When Mike Richman debuted with Bellator earlier this year, he was just a face in the crowd.
Stepping into the cage against extremely popular Canadian Chris Horodecki (who was making his featherweight debut), some saw Richman as cannon fodder for "The Polish Hammer's" return to prominence.
But Richman had other plans.
It didn't take long for them to materialize, either, spending just 83 combined seconds teeing off on Horodecki's face and knocking him senseless inside the opening round.
With the strong showing, "The Marine" will be making his Bellator tournament debut tomorrow night when he steps into the cage opposite Jeremy Spoon on the Bellator 76 main card in the season seven featherweight tournament quarterfinals.
Richman spoke to MMAmania.com during a recent appearance on The Verbal Submission where he talked about preparing for his first tournament, dealing with a different type of fighting style and potentially having to take his place in line in this exclusive interview.
Check it out:
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Your debut with Bellator was so fantastic but I remember talking to you immediately afterwards about it and you said you were hoping to have a tune-up fight or two before you made an appearance in a tournament. You didn't end up getting a fight since so what happened?
Mike Richman: Yeah, they just never lined up another fight. They had one possible one that fell through I think and then it was just like "All right. I'll just wait it out for the tournament." That's when I asked if I could take another professional boxing match. I did that in like June. I wanted to do another pro boxing bout in August but they shot that down. I only got the one professional boxing match after the Horodecki fight and before this tournament. We didn't even ask if we could fight another MMA bout outside the promotion. I thought maybe I'd get one more fight but I guess I was okay with waiting. I don't know what their mindset was. Maybe they were just really excited about my last performance and wanted to roll with that momentum into this tournament.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Now that we're so close to the tournament, how does it feel to have that first Bellator tournament experience nearly in your grasp?
Mike Richman: I'm super excited. I'm excited to go out there and do my thing I normally train and plan on doing. The only thing different here is once I'm done Friday, to quickly turnaround and do it again. I've definitely got to get used to that feeling of instead of three or four months before my next fight, it's only about 30-35 days and then you're fighting again.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Your upcoming opponent Jeremy Spoon lost a tough decision to the eventual season six tournament winner Daniel Straus in the quarterfinals. Did you take anything away from that performance or was that a completely different opponent for him?
Mike Richman: Yeah, I figure he's gonna come in and be a grinder. That's why I figured he'd be in this tournament again. He lost to Daniel Straus who ended up winning the whole thing. He's a tough dude and has fought multiple times for Bellator and they're granting him another chance to be in another tournament. My gameplan is to go out there and put him away. I've seen the Straus fight and I'll probably watch it one or two more times but I'm just focusing on my gameplan.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): How confident are you in your takedown defense? We've all seen your striking so we know where that is, but this is probably going to be a completely different type of opponent than the Horodecki fight.
Mike Richman: Yeah exactly. Styles definitely make fights and different styles match up differently for me. I'm very confident in my takedown defense and my counter wrestling and scrambling abilities and my abilities to stand back up. If I can't find a solid submission than I'm going to bring it back to my feet and the reason why I'm so confident in that is I'm wrestling with some really high level wrestlers at my gym. Jacob Volkmann just dominated his last fight and his wrestling is just phenomenal. Words can't describe how good his wrestling is. We've also got Nik Lentz and a bunch of up-and-coming prospects that are good wrestlers training at The Academy and that's really helped me prepare for a more grinder type of fighter and I think it'll really pay off.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You had the opportunity on The Ultimate Fighter season 12, stepping up a weight class and losing a tough decision to get into the house. Do you see this as your second chance at stardom?
Mike Richman: I look at this as definitely my second chance. I look at TUF 12 as a learning experience. I went in there, tried out and just kept getting called back and got an opportunity to be on the show. I wasn't even at The Academy yet so my wrestling wasn't anywhere near where it's at now. I wasn't ready yet and I just kinda underperformed.
Everything happens for a reason. I put it past myself and I didn't want that experience to define me. You hear all the time about the guys that lose to get in the house or lose right away when they get inside the house. You kinda never hear from them again and I didn't want that to define my career. I didn't want to keep grinding, keep trying. I knew I had the potential to be something great and I view this is my next chance at it.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Let's talk about this Bellator featherweight division. It's hands down Bellator's best division but it's in a state of crisis right now. You've got the champion Pat Curran and the next title challenger Patricio Pitbull but you've also got second in line with Daniel Straus. Curran was supposed to defend his title a month ago but he hurt his orbital so he's still sidelined and now you're in a tournament for the next shot. Are you concerned that even if you go out and win this tournament, it could be a year before you even fight for the title or longer?
Mike Richman: It's a little concerning, but if you go out there and win this tournament, you make a good chunk of money that you'd be able to survive on in between that time. The only thing you're really concerned about is the cage rust. Maybe they'll have Straus and Pitbull fight for an interim title or a number one contender match and then Pat will fight the winner and then the winner of this tournament, which will be me. After I win this, I really think I could drop to 135 and maybe Bellator could let me fight in the 135 pound tournament while they figure that stuff out. I just want to fight and make money.
To listen to the complete conversation with Mike Richman, click here (interview begins at the 18:00 mark).