When Rick Hawn steps into the Bellator cage on Thursday night (Jan. 17, 2013) with the lightweight title on the line, he'll attempt to succeed at a lifelong dream of being the best in the world.
"Ghengis" couldn't realize that dream in the Olympics, coming up short in 2004 in judo, but his skills have translated fantastically to mixed martial arts (MMA).
Hawn bulldozed through the Bellator season six lightweight tournament, knocking two of his opponents senseless in less than two rounds combined. And he's hoping to bring that fight-ending power to the cage in the main event of Bellator 85 against unbeaten champion Michael Chandler.
More eyes will be watching his fight than perhaps any moment in Bellator history as the promotion makes its debut on Spike TV, but Hawn wouldn't have it any other way.
The Tristar-trained fighter broke down his upcoming main event during an appearance on Bloody Elbow Radio. Check out what he had to say below:
Matt Bishop: You've got the biggest fight of your career coming up against Michael Chandler. What's your excitement level like at this point?
Rick Hawn: I'm definitely excited. I'm looking forward to it and it's a huge opportunity for me. It's the biggest stage that Bellator is going to have, debuting on Spike TV. I'm honored and thrilled to be in the main event and get a chance to fight the type of quality opponent that Chandler is and get to fight for that belt.
Matt Bishop: What does it mean for you to be in the main event of Bellator's first show on Spike TV?
Rick Hawn: It's awesome. I know it's a fight that a lot of fans want to see and the people at Bellator want to see. I'm really stoked.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): How does this fight compare to your Olympic experience in terms of the stakes, the pressure you're feeling. Can you compare and contrast that for us?
Rick Hawn: I guess I haven't felt the pressure yet. Once I'm down there it'll be a fiasco. At the Olympics, I didn't feel the pressure anymore. I had made the squad, I was there and whatever happened, happened. The real pressure was the Olympic trials where you were either going to make the team and go to the Olympics or you weren't. That had the most pressure of anything. With this, I've trained, been in a lot of big competitions and I try to manage the stress pretty well. I'm getting good at it. Obviously there's pressure, but I feel it's a good thing to have a little bit of it and I'll deal.
Matt Bishop: This is your fourth straight fight at 155 pounds. Now without having to deal with getting right back into training camp during a tournament, do you feel you'll be bigger, stronger and better than you were last spring?
Rick Hawn: Yeah, absolutely. It definitely takes a toll on you fighting in the tournament and having to make weight every four weeks. By the time the end of the tournament comes around, you're exhausted and beat down. Going into this one knowing it's only one fight makes me feel that much better and I'm sure I'll be that much stronger during the fight.
Matt Bishop: What makes Michael Chandler such an intriguing opponent for you and how to you view him as a fighter?
Rick Hawn: It's my first time I'll be facing a really good wrestler and fighting someone that's shorter than me. The match up is intriguing -- an Olympic judo guy against an All-American wrestler and those dynamics. Who knows? It could be a slugfest. We're both decent strikers and it could go either way. It's definitely something I've been training hard for in all areas and of course this can be a long fight.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Neither of you have fought since May. How do you think that layoff will affect you personally?
Rick Hawn: For me, it'll be great. It'll be fine. I had a long layoff before the start of the last tournament because of my injury. I looked at it as a blessing to recover and train because the tournament took a toll on me. I feel great, had a great training camp and for me, personally, it was a great thing to have the fight pushed back.
Matt Bishop: Have you noticed anything different in terms of sponsorships for this fight considering it's the debut on Spike TV?
Rick Hawn: Sponsorships have been rough going for me for this fight personally. I didn't think I would have as much trouble trying to get sponsors for this fight considering it was the main event of a huge card, but we just got some good shorts and good shirt sponsors about 10 days before the fight. I think after this fight and people see the numbers of viewers watching, things will get easier.
Matt Bishop: Where do you think Michael Chandler is most vulnerable?
Rick Hawn: I don't think he has a lot of weaknesses. He's a very talented grappler and wrestler and his striking is definitely improving. It's hard to say. It's all about me and finding the right moment to exploit his weaknesses. I will have to make him make mistakes because I don't think he'll do it on his own. I've been doing a lot of grappling and wrestling and whoever makes the first mistake could be costly. I'm prepared to take advantage of it.
You can follow Rick on Twitter @RickHawnMMA
So what do you think, Maniacs?
Does Hawn have what it takes to dethrone the Belaltor posterboy? Can he land that heavy right hand against Chandler or will he be another of the champion's victims?