Joe Warren has made the most of his time with Bellator.
A wrestler who saw his Olympic dream dashed before his eyes, he turned to mixed martial arts despite being a neophyte in the sport. Before he knew it, he had used those world class wrestling skills to win a tournament and earn a title shot, winning the belt in one of the wildest comeback fights in the promotion's history at the time.
While he wasn't able to hold on to his title for long and has dealt with his ups and downs, Warren's big personality and ability to make things happen with his words has opened several doors.
The self proclaimed "Baddest Man on the Planet" took full advantage of Bellator's association with Spike TV and Viacom, becoming a coach on upcoming mixed martial arts reality series Fight Master, which follows a host of competitors working towards their dream of getting a shot to become champion.
Warren spoke to MMAmania.com about his experience on Fight Master, his upcoming participation in the season nine bantamweight tournament and how his association with Bellator has impacted his life in this exclusive interview.
Check it out:
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You were a coach on the Fight Master show. That must been a pretty surreal experience for you, coaching alongside Greg Jackson, Randy Couture and Frank Shamrock. What was that like?
Joe Warren: With Fight Master, Bellator, Spike and Viacom got together and made this show, getting all these people together. I've worked a lot with Randy before and I knew Greg pretty well. It was a very easy transition and we got a long real well. It's the most knowledgeable fight show I've ever seen, you learn so much about the fight game and it was just a great experience. I'm really excited to see the finished product because they haven't shown us yet. It was all hush hush. It was great to be able to have my team and coach against everyone else. Me and Randy came from the same place so that made it easy.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You had some experience with Bellator that none of the other coaches had, having gone through a tournament, winning the title and everything. Do you think that helped set you apart from the other coaches?
Joe Warren: I'm the Bellator man. I'm the spokesperson. I started pretty much with Bellator other than that Dream tournament in Japan at the very beginning of my career. That first tournament was over three months but then when it was over I flew down to visit with Bjorn and signed with Bellator. Since the first year of me fighting, I've fought with Bellator and Bjorn and been with the organization since the birth and seen the growth. I'm excited to be a part of it and excited to see the new growth. Everyone's fighting hard to build the brand and have something different, an alternative. That's what Bellator's doing, what Fight Master will show.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Can you talk about the impact your association with Bellator and now Viacom has had on you?
Joe Warren: Bellator found me as an upcoming fighter, a guy that had a great pedigree outside of MMA. They gave me a great opportunity to sign, build my brand, build me, gave me opportunity for success. Granted, as an athlete, I needed to open that door of opportunity myself. I was able to win the tournament, win the belt and everything they promised me I was able to reach out and get. The problem with a lot of people is they promise things, but at the end of the day, you have to go out and get it. We're all professionals and we all sign into contracts. We have to understand this is big business, this is big money. The talent that we have, we try to keep and I believe in the talent that we have. Look at guys like Michael Chandler, Ben Askren and Pat Curran, all starting with some of their first fights in Bellator and turning into stars.
Bellator is focused on building a brand. It's only been going for three or four years. When I started with Bellator it was on ESPN Deportes and now we're on Spike. There's good management and business relationships at the top and the majority of the apples in the tree are happy. Of course there's a couple bad apples but that's business. It's big money. It's business and entertainment. I'm interested to see how it plays out, but everything that's ever been promised to me by Bellator, they've given me and they kept options for me to do things like Fight Master, to color commentate, to move into more of a business relationship with Bellator and Viacom instead of just an athletic one. They have that brought variety of options with me. They've definitely built me as a fighter and given me some options outside of fighting.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Do you think that type of opportunity is available to anyone on the roster?
Joe Warren: It really is. This is Bellator. You choose your own fate here. I'm gonna join this upcoming 135 pound tournament in September and even though I'm a former champ and I have all this credibility, it means nothing. I still start in the tournament and I still fight in the tournament to try to win the belt. That's what they do. If you can step up to the plate and get the job done, you're gonna become a star by your actions, not just your words. There's people like me that are outspoken, who can call people out but that doesn't mean a thing. I can't talk my way into title fights because if I could, I would. I believe just with the athletes too, they give you the opportunity. If you get the job done in the cage, they'll take care of you outside of it too.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You mention keeping promises. I remember when you wanted to do the bantamweight tournament despite being featherweight champion at the time. What did they think about that?
Joe Warren: It's a give and take organization. Bellator was still up and coming when they got a hold of me and they didn't want to get rid of me after one season. They made sure to give me the opportunity to have that chance to fight for the 135 pound tournament because when I signed with Bellator, they didn't have a bantamweight division or I would have gone there. It was better for the organization and me to fight at 145 at featherweight even though I'd never fought at that weight. There was more money there and they knew I was fighting for money instead of glory. Wrestling had been my glory at the time. They build me up at featherweight and the plan was when I wanted to make the run at 135 pounds, they'd give me the opportunity.
They weren't the happiest when I wanted to do it when I had the 145 pound belt, but they gave me the opportunity anyways because they had promised it to me. Then I go and get knocked out with the first punch from Alexis Vila. (laughs) It was terrible. I was ready for that more than anything. But they picked me up off my feet, pushed me again and I was ready to keep fighting. I might be older in age but I'm still a young fighter. They've been good to me. They have guys fighting 5 times a year in a cage and they aren't big name guys. What other organization can you be a part of that has money behind it where you can compete on television five times a year and getting opportunities to make yourself a star on a cable network? It's a huge opportunity, especially for those midwestern wrestlers.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): How has your association with Bellator impacted you personally?
Joe Warren: They're my boss. That's who I work for. I work for Viacom, Spike and Bellator. They take care of my family. I work for them, Fight Master was part of the job, color commentary, getting ready for the rest of the tournament. Any time I've ever needed help, they were there for me when I needed it. I've always had some extra money in my pocket, they kept me happy and it keeps me smiling and working hard.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Is there anything you would change?
Joe Warren: Not really. I'd change me losing if I could. (laughs) I'd put on about 30 pounds and be seven inches taller than I was when I fought Curran the last time. Besides that, everything's worked out the way it has. I like being a part of the Bellator organization. It's excited to have Viacom and Spike behind us. I'm excited for everyone to see Fight Master and the impressive coaching and my coaching on television. There's a lot of promise there.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You brought up "bad apples" before. Do you think that's just a one-off thing?
Joe Warren: It's a big business. You have to remember, there's contracts, big money, you need representation. If it was so bad, there would be more problems like this. There's ups and downs in big business everywhere. It's just another bump in the road. I love all of the Bellator guys. I think the talent's great. I'm excited for what we'll be able to do this next year.