Blencowe, although that one took place in Australia. Despite a loss to Amber Leibrock in her promotional debut, this fight could spring her up the ladder in a division where Budd has beaten everybody but these two women.

MMAmania.com recently spoke with Harding about her preparation for a huge Bellator 207 fight, as well as how she got the “Hollow Point” nickname in the first place.

“My very first amateur fight in MMA, I kind of dominated, TKO win in the first round. It was a bit of a blasting. I think since then, when we were kind of brainstorming around nickname and fight name ideas, we kind of came up with that. It seemed relevant, the kind of blasting I was seeing was a good option, and yet it all kind of was consistent across. It ended up sticking and I’ve still got it now, which is surprising.”

Outside of mixed martial arts (MMA), Harding also has a background in boxing, and she credits the work she’s put in there for making her a better fighter overall.

“It’s always great to go back and specifically cover just the boxing side of things. I find that when I come back to MMA, my defense is better, my jab might be crisper and all that kind of stuff. I end up really benefiting off isolating that for maybe a few weeks, three to four weeks, and then coming back to MMA and incorporating it into my striking game in the MMA scene. I really feel like I’ve got a little benefit off even just competing and getting more ring time in competition and getting used to that kind of atmosphere as well.”

Going into the interview I knew that Kavanagh and Harding had a common opponent, but what I didn’t know was that Harding barely had any time to prepare to face Blencowe.

“I took the Arlene fight up on like two weeks notice and it was a very quick finish for me to get knocked out. I can’t necessarily compare the fights themselves, but I have trained with Arlene as well, which can kind of outline the fact that our strengths are very similar. Our striking in a general sense is very similar. I just have a different kind of technique and a different kind of game plan in comparison.”

It was only natural to follow up and find out if Harding and Blencowe were friends before and/or after their fight back in 2017.

“We were friends before. Obviously, the MMA fight scene in Australia isn’t very large and we’d fought on the same card before early in my career. We have a lot of mutual friends and stuff so yeah we had just been friends for a while and we had known each other. We took the fight up and we were still friends when we were fighting each other. We were in rehearsals sitting next to each other looking at Instagram videos the night before we were fighting each other. We’re gonna always be friends and we stayed friends, obviously after the fight even more so, and I think we’ll continue to do even if we have a rematch in the cards, which is definitely possible.”

Hindsight being 20/20, though, Harding wishes she had longer to prepare to face her friend.

“It was a kind of a funny part of my life where I was going through a lot of change in my personal life, and I was trying to move forward and dedicate a lot to this MMA career that I had started. I felt like I wasn’t getting a lot of opportunities and a lot of opponents so when one did come along I jumped at the idea of it. I really believed in myself no matter what but a couple more weeks and it would have made a massive difference.”

That’s why Harding is confident that we haven’t seen her best yet, and that a full camp for Kavanagh has made even better than her three knockout wins to date.

“I got matched up about six weeks ago from today so I’ve had plenty of time for this camp and I’ve been able to really establish a good camp here in Sydney. This time around as well (I’ve) added a couple more gyms and a couple more people on board for strength and conditioning, and extra things that I didn’t even have for my May camp. I’m looking forward to how that shows in the fight, for sure.”

What kind of fight can fans expect from Janay Harding vs. Sinead Kavanagh in Uncasville this weekend?

“I definitely think it will be a stand up fight, but not necessarily a war. I’m not going to get caught in any brawls like I have done in the past and like Sinead would prefer. You can kind of see from her fights that she likes being on the inside and she likes closing those heavy shots and that gives her the finish. I’m going to obviously avoid that. My striking is just a little bit more varied and there’s more variety in it. I’ll be able to use that to my advantage and I’ll be able to use my reach as well. I think it will be a stand up war, but not necessarily in a brawling kind of way, and I think there will be a finish for sure.”

That means Harding vs. Kavanagh is a fight not to be missed on Friday night.

Complete audio of our interview is embedded above, and complete coverage of “Mitrione vs. Bader” resides here at MMA Mania all week long.

To check out the latest Bellator MMA-related news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive news archive right here.

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Video! Does It Look Like Khabib Is Ready For McGregor?

Despite having a massive advantage over Conor McGregor in the wrestling department, UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov is still going to have his hands full when the two stars meet next weekend at UFC 229.

If Nurmagomedov is able to drag the brash Irishman to the canvas that means he had success getting past McGregor’s hands on the feet. It’s a daunting task considering McGregor is one of the very best strikers in mixed martial arts today, but Khabib’s 26-0 professional record suggests he’ll do whatever it takes to capture victory at UFC 229 and retain his 155-pound title.

In preparation for his impending grudge match with “Notorious,” Khabib has released the first episode of his behind-the-scenes training camp at American Kickboxing Academy (shown above).

Under the tutelage of head coach Javier Mendez, alongside notable sparring partners like former UFC middleweight champion Luke Rockhold, Nurmagomedov is honing his skills the best he can. Only time will tell if Khabib’s hard work pays off against a killer like McGregor. Because no matter how high “Eagle” has soared throughout his career he hasn’t met a fighter as unique as “Notorious.”

UFC 229 will take place on Oct. 6 live on pay-per-view (PPV) from inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.

For more UFC 229: ‘McGregor vs. Khabib’ news click here.

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‘Cyborg’ Calls for UFC to Have A Backup Ready if Amanda Nunes Pulls Out of UFC 232

The first-ever women’s super-fight in the Ultimate Fighting Championship takes place at UFC 232 in December between featherweight champion Cristiane Justino, better known as “Cyborg,” and bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes.
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Lovato Jr. ‘Ready For Anything’ BJJ Rival Brings At Bellator 205

Bellator 205: “McKee vs. Macapa” comes to CenturyLink Arena in Boise, Idaho, this Friday night (Sept. 21, 2018), featuring undefeated Featherweight “Mercenary” A.J. McKee (11-0) looking to put on a show against “Macapa” John Teixeira (21-3-2) in Paramount Network’s main event of the evening. In the co-main event, a fight anticipated since Bellator 198 should finally come to fruition.

John Salter (15-3) is on a seven-fight win streak with two knockouts and five decisions. He’s not only looked like the man to beat at Middleweight, he’s almost certainly ready for a title shot with an eighth straight win. Rafael Lovato Jr. (8-0) was more than ready to face him in Illinois in April, but a medical issue forced Salter to withdraw, leading Lovato to notch his eighth straight win by submitting the previously retired Gerald Harris. Respect was due to Harris for stepping up to take the bout, but it was not the battle of submission aces the fans came to see.

Lovato recently spoke with MMAmania.com about seeing so many submissions at Bellator 198 in April and whether that could happen again in Boise — particularly in his fight with Salter.

“I doubt you’re going to see that many finishes in one night, especially on the main card. As far as my fight (though), you know it’s hard to say. I try not to put any one specific thing in my mind as to, ‘This is how it’s going to go.’ I’m just going to be ready for everything.”

In fact, Lovato sees the very real possibility that a clash of similar styles in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and ground game could result in a fight without a submission.

“You know both Salter and I are ground specialists, so he’s not going to fall into any silly traps or anything like that, and you know neither am I. It could be that our ground skills sort of cancel each other out, and the fight has to take place in other areas more. We’ll see how it goes, but I’m ready for everything, and I would love to get another beautiful submission for you guys.”

Salter and Lovato were on a collision course in April, but the issue that forced Salter out and caused this fight to move to Boise may actually put more pressure on Lovato’s opponent.

“We’ve basically been training for each other all year, you know he’s been on my mind all year. I still got to fight last time around (in Chicago) so if anybody has more of a weight on their chest it’s probably him (rather) than me being that he’s been sidelined the whole year.”

At this point Lovato is just ready to go out there, prove himself in Idaho, and take that next step toward achieving his Bellator goals.

“It’ll just be, ‘Okay, let’s check this off, let’s do it.’ You know the gameplan, preparing for this one guy basically the whole year, it’ll just be nice to finally play it out and have fun in there, and test myself against him and challenge myself against him. You know, get that victory and show everyone that I’m the No. 1 contender.”

That naturally leads to the question of “Mousasi vs. MacDonald” little more than one week later. And make no mistake about it: Lovato wants to be fighting for that world title.

“Yeah, I mean that’s my dream! In jiu-jitsu, my goal was to be a world champion, and solidify myself as one of the best of my generation. Now I’m doing my best to do the same in MMA. It’s my dream to be the Bellator world champion and get that world title in MMA, and hold that belt as well for as long as possible. Every fight I’ve consistently stepped up in level of competition. I’m not trying to have easy fights or anything like that. I want to evolve, get better, learn, grow, test myself, and climb my way to that title as quickly and cleanly as possible.”

There’s no clean road to the top, though, as Lyoto Machida just made it more bumpy. Does Lovato believe that if they both win they’d have to face off for that No. 1 spot?

“You know we’ve gotta just see how it plays out. I think another great finish, another solid victory (for me), especially over someone like Salter who’s ARGUABLY been deserving of a title shot longer than me, like longer than anybody in the division, that would really solidify myself. I mean Machida has the name (but) he still has to get past Carvalho, which is I think is going to be a very tough fight for him. We’ll just have to see how that goes. It could be a boring decision, and in that case neither one of them will get that title shot.”

That’s a good argument for whoever has the more exciting fight being next, but what if Lovato and Salter are so evenly matched that they wind up having the boring fight?

“I mean we’re all human, we all have our weaknesses, it’s just who is going to bite into the other person’s weaknesses first? Who’s going to make the first mistake and (their foe) be able to capitalize? I’m not saying I’m going to win this way or that way, I’m prepared for war. Salter’s been in there with some of the best in the world, he’s on a killer win streak right now, he’s finishing everybody. It’s not going to be easy, you know? I do think that I’m going to present some problems for him that he maybe hasn’t experience because he’s definitely had the jiu-jitsu advantage on everybody he’s fought thus far, and I’m not going to be easy to submit. He’s not going to just take me down and submit me. He might take me down, but he’s not going to just submit me easy.”

There you have it. “Lovato vs. Salter” will be the ultimate human chess match for Bellator 205 at the CenturyLink Arena in Boise, Idaho, this weekend.

Complete audio of our interview is embedded above, and complete coverage of “McKee vs. Macapa” resides here at MMA Mania all week long.

To check out the latest Bellator MMA-related news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive news archive right here.

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UFC 228 Primer: Are You Ready to See a UFC Champ Murdered?

To say the odds are against UFC female flyweight champ Nicco Montano would be an understatement. When she fights at UFC 228 this weekend, she literally has almost zero chance of successfully defending her belt.

Heck, she has almost zero chance of survival. And some of that is because, since winning her belt at the culmination of some season of TUF, Montano has been frickin’ AWOL (absent without leave, a ghost, a mythological creature that may or may not ever have existed), which undoubtedly makes her rusty as hell. But most of her doom centers around the fact that her opponent is Valentina Shevchenko.

Valentina Shevchenko the top bantamweight challenger. Whose only two losses in the Octagon are to bantamweight champ Amanda Nunes, and both of which were narrow decision losses.

Shevchenko is going to murder Montano. It’s not even going to be close.

Just take a look at their respective resumes. A glance at Montano’s and it seems as if she’s just starting out, giving this MMA thing a try while she works towards an associate’s degree at the local community college.

Meanwhile, Shevchenko’s record paints another portrait entirely. After years of amateur kickboxing, and years of being a Muay Thai champ, she jumped into the cage. There, she’s beaten the likes of Julianna Pena, Sarah Kaufman and Holly Holm. HOLLY HOLM!

Thus far in her UFC career, Montano has earned a decision over Roxanne Modafferi. And chilled on the sidelines for almost a year.

Never mind their respective strengths and weaknesses. With the massive disparity in their experience, it won’t matter if Montano can throw a decent punch or kick hard or summon the Great Spirit. Shevchenko is going to crush her.

Anyway, here’s Daniel Cormier hyping the fight.

The post UFC 228 Primer: Are You Ready to See a UFC Champ Murdered? appeared first on Caged Insider.

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UFC 228 Primer: Are You Ready to See a UFC Champ Murdered?

To say the odds are against UFC female flyweight champ Nicco Montano would be an understatement. When she fights at UFC 228 this weekend, she literally has almost zero chance of successfully defending her belt.

Heck, she has almost zero chance of survival. And some of that is because, since winning her belt at the culmination of some season of TUF, Montano has been frickin’ AWOL (absent without leave, a ghost, a mythological creature that may or may not ever have existed), which undoubtedly makes her rusty as hell. But most of her doom centers around the fact that her opponent is Valentina Shevchenko.

Valentina Shevchenko the top bantamweight challenger. Whose only two losses in the Octagon are to bantamweight champ Amanda Nunes, and both of which were narrow decision losses.

Shevchenko is going to murder Montano. It’s not even going to be close.

Just take a look at their respective resumes. A glance at Montano’s and it seems as if she’s just starting out, giving this MMA thing a try while she works towards an associate’s degree at the local community college.

Meanwhile, Shevchenko’s record paints another portrait entirely. After years of amateur kickboxing, and years of being a Muay Thai champ, she jumped into the cage. There, she’s beaten the likes of Julianna Pena, Sarah Kaufman and Holly Holm. HOLLY HOLM!

Thus far in her UFC career, Montano has earned a decision over Roxanne Modafferi. And chilled on the sidelines for almost a year.

Never mind their respective strengths and weaknesses. With the massive disparity in their experience, it won’t matter if Montano can throw a decent punch or kick hard or summon the Great Spirit. Shevchenko is going to crush her.

Anyway, here’s Daniel Cormier hyping the fight.

The post UFC 228 Primer: Are You Ready to See a UFC Champ Murdered? appeared first on Caged Insider.

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Alexander Gustafsson Is Ready For The Return Of Jon Jones

After a long string of injuries, Gustafsson his his eyes set on a fall return, and the return of ‘The Beast.’

Fans of Alexander Gustafsson took another kick to the junk last month when they learned the Swedish light heavyweight was injured once again and wouldn’t be fighting at UFC 224 as expected. On the plus side, all signs pointed to the injury being a minor one, so at least “The Mauler” would be back soon.

Current rumors had Gustafsson returning in the fall, and the man himself confirmed that timeline in an interview with MMA Viking.

”We go back and forth [with the UFC, we’re talking to them all the time,” Gustafsson said. “I wanna fight, so hopefully I’ll fight 6th of October. Maybe I’ll fight in November. I don’t know, I have no clue right now. But we’re looking for an opponent … We all know ‘The Beast’ is coming back. Whenever. I’m ready.”

’The Beast’ is undoubtedly Jon Jones, who’s return from USADA suspension continues to be the source of a ton of unsubstantiated rumors. Jones tested positive for the anabolic steroid Turinabol shortly before his July 29th fight with Daniel Cormier at UFC 214, making a fall fight with Alex unlikely if his (as of now undetermined) punishment is bigger than 12 months.

As for Gustafsson’s health?

”Good, I’ve been having some issues with my back thigh and small stuff,” Alexander said. “I’m staying busy, I can train … I’m here every day. And I feel good. I feel fine now. Like I said in other interviews, it was a s**t injury, it’s not even worth mentionining it, but it’s going good now and I feel good and I’m looking forward to the next fight.

And Gustafsson made it clear that he’s not picky, he just wants to fight.

”I’ll fight anyone,” he said. “October 6th is a good card, Conor and Khabib. I would love to fight on that card. But I’m open minded, I’m flexible, and I’m just waiting to see.”

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Khabib Nurmagomedov Ready to Make That Conor McGregor Money

Now that Conor McGregor is free to physically assault people via legal means (i.e., in the cage) and no longer concerned with going to jail for it, a world of opportunities has opened up.

But no greater portal to combat – and monster pay-per-view dollars – exists than the focus of the Irishman’s original ire on that fateful day in Brooklyn back in April. That’s right, I’m talking about the lightweight champ, Khabib Nurmagomedov.

If you’ll recall, McGregor assaulted that bus because Nurmagomedov was on it. And all that unwanted (or was it actually wanted) legal attention has made a match-up between the Irishman and the Dagestani one heck of a tantalizing prospect.

So now McGregor is free of legal entanglements, and Nurmagomedov is ready to face him and make that gigantic chunk of change that comes with pay-per-view percentage points. Here’s Nurmagomedov’s statement… although it’s worth noting that Nurmagomedov doesn’t exactly make it clear that he wants McGregor solely in the Octagon. He might still be willing to face McGregor in a park in Brighton Beach at midnight.

#SendmeLocation

A post shared by Khabib Nurmagomedov (@khabib_nurmagomedov) on

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Jon Fitch is ready to ‘put some Big Ten’ on Paul Daley and his ‘no longer granite’ chin

Bellator 199 ‘Bader vs King Mo’ takes place May 12, 2018 at SAP Arena in San Jose, Calif. MMA Mania talks to Jon Fitch about making his Bellator debut against the explosive striking of Paul ‘Semtex’ Daley!

Bellator 199 “Bader vs. King Mo” takes place May 12, 2018 at SAP Arena in San Jose, California. Ryan Bader (24-5) takes on Muhammed Lawal (21-6, 1 NC) in the final first round bracket of the Heavyweight Grand Prix in the main event at the vaunted “Shark Tank.”

Earlier in the night a critical bout in the Welterweight division offers a promotional newcomer a chance to instantly jump to the top of the ladder. Jon Fitch (30-7-1, 1 NC) was the WSOF and PFL Welterweight champion before leaving both behind to sign with Bellator in March. There are no shortage of guys in line to face “Red King” Rory MacDonald, but Fitch’s name and reputation could shortcut him to the top with a very impressive win.

Paul Daley (40-15-2) has something to say about that. Every time “Semtex” fights there’s a strong possibility of a knockout. He’s got some of the heaviest hands this division has ever seen and even though both men had a past in UFC they’ve never crossed paths until right now.

Today MMA Mania talks to Fitch about leaving his last promotion to start over again in Bellator, what he thinks of Paul Daley as an opponent, and why he bailed out on “Sugar” Ray Sefo’s organization this year.

“I was dissatisfied with them not sticking to the contract. I was supposed to have guarantees in my contract about numbers of fights in a year, and time in between fights, and that was unsatisfactory for me to be waiting around. I also felt that I had beaten everybody of significance in the organization and (that) there was just greener pastures in Bellator.”

There’s little question it’s been too long for the now 40 year old Fitch to wait. His last bout was in June 2017 so that’s nearly a full year of inactivity for an elite level fighter.

“I asked them to either pay me the money owed for the fights that I didn’t get or to release me, and they chose to release me. You know it was a bit of a risk but I figured that I’d find a place in Bellator and I did so everything worked out.”

In the process Fitch vacated his WSOF/PFL title, not that he seems too broken up about it, especially given the prospect of a Daley fight looming just around the corner in San Jose.

“I feel great about the match up! You know Paul Daley comes to fight hard, he brings it, and I do best when guys bring the fight to me.”

Once place “Semtex” never brought it to him was UFC. Even though both men were in the organization between 2009 and 2010, for whatever reason that match never came to fruition.

“There were a lot of fights I think I should have had or could have had in UFC but they never put them together — I don’t know why. You know some of it could have been that Joe Silva always said I was one of the hardest guys to match up. No one ever wanted to fight me. People were always hurt or they wanted (to fight) somebody else.”

In 18 UFC fights Fitch went 14-3-1, with his only losses coming against Georges St-Pierre, Johny Hendricks and Demian Maia. Fitch admits though that some folks may be sleeping on the “old man.”

“I think I’ve been around long enough to have built a name up for myself. I think a lot of guys see me as old, so uhh, they think I’m a little bit softer target now — which is a big mistake.”

That would be a mistake given that Fitch has won six of his last seven and four straight in a row. Even at 40 years old Fitch just may be coming into the prime years of a long and storied career.

“It’s not so much the age, it’s the number of years put in I think. You know not too many guys fight 16 years. Josh Thomson’s got me beat, he’s got 20 years in so, I know I’m still not that old.”

Daley may be five years younger than Fitch but he’s been in the fighting game just as long, racking up an astounding 57 MMA fights in that span plus 24 more in kickboxing. He’s also lost 15 MMA fights though so Fitch sees chinks in his armor.

“Yeah you’ve got two guys who definitely know how to fight and I think it’s going to turn into a great night. Man he’s definitely got power, he’s got long arms, but he doesn’t have a lot of other threats. His grappling defense isn’t great, and he doesn’t have a granite chin any more either. If you can sneak in some clean shots on him you can hurt him.”

In addition with Fitch’s 19 wins by decision he knows he can take tough opponents to the judges with his Purdue wrestling and AKA cardio.

“You know he comes to fight and I respect what he does, but I think I’ve got him outclassed as a fighter. I mean that’s generally what I do with everybody (in a fight), that’s what I try to do — see if they can sink or swim. Yeah I think it’s a good strategy to get in his face and put some Big Ten wrestling on him.”

While Fitch can’t afford to look past Daley and his prodigious punching power, he’s still got his eyes on the prize in the Welterweight division.

“I think if I have a really good performance it does (make me a contender). You know I’m coming off a little bit of a layoff, and I want to make sure that I’m ready for that too. Jumping from a three round fight to a five round fight, the training’s different, and I want to make sure that I’m ready to make a step up. My performance Saturday will be a big indicator of that for me.”

Tune in to Bellator 199 on May 12, 2018 to see if Jon Fitch can knock off Paul Daley and take that next step toward facing Rory MacDonald.

Complete audio of our interview is embedded above, and complete coverage of “Bader vs. King Mo” resides here at MMAmania.com all week long.

To check out the latest Bellator MMA-related news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive news archive right here.

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McKee Ready For Lawrence, Ignoring ‘Little Girl Drama’ Coming From McGregor Camp

Bellator 197: “Chandler vs. Girtz” comes to Family Center Arena in St. Charles, Mo., on April 13, 2018, featuring a main event between former Lightweight champion “Iron” Michael Chandler (17-4) against hard-hitting fellow long-time Bellator veteran, Brandon Girtz (15-7).

Elsewhere on the Paramount Network-televised card, two of the promotion’s top-ranked Featherweights will clash as one seeks to vault ahead of the pack, while the other looks to solidify his place at the front of the line. Justin Lawrence (11-4) is coming off two straight wins, but has previously lost fights to Emmanuel Sanchez and John Teixeira, which could have earned him contender status. Meanwhile, the sensational A.J. McKee (10-0) keeps on rolling through the competition. Only 30 percent of McKee’s fights have gone to a decision, and with his third round rear-naked choke at Bellator 187, he’s also proven he can bounce back late in a contest to find yet another big finish.

The subject of “Notorious” Conor McGregor was an unavoidable topic with A.J. McKee given that there is unfinished business between McKee and his fellow undefeated, friend, James Gallagher. I asked McKee for his comments on McGregor’s antics in Brooklyn the same day this interview was recorded.

“It’s Conor, man! He’s a wild man, he’s a fighting Irish, he’s wild. That’s one thing I’ve noticed about the Irish people — they’re wild. But, uhh, some of them back their shit up and some of them don’t. Some of them just like to talk. My previous fight, Brian Moore, he wasn’t a talker, but he came to fight. It was a good fight, fun fight, wish I would have trained more than three weeks for the fight but, HEY, I went in there and did what I had to do.”

McGregor’s antics at Bellator 187 also made headlines, although he wasn’t jumping in the cage a second time when Straight Blast Gym Ireland’s Moore got submitted. McKee promises that if the undefeated Gallagher wants some he can get some, too.

“Whatever!! That dude’s trash, too. He called me a pussy on national television, we’re supposed to fight, yet you’ve taken three (or) four different fights with other people and you still haven’t even attempted to fight me. You want to fight me, and then you pull out of a fight, and then you tell me you want to fight me, but you’re supposedly hurt. A week later you’re talking about you want a fight again. So are you hurt or do you want to fight? It’s a little girl drama. I think he’s scared to fight right now.”

Obviously, there’s no love lost between McKee and anybody at SBG, but the item on the docket at Bellator 197 says Justin Lawrence and not James Gallagher. McKee says he’s fully prepared for war.

“Man, Justin Lawrence is a great fighter. He’s a great opportunity for me to go out there and showcase my skills and really get a top-level contender. I feel like I haven’t fought anyone who’s on my level yet. I’ve kind of just been playing around and taking fights with mediocre guys who I can get away with training for (only) three weeks for a fight and winning, you know? Not really going into a fight prepared. Justin Lawrence isn’t someone that you can do that with. You’ve got to show up prepared, you’ve got to put in the full eight-week camp, and you’ve got to go out there and put on a show and bring the fight to him.”

Lawrence comes into Bellator 197 off back-to-back wins over Treston Thomison and Andrew Natividad. And he’ll also have the support of all the Missouri natives who’ve come to see their native son compete.

“That’s motivation! I’ve had haters motivate me my entire life. I came from nothing so what else are you supposed to do? You’re not supposed to make it if you’re coming from nothing so that’s just motivating me. When they sat there and sang their ‘ole ole ole’ (in Ireland) the whole time I laughed at them — and that thing was roaring loud. It was hilarious to me! So it’s motivation for me and I’m really looking forward to it. It’s gonna be fun and Justin Lawrence thanks for this opportunity. Thanks for making me train and preparing me to actually have to fight, you know?”

Even through all of McKee’s self-assured swagger you find a running thread of respect for Lawrence through his words. However, with current champion Patricio “Pitbull” Freire that respect dwindles.

“I’m waiting for Pitbull. I told him! I got a leash and a kennel waiting for him. There’s a couple other things I want to accomplish (first) before then. My father’s still fighting so I’m looking forward to doing a father-son fight (card) and competing with my dad. No one’s competed as professional athletes together besides in baseball so for this to be such a hands-on sport I’m really looking forward to breaking more history and being able to do that with him. But, Pitbull, he knows he’s got it coming! 2018 he’s losing that belt. It’s going to be mine.”

Above all else, McKee promises that this will be the best version of him who we’ve ever seen.

“I don’t get tired, I never get tired unless I’m not training of course, and that kind of showed in my last fight. We still know I can dig deep and pull out a W even when I’m tired. That’s a good thing to know and training this full eight weeks, man, (I’m) going to be phenomenal. Nothing against Justin Lawrence, he’s a great fighter, (but) I haven’t taken a fight over 50 percent yet. The fight I fought at 50 percent was Mazzotta and look how that finished. Being 80-90 percent ready is fun, you know? It’s fun and I’m ready to go in there and see what I can actually accomplish and do with a full eight-week camp and feeling almost 100 percent.”

Complete audio of our interview is embedded above, and complete coverage of “Chandler vs. Girtz” resides here at MMAmania.com all week long.

To check out the latest Bellator MMA-related news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive news archive right here.

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