Ed West has been here before.
In fact, outside of the current champion, Zach Makovsky, he's the only one who's been here before.
West fought in the inaugural Bellator season three bantamweight tournament, surviving two tough opponents to make it to the finals where he lost the championship bout in to "Fun Size" after being put on his back for five straight rounds.
The fighter who trains out of Apex MMA in Tucson, Arizona is back again for the Bellator season five bantamweight tournament, which debuts at Bellator 51. "Wild" West is competing in a stacked tournament field that includes current featherweight champion Joe Warren and former WEC champion Chase Beebe among others.
West spoke with MMAmania.com about his thoughts on his title fight with Makovsky, changes in his training and what we can expect when he faces Luiz Nogueira this Saturday night (September 24, 2011) in Canton, Ohio.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You were a finalist in the inaugural Bellator bantamweight tournament but you came up short against Zach Makovsky. Can you talk about that fight?
Ed West: Well, I lost the fight. Honestly, I just didn't perform well in that fight. Zach had a really good night that night and I just didn't have a good night. I feel like in retrospect, if hindsight's 20/20, I could have done a lot better. I didn't really have a very good game plan for Makovsky and I think the next time I fight him I will do a lot better. I really think I fought him the wrong way. Styles make fights and in this sport, the way you fight somebody makes a huge deal in the outcome.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): It seemed like in the last tournament, you were an extremely dangerous fighter with your jiu-jitsu and you were a really dangerous fighter with your stand-up and I know you consider yourself a well-rounded mixed martial artist. Wrestling seemed to be something that was troublesome, though, so does it bother you at all that this upcoming bantamweight tournament is loaded with some incredibly talented and elite wrestlers?
Ed West: No, not really. I've always fought good wrestlers. Probably every dude I've ever fought has been a good wrestler and that's just the way this sport is headed right now. There are plenty of guys who will remain nameless who get their ass kicked in a fight, score a takedown at the end of a round and win the fight. That seems to be kind of the norm going on right now. I don't really have a problem with wrestlers. I think I've got really good ground skills and all the guys who I've defeated have been really good wrestlers, I just happened to have dropped a really tough 25 minute decision to a really, really good wrestler in Zach Makovsky. Zach isn't just a good wrestler though. He's a very intelligent fighter who knew exactly what to do in order to defeat me that night and he executed it rather well.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): How much motivation do you have coming into this tournament to get through this field and get that rematch to prove that you can be the better man?
Ed West: I would love to fight Zach again. I totally dig the guy, I really do. Every time me and Zach have been on a Bellator card, we've been there together. We've cut weight together at Bellator events and I had a feeling I'd wind up fighting the guy. He's a super cool dude but don't get me wrong, I'd totally love to kick his ass because I did lose to him. I'm trying hard not to focus on Zach because I've got these guys in this tournament who are fantastic names that I would love to get on my record and that in itself will be its own reward. I'm looking at beating up Nogueira, Dantes, Joe Warren, Beebe and plenty of good names that I would love to get on my record. By the time I get to Zach it would just be a bonus.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Let's talk about this field. You're scheduled to face Luiz Nogueira, a talented young ground fighter. What are your thoughts on this guy?
Ed West: He's good, but there's really nobody in this tournament that you can point to and think, "That guy's not that good." Every dude in this tournament has potential and could possibly win it. I think Luiz Nogueira has good stand-up, tight punches, he likes to throw kicks and I'm hoping that we're gonna have a real exciting fight. I've been working really hard on my wrestling and wrestling defense and my takedowns obviously because that's one of my weaker parts of my game. That's something I've been working really hard on in this past year. I think you're gonna see me really emphasize that part of my fight more.
Everyone always tells me about Luiz Nogueira, "Oh, Brazilian national wrestling champion! Brazilian national wrestling champion!" I'm like, "So what? What does that mean?" Like if I told you I was the best jiu-jitsu guy in France, would everybody go "Oooooh?" I'm sure he has good wrestling just like most guys in this sport have good wrestling. His wrestling is not gonna be on the level of a Makovsky or a Warren or anything like that. It's just not. Most of the guys I've fought have been better wrestlers than me and I've beat them so I don't think this will be any different.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): After the Makovsky fight, you went out there and got a really quick first round submission. How did it feel to get that bounce-back win and boost your confidence?
Ed West: I never lost the confidence. I have the Desert Rage 135 pound title and after I got done with Bellator, I had fought three times in six weeks for them so I was looking to take a month or two off. But then after the year I was calling my manager and trying to get another fight in Bellator, hoping for a superfight or something and I heard they might not have anything until the next tournament in September.
I didn't want to have that much time off so luckily for me Desert Rage called me about defending my title and I went down there and fought a very game opponent in Sam Rodriguez, another very good wrestler and he took me down but I armbarred him. I've got more armbars on my record than I know what to do with. It seems to be the submission that I catch more than anything else. I really like submitting guys and I'm always happy with the win no matter how I get it.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I'd like to talk your stint in the IFL. You fought there as a lightwight, giving up 20+ pounds to these guys and while you lost all three fights there, you were a very game opponent and you went to a decision in all three fights. Can you talk about how that experience shaped you and what it was like?
Ed West: The IFL was a great experience for me. It proved to me that I could get up there and compete against top level dudes, big top level dudes and that I could hang with those guys. In retrospect, it put three losses on my record that I probably did not need. I think about how much better my record would look if I hadn't gone up and tried to take on three 155 pounders but you know, my mind-set was different back then.
I must have been about 9-1 as a pro and I was having trouble finding fights and I wasn't making much money. I got that invite to the IFL and I thought I'd be a fool if I didn't take this opportunity even though in the back of my head I was like, "I ain't no 155 pounder." If anybody ever watches my old IFL fights, I fought Chris Horodecki and my weight was 149 and against Savant Young I was like 150 and these guys are cutting from 170-something to come down and fight. If you look at a fight like Georges St. Pierre and B.J. Penn, those are two guys that have equally amazing skills but one guy has 15-20 pounds of extra muscle on the other and he's gonna edge it out. As much as I want to look at it just like a fight, I should been looking at it more as a sport in retrospect.
The IFL did treat me well. They paid me the first substantial amount of money that I ever made in the sport. I went from making $500 and a couple tickets to all of the sudden having something to show for it. They put me on TV, gave me some good exposure and I did get a lot of confidence fighting really really tough guys at a high level. I notice that they didn't have much for me and were just muscling me around. I gained a lot of confidence in my skills even though I dropped three straight decisions.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Bellator really loaded up this bantamweight tournament. People are talking about this tournament as the one to watch out for. Does it give you confidence that you're the only guy from the last tournament that they invited back?
Ed West: It kinda did. I thought Bjorn Rebney, the CEO of Bellator has always been super cool to me whether or not I deserved it. He always tells me that he really enjoys my fights and he gives me a lot of support and confidence. I think that my style sets me apart from a lot of the other guys in the tournament. We've got a lot of good wrestlers in this tournament and I think having a guy that can run in there and kick people in the head and roll for kneebars, I think that sets me apart.
Not to offend anybody but I'm not a lay-and-prayer. I'm not gonna take people down and hug out my problems. I'm gonna try to fight, I'm gonna try to grab a limb and bend it the wrong way. I'm gonna try to choke you unconscious and I'm gonna try to kick your head off and I'll try to do it while being entertaining. My job is to fight the most effective way I can and win and I think my style is an entertaining style. My record speaks for itself. I've fought a lot of tough guys and I think that's a reason Bellator brought me back and I want to show them that they did the right thing and prove it when I beat up Nogueira.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I believe every single fight in the last tournament, all the fights went to a decision. I believe you're the first fight of the main card. How much would it mean to you to go in there and really set the stage and get the finish?
Ed West: Well if I was first fight that, that would be awesome! I've been fighting for over eight years and there's nothing I hate more than being the main event. It drives me crazy (laughs). I've got to hang out in the room and sit there and watch everybody else fight and some guys come back to the room happy and some guys come back to the room crying or upset. I hate that. I like to get my fight done so I can kick back and relax and watch the rest of the fights.
As far as the finish goes, I would love to finish Nogueira but I think he may be difficult to finish. I've seen some footage on the guy and he's got a really good chin. He's a little, short, stocky guy with short arms and legs and he seems to be very cautious in his submissions and the way he moves on the ground. I think that was because his only loss is an armbar to Dantes and I think he knows that and it makes him cautious. I just try to hurt the guy. If I'm successful in hurting him and doing damage, then I don't have to worry about the finish, it'll take care of itself.
Ed would like to thank Intimidation Clothing, Dom Fight Gear, Lexani Wheels his gym APEX MMA, his management, MMA Agents and all the people who support him and want to watch him fight.
So what do you think Maniacs?
Can West utilize his unique talents and experience to make another run in the bantamweight tournament? Or will he be stifled by the elite wrestlers in this field?
Be sure to check out these other interviews from our Bellator bantamweight introductory series: