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Bellator 155: Rafael Carvalho promises a kickboxing fight, Scott Coker ducks Will Brooks question

Bellator MMA recently held a conference call to promote its upcoming "Carvalho vs. Manhoef" card, featuring company president Scott Coker, as well as Rafael Carvalho, Melvin Manhoef, Pat Curran and Georgi Karakhanyan.

Bellator MMA

Bellator 155: "Carvalho vs. Manhoef" comes to CenturyLink Arena in Boise, Idaho, this Friday night (May 20, 2016), airing live on Spike TV with a five-fight main card that starts at 9 p.m. ET. The main event is the first-ever Middleweight title defense for Rafael Carvalho against hard-hitting combat sports veteran Melvin Manhoef.

Manhoef became the No. 1 contender at Middleweight with a sterling first round knockout of Hisaki Kato at Bellator 146 in Nov. 2015. Just one month earlier, Carvalho finished off Brandon Halsey via liver kick to capture the vacant 185-pound title. Also featured in Boise this Friday -- Pat Curran and Georgi Karakhanyan clash at Featherweight, Marloes Coenen faces Alexis Dufresne, and two Heavyweight fights pit Dan Charles vs. Augusto Sakai and Joey Beltran vs. Chase Gormley.

Bellator MMA recently held a conference call with Bellator President Scott Coker, the aforementioned Carvalho and Manhoef, as well as Curran and Karakhanyan participating. Coker gave an opening statement.

"We're ecstatic to be in Boise fighting at the CenturyLink Arena. I think this is a fight town that's been hungry for a big MMA promotion and we're proud to have Bellator be the first to do it. We've got a great middleweight world title fight between Carvalho and Manhoef. Carvalho is coming off a big win with a KO over Brandon Halsey and Manhoef over Kato. Undoubtedly this fight is going to have fireworks -- both of these fighters bring it. Our co-main event features two solid mainstays in our deep featherweight division between former champion Pat Curran and Georgi K. This fight will definitely have title implications attached to it. In addition to the great fights we have on Spike TV we also have a stacked undercard airing on and the Bellator app led by two former title challengers Dave Jansen and Marcin Held."

Carvalho also had some opening remarks for the media.

"This fight has everything to be historical. It's going to be a lot of strikes on this -- it's going to be a kickboxing fight, but with MMA gloves, and I'm going to stay champ."

Manhoef seemed pleasantly surprised to hear that was Carvalho's plan.

"I look forward to making (it) a kickboxing match with small gloves. I look forward to it. I'm prepared and everything so it doesn't matter what's going to happen. I'm looking forward to doing what I do best and that's the striking. It's very nice if he wants to do a kickboxing match with me -- thank you."

Curran gave his opening remarks on fighting Karakhanyan.

"I'm really excited to step in there on Friday and put on a dominant performance. I've made a lot of changes in my life and in my camp and everything's falling into place right now. I'm excited to showcase that on Friday night."

Karakhanyan's response was the final opening remark of the call.

"I can't wait for Friday night. I'm going out there with nothing to lose and just be 100% and fight my fight and (then) come out with the victory."

Carvalho was asked if fighting Manhoef was a good showcase of his talent.

"It's a kickboxing fight. That's all I see on this. Every fight you gotta show what you got and on this fight it's gonna be no different. I'm gonna show everything I've got and I'm always looking forward to the next fight."

Coker declined to answer a question about cutting former Lightweight champion Will Brooks.

"You know, Chuck, I feel like we've got four world class fighters here. I think maybe that's a conversation you and I could have later or offline. I feel like these guys are here and we should respect their time."

He did take a question about moving Marloes Coenen vs. Alexis Dufresne to the main card, while simultaneously moving Dave Jansen vs. Marcin Held down to headline the "Prelims" undercard.

"In today's world it's really important to have a digital presence and really drive our digital numbers. Our digital department and I we sat down and when it was a title fight (with Budd) they felt that was the fight that could really push the numbers digitally and on the app and we agreed to it. When the fight got switched (to Dufresne) we felt the fight between Held and Jansen would be something that still could drive the numbers for them and so that's why we chose to move the fight."

Carvalho was asked about what the title means to him and the political upheaval in Brazil right now.

"People recognize me more now and I have more respect out of people now that I'm the champion. Getting the belt for the first time is one thing but the real deal is when you defend the belt and you keep the belt. That's when you're the real real champion. (As for politics) no no no there's no difference in my life my fighting or my camp. They've got their problems but it doesn't bother my personal or professional life."

Coker was asked whether or not champion Daniel Straus would be back by the fall.

"When he's ready to fight we'll have him back right away. (Fall) is what we're shooting for. I know he's had some complications and we're looking forward to having him back as soon as we can."

Coker also answered whether or not Curran vs. Karakhanyan determines the next contender.

"I definitely think it has some title implications. We always like to see how the fight pans out and how it works out. Honestly if it's something that's exciting and a barnburner and it's built up to a fight that the fans want to see it very well could be."

Curran was asked what the fight means to him with potential No. 1 contender implications.

"Every fight at this point in my career especially in this division is do or die. If you win you're going to get that much closer to having a chance to fight for the title again. I feel like a win over Georgi gets me that much closer, one step closer to another title shot."

Coker was asked if Bellator will ever consider performance bonuses for its fighters.

"That's always a conversation we have internally and it's something we're working on with just a little different model since we're (on) a free TV model. It's something that's been considered but right now it's something that's just in dialogue."

Manhoef was asked about people counting him out at his age and if he believes it will be a kickboxing fight.

"I don't know what people are thinking, but it depends (only on) what me and my team are thinking. I feel like the fighter is still in me and I showed it at my last fight. I trained very hard for this fight and my goal is to show it again. You can not count me out. Yes why not? If he want to stand and bang with me it's only going to be like  one minute. This is what we have to do - make attractive fights. My fight style I do everything to knock people out or give the great fight. I'm glad if he wants to make a kickboxing fight of it."

Coker was asked if the winner of Coenen vs. Dufresne would face Budd later for the inaugural title.

"Yeah, absolutely. We're going to try to put that fight together as soon as we can. As soon as Julia's healthy we're going to put that fight on."

Coker was asked who he sees as up next for Featherweight and Middleweight title shots.

"As far as middleweight Brandon Halsey his name comes right back into my mind. As far as the featherweight division Straus vs. Pitbull had three big fights, epic battles, some of the best fighting I've seen live ever. This card we have Pat Curran who is our former champion, and Georgi K who has fought everybody, so I'm going to see how this fight unfolds. Whether it's Pitbull or the winner of this fight or a fight between the two as a run-off, any of those combinations will make for some exciting match-ups and a worthy title shot."

Coker was asked about the future of the heavyweight division following Vitaly Minakov being stripped of the title.

"You know we do and I'd like to reserve a statement on that, but it's going to be a lot of fun as to how we get to our next title holder and I'll just leave it at that."

Karakhanyan spoke about fighting a two time former champ in Curran and his current health.

"I know they're talking a lot about the title but I don't think about that. Right now I have a good opponent in front of me, a former champion, I couldn't ask for a better opponent like him. I'm just very excited to make this fucking weight and just fight on May 20th. I'm for sure coming out with my hand raised. I got about five surgeries last year so the surgery after the Weichel fight didn't affect me at all - it was just a small meniscus tear. I'm just so happy to be 100% prepared physically. In this sport it's a very important thing. I'm very happy man -- I can't wait to fight."

Complete audio of the call is below and complete Bellator MMA coverage can be found right here on fight night.


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