Monster slayer: Interview with Bellator heavyweight finalist Richard Hale

Photo via Bellator

Bellator season season seven heavyweight tournament finalist Richard Hale talks his most recent victory, a first round TKO over Thiago Santos at Bellator 79 this past weekend.

Matt Bishop: Have you found out yet if the winner of this tournament is going to be the heavyweight champion?

Richard Hale: I have no. I guess in the post-fight press conference, Bjorn Rebney said they are gonna possibly crown the tournament champion as the heavyweight beltholder or they may weight until they do another tournament, whenever the next heavyweight tournament may be, and have the two guys fight off for it.

My thought is, aren't the guys gonna fight anyways and the winner is gonna have the belt? So you might as well if you're moving over to Spike, you might as well have a champion.

Matt Bishop: You've come back from your last loss with a vengeance, winning four straight fights via first round knockout or TKO. Did you prove anything to yourself against Santos with the way you came back from adversity to win that fight?

Richard Hale: To be perfectly honest with you, it's not proving anything to myself. The one beautiful thing about being a fighter and doing what I do is I get to spend every day with myself in training. I know who I am and what I have to bring to the table. It's moreso not having to prove anything to anybody else but there were a lot of questions heading into this tournament, "Can he hang with heavyweights? He's a small heavyweight, he's "this," he's "that"

Well, there's a lot of things people don't know. Me as a person, I'm not a small individual. Number two, I've got the same crack in my punches as all these other guys. Look no further than this last fight against Thiago Santos. He's huge, walking into the cage at 280 pounds with four ounce gloves. He hits me, barely gives me a black eye and I knock his damn teeth out. Call me small or whatever you want to but I weathered the storm and came out victorious. I think that says a lot for ability.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): During the fight, you mentioned you knocked one of his teeth out. Can you pinpoint exactly when that happened? When watching it, it was difficult to see when exactly you did that.

Richard Hale:Right. That's just it. That's what I'm telling people. It doesn't just have to be a nice, clean punch that can be seen clearly. I personally believe it was when I threw the uppercuts when he pushed me against the cage. That's when I personally believe it happened. I could be wrong. There's no way to tell. I guess the only guy to know is Thiago.

What does that tell you? You can't pinpoint when it was but I still hit him hard enough to knock out his teeth. That proves I have great, great power in his hands.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Santos was in control of that fight early on, landing some good shots and controlling the fight with his offensive grappling but once his tooth came out in the clinch and you guys separated, he looked like a completely different fighter. Do you think the loss of teeth screwed with him or he gassed out? What do you think happened?

Richard Hale: Honestly, I'm not giving him any outs. At the end of the day, it was a fight and you can call it control or whatever that means. He said he wanted to stand on the feet with me and I didn't see it. That's the whole reason I threw the kick, I was trying to initiate, trying to push the fight. I wanted the first round finish and I wanted to bring the fight. He talked a big game and he didn't really come out there with any initial interest to throw hands so I said, "I've got to do something to make this guy want to fight," and I did just that. A lot of people are thinking it was him gassing out or it was "this" or "that" but at the end of the day, it's my victory because I went out there and did my job. Everyone is giving him a lot of outs but I don't know what to think about that.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Did you get any extra satisfaction from finishing him in the first round the way you did especially after the pre-fight trash-talk that you two had beforehand?

Richard Hale: Oh, absolutely. I did exactly what I told him I was gonna do. A lot of people think it's just talk and I'm a man of my word. I got caught early, but it happens. You can't go through every fight and not get touched. I got caught but a lot of people were giving him a lot more credit. He's a great fighter but at the end of the day, he got beat by an even greater fighter that day. The big thing is, there was a lot of trash talk heading into that fight. He talked a lot of smack and I said, "If that's the way you want to go about it, we can go that way for sure." It's nothing. We both had plenty to say prior to the fight but we had respect at the end. We're professionals.

Matt Bishop: What started all the trash talking between you two? It got really personal really fast.

Richard Hale: Right. Personally, he just disrespected boxing and that was a big thing for me. A lot of people say boxing is dead but I do not believe boxing is dead. It's something that I took personally because it's not dead. It's been reborn with mixed martial arts. It is still one of the martial arts and I think it's still one of the underrated ones. Boxing is a part of MMA. He said, "I'm not worried about you being a professional boxer. That's nothing." To me, personally, I say if you don't want to respect that, I'll make you respect it. That was the big part for me. Then he came through and said he was gonna knock me out but I was like, "When have you really knocked anyone out?" He has one knockout on his record. Everyone says they're gonna knock people out but who are the ones that actually do it? Every guy that he's fought, he rear naked chokes. Go out and be honest with the fans and the audience. If you're looking to hit a dude and then jump on his back and choke him out, go out and say that. I have more respect for guys that really say and do what they want to.

Matt Bishop: Was there a moment in the fight where you felt the tide turned in your favor?

Richard Hale: I got hit and just did everything. Your body doesn't let you down and you control your movement. I worked out of it. I really don't know what to say after the fact. The guy hit me, he weighed 280 pounds. If you give that opportunity to anybody else, shouldn't I be knocked out? A lot of victories I've seen, they talked these guys up really big prior and once you beat their ass, everyone wants to downplay everything. I'm sort of confused to it because prior to this fight, everyone told me he was this big monster.

I told my daughter "Don't be afraid of monsters, daddy'll whoop 'em." I did just that. It's a very important thing for me to be a man of my word and put on good fights and do what I said I was gonna do.

Matt Bishop: Do you think Santos is overrated?

Richard Hale: I think he's a very good fighter personally, but I just don't know how big his heart is. I think he showed that a lot in this last fight. It breaks a man. You knock a dude's teeth out, you're not the same fighter. You're not the same individual from what he showed. No matter what, those teeth are gone. Are you willing to sacrifice, those teeth are gone no matter what at the end of it so you might as well come out with your hand on top but I definitely think it did break him a little bit. All in all, I do have respect for him. He did what he said he was gonna do. He didn't finish me, but he came out guns ablazing. He hit me with some good stuff and I think he's a good fighter.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Are you expecting to fight at the finale at the end of the season or are they potentially going to save your tournament final fight for the beginning of 2013 on Spike?

Richard Hale: It's supposed to be December 14th in Hammond, Indiana. That's when I'm expecting to fight.

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