Brandon Halsey isn't much of a fan of being interviewed. And when MMAmania.com finally reached the current Bellator middleweight champion, it's on the third try after two cancellations.
"It's my favorite part," Halsey says sarcastically after being asked about his dislike for speaking to the media. "You know, it's part of the job. Nobody likes to do it, but it's part of the work."
Back in September at Bellator 126, the San Diego native submitted Alexander Shlemenko via guillotine choke in the first round to win the Bellator middleweight title, but he says "not much has changed" since then, now that he is champ.
*Note: Interview was conducted prior to Halsey missing weight at Bellator 137 weigh ins and being subsequently stripped of his title by the promotion. Fight will be at 188.1 catchweight and should Grove win, he will be the new middleweight champion. If not, the title will be vacated. (Full story here)
"I don't think I'm better than everybody," he said. "I don't think I'm above anyone. Just kind of overall, it was one of my goals and I kind of got it a little bit sooner than I thought I would. I think every thing happens for a reason. I'm going to continue to get better and distance myself from the rest of the middleweight division."
Chasing the title as opposed to having it is always a bit of a different feel. Champions are a target, goal, or bullseye for aspiring contenders. Halsey was once chasing after the belt, but now he holds what others are pursuing.
"They say everybody wants what they can't have," he said. "Nobody is going to get the belt. I'm going to hold it for a long time. There is no added pressure. I don't feel like the bullseye on my back isn't making me much more nervous like everyone is after me. I welcome everybody to challenge. Like I said, I'm not giving up that belt. It just makes it that much more interesting knowing that everybody wants that belt and they have to come through me to get it."
At Bellator 137, former UFC veteran Kendall Grove is the first fighter vying to take the strap from Halsey, but "The Bull" doesn't think "Da Spyder" stands a chance against him.
"He is a UFC veteran and I never look past anybody," Hasley said. "He's been in a lot of fights and he brings a lot to the table, I just bring a better hand in every single aspect. I'm bigger, I'm stronger, and I'm faster. I"m quicker, I'm going to be more technical. I'm more sound as a fighter. I don't think he is going to be able to bring much to me and when he steps in that cage on May 15th, he's going to be overwhelmed.
"I feel like my presence is going to overwhelm him: my strikes, my grappling, my hip pressure, my speed," he continued. "Everything is just going to collapse on him and he is going to be like, 'oh crap. I really can't do anything. I can't strike. I can't use my jiu jitsu. He's just crushing me with his pressure and his punches and kicks.' He's going to get run over like a bulldozer, basically."
Temecula isn't far from Halsey's home in San Diego, and he will have a lot of support coming to the fight. "It's always fun fighting in your own backyard," he said. The winner of the Bellator Season 10 middleweight tournament is happy with Bellator going away from the tournament structure.
"It's cool that they went to the more spread-out format, it gives it more promotion for the fights," Halsey explained. "I like to fight more often than not. I'm one of those guys that likes to get in there and get after it. I don't like to take a lot of time off. It is nice to have a little break and have the cards built up a little bit more by the promotion and kind of expose yourself. Especially being young in the MMA game and not many people knowing who you are. It gives you a little bit more exposure.
At 8-0, Halsey, 28, has yet to taste defeat and he remains focused on keeping it that way against Grove and beyond.
"Being undefeated, everyone wants to give you your first loss. It gives them that much more of an itch to scratch. I want to stay undefeated. That is my goal is to go my whole career. I want to dominate everybody and set myself apart from everybody."
For complete Bellator 137 results and play-by-play click here.