Joe Warren has been with Bellator MMA essentially since its inception, debuting in the promotion's second season featherweight tournament. After impressive victories over current champion Patricio "Pitbull" Freire, as well as Georgi Karakhanyan, Warren went on to defeat the reigning featherweight champion Joe Soto via knockout in the second round.
Ultimately, Warren lost his belt to Pat Curran in one of the more hellacious beatings (and atrocious stoppages) in mixed martial arts (MMA) history, but Warren's never-say-die attitude could not be impeded whatsoever. Since losing to Curran in 2012, Warren has won four straight fights, including the interim bantamweight title over Rafael Silva this past May.
Warren fought the ever-tough Silva on just six days notice, as Dantas pulled out of his scheduled title defense due to injury. Of course, Warren was none too happy about the last second switch, but as a true professional does, he made the walk to the cage anyhow.
Five months later, Warren will finally get his hands on Dantas in the main event of Bellator 128 tonight (Fri., Oct. 10, 2014) in Thackerville, Oklahoma. While this fight is no easy task, Warren is as confident as ever going into his fourth Bellator title fight. Before stepping into the cage, Warren sat down with MMAmania.com to discuss his career thus far, where the "Baddest Man On The Planet" moniker originated, and why he feels he is the best mixed martial artist he has ever been.
How he feels going into his fourth Bellator title fight:
I feel great! I am excited that Dantas actually got on a plane and decided to come fight me this time. I've wanted to fight him for a while, but every time there was some new issue with him. Last I heard, Bellator told me he would never fight again, so I am excited to see that he is indeed going to fight me this time around.
His thoughts on Dantas ducking him:
I think he is a young kid who was having some panic attack issues. He is scared. I’m not exactly the calmest person to get in the cage with. I am going to go out there, give it everything I have, and try to break you in half. I think the reality of the situation dawned on him when I started talking to him, telling him what I was going to do. I don’t know if he was running from me or what truly happened, but it sure seemed that way.
Do you have anything to prove on Friday night?
No. I think I've proved myself several times. I believe I am the best bantamweight in the world, period. This is the best I have ever been physically and technically. This is the first MMA fight I will go into where technically I feel I’m ready for the fight. Remember that I grew up fighting in front of all you guys, but not really knowing how to fight. I was basically winning "who’s tougher" fights.
I truly don’t believe I am in a situation where I need to prove anything. I showed up for every fight, for every title fight, and Dantas backed out of our last bout. In fact, I not only showed up, I took on tougher opponents on short notice because opponents backed out. On a few days notice I took the fight with Rafael Silva. The reason I took that fight is because it’s my job and I am a professional. That’s just who I am. It’s not about proving anything to anyone, it’s about impressing myself in that cage Friday night and leaving with the belt after another big win for me and my family.
Comparing Eduardo Dantas to Rafael Silva:
In some ways, I think Silva is a better fighter than Dantas. Dantas is a younger fighter who hasn't been through the grind that Silva has. Silva was one of the toughest fighters I have ever fought in the cage. He was mentally strong. There was absolutely no break in him, and I respect him for that. For me, it was exciting to fight a guy like him. I didn't know who he was at the time, because I don’t watch tape on my opponents. I just worry about training and honing my skills while my coaches take care of watching the tape. I literally didn't see any tape on Silva, and he came to fight that night. He was extremely tough and had the will to win.
As for Dantas, the kid is kind of a question mark. He’s obviously a dynamic, young, and explosive fighter, but that’s all you can really say about him. That alone makes him a dangerous fighter, but it’s tough to really compare fighters. It’s more about match ups than anything. To me, he’s just another champ I need to beat in the Bellator cage in order to take his title.
Reminiscing on his journey in Bellator:
I’m a Bellator man. I've been here since the beginning and I love this organization. I've been here from ESPN Deportes, to MTV 2, to now on Spike TV with Scott Coker and new management. That’s how organizations are. They get big, and they get big fast with swift changes, like this new regime change.
With the new regime, I just hope they understand that they have got the "Baddest Man On The Planet" and I've given pieces of my life in that cage for them and the fans. We have new management, new ideas, and a new year just around the corner, so I am just as excited as everyone else to see what’s next on the horizon for Bellator.
Discussing his positive attitude and supreme confidence, and the birth of his nickname:
I became the "Baddest Man On The Planet" long before I ever started fighting. It was an attitude, the way I held myself and what I believed in made me that man. I’m also 38 years old, I’m not a young boy anymore, so time has given me confidence as well. I was an All-American at University of Michigan, and I was on the Olympic team for several years that won a world championship. Then I started having some babies and switched over to MMA.
This is a job for me, and it always has been. It’s not just some fun sport I am a part of. This is a job, and I need to take care of my job in order to take care of my family. That’s where all my confidence has come from, that’s why I am always brutally honest. I believe my confidence level has brought me to where I am at now. Me believing in myself, and having the supporting cast behind me believe in me as well, has helped me achieve my goals. My family, my trainers, my coaches, my friends, they have all been on board during this journey for one reason: To get the baddest man more world titles. I've learned to fight in front of you guys. All of my fights have been televised, so I grew up in this sport in front of your eyes. I believe I have the technique, mindset, and muscle memory to be able to get the job done this Friday.
Is retirement on the horizon?
First things first: I have a fight lined up and I am totally focused on that. I am the best I have ever been. I am faster, stronger, older and more wise than I have ever been. It’s hard to think about ending your career when you feel the way I do. I've never had surgery, I’m not hurt, and that’s because of the science based training that I do that keeps my body in such great shape. Physically my body could go forever, so it’s really about what I want to do and when I feel comfortable ending it. I still plan on fighting for Bellator for a long time, and I would never consider fighting for anyone else. I've got three more fights on my contract, so you’ll definitely see me back in that cage no matter what happens Friday and probably really soon. I feel better than ever, so why would I think about the end?
Discussing how his wrestling can lead to a victory over Dantas:
Let’s be honest; I am the best wrestler in the world. I can beat anyone in wrestling which is the great thing about my game. If anything goes badly I know I can always revert to wrestling and no one can stop me. That is a huge technical advantage for me. The great part is that the muscle memory is there for my striking and jiu-jitsu as well. I am confident that I can finish the fight whenever I want to. It’s exciting for me. It’s like Christmas and I have all these new toys to play with. It’s a very unpredictable sport though, and you really never know what is going to happen.
Watching Joe Soto, a former opponent, fight for the UFC title on just 24 hours notice:
I was at UFC 177 because I was there to corner Scott Jorgensen. I actually saw Joe Soto as he was going down for the weigh-ins and I spoke with him. I was so excited for him to get that opportunity and to see him back fighting again. I wasn't sure he would be fighting again after he detached his retina in our fight.
He is an extremely skilled fighter and very dangerous. I think the fight with Dillashaw would have went differently had he been given more time to train for it. They basically asked him at the weigh-ins to take the fight. But yeah it was nice to see him and others get these opportunities. You see a lot of Bellator guys coming over in the UFC and performing well like Eddie Alvarez and such. It's a testament to Bellator's talent for sure.
What he thinks of the new regime, and why he tweeted he was unhappy earlier this week:
I was just tweeting while cutting weight, so you know how it goes. I've put my life out on the line for this organization. I've helped Bellator grow to where we are now. I believe I am part of Bellator’s backbone. I've done everything I can for this organization, and they have always done it for me as well.
When an organization grows there is changes, and I understand that. It’s great to have a new regime, it’s great to have Scott Coker on board, and I am honored to fight for them. They have been great to me, and there haven’t been any real problems, but I was cutting weight in the airport, trying to get my own rides and hotel rooms, it was all a bit annoying. On top of that, you never know if Dantas is actually going to show or not, so that had me on edge. Once I saw him though everything calmed down, and now I am ready to perform for you guys once again on Friday night.
With Warren's legacy already firmly cemented in Bellator lore, he is confident he will be able to add yet another belt to his long list of accolades in the sport of MMA. Although it won't be an easy task with the young, hungry lion that is Eduardo Dantas staring at him across the cage, Warren's confidence has never wavered before, and it certainly has not in the lead up to his fight this evening.
MMAmania.com will deliver live coverage of Bellator 128: "Dantas vs. Warren" tonight RIGHT HERE, with the first fight taking place at 7 p.m. ET and streaming LIVE on Spike.com. The televised portion of Bellator 128 will air LIVE on Spike TV at 9 p.m. ET.
See you then!