This Friday night (Oct. 23, 2015) at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., "Bull" Brandon Halsey has a chance to regain the Bellator Middleweight title he never lost in a fight when he collides with Rafael Carvalho for the vacant strap.
The irony for Halsey is that he's the former Middleweight champion and undefeated (9-0). That might seem statistically impossible, but the reality is Halsey was stripped of the title for missing weight before his first-ever title defense.
Even though Halsey could no longer retain the belt, he dominated Kendall Grove in their Bellator 137 bout, and in the process earned top contender status to claim the vacant championship.
Carvalho is equally dominant as an opponent -- he has won 11 straight fights dating back to 2012. And a hard-fought victory over Joe Schilling at Bellator 136 moved him to the front of the line.
Today, Halsey spoke with MMAmania.com about his opportunity to regain a title he never lost in the cage, starting out by talking about what happened to him before the Grove fight.
"I could point at a bunch of different areas. I got sick, I was on antibiotics, I let my weight get a little bit out of control, I got injured close to the fight with the ankle ... but I don't like to make excuses. Everybody deals with certain stuff whether it be being sick or (being) injured. You show up, you still need to be on weight, and I take full responsibility on that."
Even with a more than reasonable list of maladies to justify a bad weight cut, Halsey took his failure very personally.
"That was one of the things that I was real ashamed of. It was hard taking the emotion of missing weight into the (Kendall Grove) fight. I was trying to deal with as best I can. Out of all the thousands of weigh-ins I've done as a wrestler and fighting, I've never missed weight in my life. I just learn from my mistakes and grow as a fighter (to) make sure that never happens again."
You can tell it eats at Halsey when he calls it a "technicality" that he's no longer the champion, and he's confident he'll prove in the Carvalho fight that he's been one all along.
"Not only has he not been in a five-round fight, but I don't think (Carvalho) has come up against someone so physical that's going to push him past what he's able to go and basically take him where he's never been and kinda surprise him. He's going to find out real quick what it's like to be in there with an animal."
Halsey certainly lives the 'Bull' gimmick in his attitude and demeanor, but the moniker actually comes courtesy of his second professional fight back in 2012 with "Mr. International" Shonie Carter.
"(I was) 1-0 fighting against someone who had like 60 or 70 professional fights. I went into the fight and I think John McCarthy was ringside with my manager. The whole fight I just pushed the pace and was taking him down and smashing him (at) a relentless pace like I normally do. John McCarthy looks over at my manager and says, 'Hey! Do you have a nickname for that guy?' He goes, 'No! We're actually trying to find one. We've come up with a few but none of 'em stuck.' John's like, 'You need to name that guy 'Bull' because he just runs through everybody."
As a quick aside Carter's recorded fight record was 50-27-7 (1) going into that fight, giving him at least 85 fights when he faced Halsey.
Halsey is by his account related to the famous naval admiral William "Bull" Halsey, which may be what led McCarthy to think of it in the first place. It certainly suits his fight style, which for Halsey involves an almost reckless lack of interest in scouting foes.
"Some people like to watch film (but) I'm more of the type that I don't like to look too into my opponent. I work on myself. I like to focus what I need to do in my aspects of the game and kind of screw upon what I'm doing. As long as I do what I'm capable of, there's nothing he can do to stop me or do any kind of damage."
Before wrapping up the interview I had to get Halsey's thoughts on the three-year suspension of Alexander Shlemenko, the man he beat for the Middleweight title.
"I think it's ironic that he fights me and then months later he pops for super elevated levels of testosterone. I don't know if that's coincidence, but people try to get ahead in this sport, they try to do it the wrong way instead of the right way - eat smart, train smart. It's unfortunate. I know people want to see a rematch. Ehhh ... I don't think the outcome would be any different. It is what it is. It's just ironic he popped for such high testosterone after he fought me."
Here's to hoping everybody makes weight and tests clean for Bellator 144.
Complete audio of our interview is below and complete Bellator MMA coverage can be found right here on fight night.