If you're going to be considered a prospect in mixed martial arts (MMA), boasting an undefeated record certainly helps. Darrion Caldwell has those bragging rights, having yet to taste defeat inside (or outside) of the Bellator cage, posting a perfect (6-0) professional record.
Caldwell got his toughest test to date against Anthony Dizy at Bellator 130 in Oct. 2014, having to outwrestle and outwork the French fighter for three straight rounds and ultimately handing him his first professional loss via unanimous decision.
Despite his sterling record at Featherweight, Caldwell is willing to put his reputation and flawless record on the line with a first-ever drop to Bantamweight at Bellator 137, which takes place this weekend (Fri., May 15, 2015) at Pechanga Resort & Casino in Temecula, California.
His opponent will be veteran fighter Rafael Silva (22-4), who only has two losses (Diego D'Avila and Joe Warren) dating back to 2010.
In an exclusive pre-fight interview, Caldwell recently talked with MMAmania.com about the challenges of stepping down a weight class and doing so against a proven commodity and tough opponent like Silva.
"This is the best camp I've had so far. I'm feeling strong, I'm walking around at a good weight so, preparation right now is going as planned. My first six fights they were all at (1)45 so there was really no dieting to it. I had to change my diet up and already I've seen drastic changes."
Any time a fighter cuts down to a lower weight class, he or she either ends up bigger and stronger than their opponent or gives up too much strength and speed by fighting against their natural body type.
Caldwell, however, feels 135 pounds is a natural fit for him.
"I feel like I'm still going to be as strong as I would be at (1)45 and as powerful. I don't think there's going to be any difference. I'm just growing daily y'know? I live in the gym so, it's a part of me ... it's a lifestyle."
Caldwell has been living that lifestyle going back to his Division I All-American days at North Carolina State. He'll need that wrestling base on May 15 because Silva took down Rob Emerson effortlessly in his last Bellator win.
"I'd say my wrestling is definitely the best aspect. Just my overall grappling is right where I want it to be for this fight. Everything else is coming along. Definitely my strongest point is wrestling, but I'm working on every area so I have no holes in my game."
Caldwell was so dominant in his collegiate wrestling days in winning tournaments and championships that it actually gave birth to his nickname as a fighter today.
"My senior year, there was an article (called) 'The One Man Wolfpack.' I almost felt like it was a shot at my team, but more-so -- more than anything -- it was a tribute to me and what I did, the work and the effort I put in. I kinda took that 'One Man Wolfpack' and made it 'The Wolf.'"
Caldwell also takes the nickname to embody his hunger as a fighter and drive to succeed in Bellator.
"My main goal ever since I came into the sport of MMA is to be a world champ. Bellator has given me that opportunity. I feel like going down to 135 will speed up the process. This is a perfect chance for me to go ahead and obtain my goals as soon as possible."
There's no doubt Caldwell is driven to succeed. In fact, he'll even entertain the idea of being a two weight class champion.
"I definitely want to be a champion in more than one weight class. After I get the title at 135, whatever Bellator has in store for me, if they want me to be a double title holder and be that guy then I'm ready to take responsibility and step up and do that as well."
Either weight class poses a significant challenge, with bantamweight champion Marcos Galvao and featherweight champion Patricio "Pitbull" Freire sitting on the throne, but Caldwell's confidence extends to all potential opponents.
"I consider myself that young gun right now. I got my eye on the prize, and whoever's in the way has just gotta get dealt with accordingly."
Silva is the next man he'll have to deal with on Friday night. MMAmania.com will have live coverage of his match, as well as the entire Bellator 137 card, which will be headlined by "Bull" Brandon Halsey against Kendall "Da Spyder" Grove.
In the meantime, check out the complete audio of our interview with "The Wolf" below: