Bellator 168: "Sakara vs. Beltran" goes down at Mandela Forum in Florence, Italy, this Saturday afternoon (Dec. 10, 2016). Alessio Sakara will be featured in the Spike TV-televised event opposite "The Mexicutioner" Joey Beltran. It's a hard fight to predict, but an easy one to watch -- both men love to stand and bang inside the cage.
The statistics run about dead-even for both men: Sakara is 18-11 (2 NC), while Beltran is 17-13 (1 NC), with both fighters scoring a knockout in approximately two-thirds of their wins. One slight advantage to Beltran is his 75-inch reach to 72 inches for Sakara. In all likelihood, none of that matters when the cage door shuts because "Legionarius" hails from Rome and enjoys nothing more than fighting for his Italian countrymen.
In a recent interview with MMAmania.com, which was conducted via e-mail (and owing to time constraints from his late promotion to the main event), Sakara answered questions from the reporter pool collectively rather than individually.
For starters, he was very pleased with how his Bellator MMA debut went against "The Professional Predator," Brian Rogers.
"With both Brian Rogers and myself being strikers, I knew we were both looking for the knockout in my last fight. It was just a matter of who landed cleanly first, and it was me. I was very happy with my performance in my Bellator debut. I had been training very hard for that fight and everything went according to plan."
Sakara also says the fight demonstrated that he's changed his ways from a wild brawler to a scientific fighter.
"I fought a lot smarter in that fight that I had in a lot of my previous fights. That's one of my keys to success moving forward -- I have to use my head. I knew he was a very strong and explosive striker with heavy hands, I wanted to make sure I tired him out. The gameplan was to drag him into deep waters and get him out of there. That's exactly what I did."
Although Sakara was not originally scheduled to headline the show, it's clear that to him that fighting in front of his countrymen was always a main event.
"For most of my career, I always fought somewhere else. I'm glad to be finally be able to give back to the fans that I've given so much to me over the years. Here in Italy, I'm very well-known because I also work as a television host. It's great to fight here because I receive a lot of positive energy, but I also have to deal with a lot of pressure. I never want to disappoint my fans."
That didn't happen overnight, though. The Italian mixed martial arts (MMA) scene developed slowly and Sakara spent many years making his name in Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and elsewhere around the world while it grew.
"Things have completely changed here at home in Italy since when I first started fighting. Back when I first started in 2000, nobody knew what the sport was, and they definitely didn't know who I was. Now I'm very famous and almost everyone knows who I am. It's a great feeling."
Given that Saturday's show is a hybrid event with kickboxing fights, which will air later on Spike TV on tape delay, Sakara has also given some though to whether he'd ever give kickboxing a try.
"I also want to compete for Bellator Kickboxing. I think I would do very well. Of course, I have to train more in the discipline, but it's something I want to do in the near future. I think Bellator having kickboxing and MMA events on the same night is a beautiful thing. It's a chance for all the fans watching to see great fights in both sports. Being able to watch two different combat sports on the same night is something spectacular you don't see very often."
Perhaps it's not very often in other promotions, but Bellator likes to do it a few times a year. Anyway, Sakara revealed what keeps him interested in fighting after a career that spans two decades.
"My motivation comes from a personal place. It comes from deep within. I always give my very best. I want to show my children and all the young Italians to believe in their dreams. They can do whatever they want and reach whatever they want to reach. I want to be an example for all of them."
He also spoke about what kind of challenge "The Mexicutioner" presents this weekend.
"Joey Beltran is a very interesting opponent for me. He is also a striker and he loves to put on a show. I think no matter what, this is going to be a great fight for people to watch."
Finally Sakara vows this will be a great performance that you can't afford to miss watching live.
"I'm coming to knock him out. Every time I enter the cage, I'm looking for the KO. My goal in this fight is no different. I want to knock Joey Beltran out and move on to my next fight. This fight is going to be 100% pure adrenaline."
Don't miss Sakara go for his third straight win at Bellator 168 this Saturday afternoon -- it should be a fun, dramatic scrap ... for as long as it lasts. And remember: Complete Bellator MMA coverage can be found right here on fight night.